How to Find the Right Pillow

by Dec 9, 2019

The down pillow, the fiber-filled pillow, the memory foam pillow… there are so many different types.  Stiff necks everywhere have been asking “how do I find the right pillow?” since the invention of the pillow.  On behalf of my love of information and abhorrence of physical pain, I’ve set out to find the answer to this age-old question.


Is There One Right Pillow for All?

According to the guy on the infomercial I just watched, every pillow is the wrong pillow except for the one he’s selling.  He mocked all of the aforementioned pillow types, and more.  No offense to that guy, but he’s in the wrong on this one.  Actually, yes offense to that guy, because he’s lying to you on purpose.  All pillow infomercials are lying to you, so stop watching them (unless it’s for classic entertainment).

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all pillow.  While thicker pillows put my neck at a 90-degree angle with my mattress, that same cushion will comfortably welcome a sleeper with a far heavier head than mine.  There are unique shapes and materials out there for everybody!  Just like there are unique shapes and materials for not everybody!


So how do you know which type of pillow is best for you?

First, let’s talk about the importance of having the right pillow in the first place.  After that, we’ll narrow in on what kind of pillows you should adorn your bed with.


The Importance of a Comfortable Pillow

Your overall health is impacted by the comfort level of your pillow.  No, really.  That might sound a little exaggerated, but it’s the truth!  Your muscles, bones, mental clarity, and emotional stability are all impacted by the quality of your sleep.

Muscular health

    • If you’re twisting your body into uncomfortable positions throughout the night (either while conscious or unconscious), you’re likely putting strain on your muscles.  The most affected are usually the neck, shoulders and back.  The resulting pain can be anywhere from mild to debilitating.

Bone health

    • A comfortable pillow should support the structure of your spine.  When your spine is negatively impacted in your sleep, your posture will be poor in the morning.  Poor posture is the main cause of muscular soreness and dysfunction.  So begins the vicious cycle — poor posture causes muscle strains, strained muscles prevent good posture.
    • Your vertebral joints aren’t the only ones affected by poor sleep.  Hip joints are also commonly impacted by all the tossing and turning.

Mental Clarity

    • If you’re constantly rolling in bed throughout the night, there’s a chance you’ll either barely sleep or not sleep at all.  Remember that day you went to work, school, and Natural Grocers after a sleepless night?  You forgot to file your paperwork, you misspelled your name on the final exam, and you came home with inorganic produce.  Severe sleep deprivation can be comparable to being drunk.

Emotional Stability

    • When your pillow causes you pain and/or insomnia, you might be irritable the following day.  And when you try to reduce your stress with a handful of blueberries, you discover that they’re not organic — and now you’re really upset.  And the annoyance is causing a blood pressure spike, which only makes you angrier.

That all sounds really horrible, right?  And yet, so many of us subject ourselves to such torture, all because we can’t detach ourselves from our adorable Denver Broncos Pillow Pet.  After my enlightenment, I gifted my Baltimore Ravens Pillow Pet to my dog, Bianca — because that’s not only her favorite team, but it’s the right pillow for her!  And how do I know that?  Because its shape and texture are compatible with her sleeping position!


Finding the Right Pillow for Your Sleep Position

The manner in which you sleep is the best indicator for your ideal pillow. 


Find Your Sleep Position Below and Read On!

Back Sleeper

    • Best pillow: memory foam
    • The best pillow for a back sleeper needs to contour the back of the head and neck.  It should be on the firm side, so it can support the natural curvature of the cervical spine.  The head shouldn’t sink too far down into the pillow.
    • Placing another pillow under the knees can alleviate lower back straining
    • For back sleepers with sleep apnea, consider a memory foam wedge-shaped pillow.  The elevation of your head will prevent apnea-related complications.

Side Sleeper

    • Best pillow: standard latex
    • If you’re like most people, you’re a side sleeper.  Your ideal pillow will support your head and neck in a way that maintains a straight horizontal spine.  A side sleeper’s pillow should be thicker than that of a back sleeper.
    • Placing a pillow between bent knees will keep the spine straight.  Your hips are likely distorted and pull on your spine if you don’t have support between the knees.

Stomach Sleeper

    • Best pillow: fiber
    • While stomach sleeping is generally discouraged by health professionals, some of us will always find ourselves in that position when morning comes.  To avoid putting the neck at an awkward angle, stomach sleepers should opt for flat pillows.
    • It’s helpful to place another flat pillow under the stomach.  This will help the low back maintain its natural alignment.

Combination Sleeper

    • Best pillow: shredded foam or buckwheat
    • If you dabble in all sleep positions, finding the exact pillow thickness can be hard.  The great thing about shredded foam pillows is their adjustability.  Unlike a solid block of memory foam, shredded foam pillows are made up of multiple shreds of foam.  A combination sleeper can add or remove filler until their needs are met.  Buckwheat pillows have the same adjustability and are ideal for sleepers who want something less “squishy”.


Things to Consider When Finding Your Perfect Pillow

  • Replace your pillow every 1-2 years
      • With time and use, pillows will start to flatten.  When it stops meeting your needs and you’re waking up in pain, it’s time to get a new one.

So now you know what to do!  Find out what type of sleeper you are (which should be clear to you, but you can ask someone to watch you sleep if you really don’t know) and go to the bedding store!  And if you’re a stomach sleeper, you can hang on to your Pillow Pets — those things are usually pretty flat, so lucky you!

Katrina Jenkins

Katrina Jenkins

Author, Licensed Massage Therapist

Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.

Photo Credit


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