When you rest your head on your pillow at night, you should feel the day's tension melt away. It should be a source of comfort and support that helps you get a good night’s rest. With a good pillow like a buckwheat pillow, this is easily achieved; however, if you have a lumpy pillow that’s the wrong size for your body and sleeping position, you can wake up with aches and pains. The truth is, many people don’t know what pillow size they should be using and are sleeping on the wrong size.
Just like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you may find yourself going from pillow to pillow and never finding the right size and consistency. Too small, too big, too soft, too firm…. how do you get the pillow that is “just right”?
There are a few factors to consider when deciding on the right pillow size. First and foremost, it depends on your sleeping position. At all times, you want to maintain the natural curvature of your spine and relieve pressure – this is what your pillow does! Firmness and loft will help you do this.
The firmness of your pillow will provide you with the necessary support so your head doesn’t sink lower than it should, and loft is used to describe the height of your pillow. So, how do you know if your spin is aligned? When you lay down, your ears should be in line with your shoulders and your chin should be in line with your sternum.
When picking your pillow, you will need to consider the following:
- Size: When discussing pillow size in this post, we are referring to pillow height; however, you can also find pillows of different lengths. A standard size pillow is usually long enough and will still allow you to turn over in the night and be supported. King size pillows are typically used for more oversized mattresses. Height is critical when it comes to sleep support and the height you require depends on your sleeping position, which we will address in more detail shortly.
- Pillow Fill: This is what is inside your pillow and will determine the loft and firmness. There are an array of different fill options out there, and some are better than others. Each fill type has its pros and cons, and you will need to consider any allergies, temperature, and support when deciding on fill.
- Weight: The weight of your pillow is determined by the fill material. Lighter pillows can be moved and adjusted but typically lose their shape through the night and need to be “fluffed up.” Though it may initially feel comfortable, it won’t provide lasting support. Adjustable and supportive materials typically weigh more, like buckwheat hulls in a neck roll pillow.
- Fabric: The fabric covering your pillow can also affect your quality of sleep. To get a good night’s rest and prolong the life of your pillow, you should ensure it is covered in a high-quality, breathable fabric. This will prevent dirt and allergens from getting stuck in the material.
Now, let’s look at the best pillow sizes based on your sleeping position with these considerations in mind.
Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
If you are a stomach sleeper, you are a rare gem. Only about 7% of the population prefer to sleep on their stomach. Though this makes you unique, it can make it challenging to find the right pillow. Some experts recommend avoiding sleeping on your stomach, but that is easier said than done. This sleeping position is not ideal because it puts you at greater risk for neck strain and lower back pain.
Typically pillows are designed and back for back sleepers. As a stomach sleeper, when you use a back pillow, it distorts your necks in ways it shouldn’t. Your pillow's size and firmness will contour the angle of your head, neck, and spine, and when you spend your night with your head twisted up, it can create a great deal of pain and stiffness.
Fortunately, you can mitigate this risk and wake up pain-free when using the right pillow, designed for stomach sleepers. Stomach sleepers should use a much thinner pillow like a stomach sleeper pillow. Although you may have heard of the countless benefits of a buckwheat pillow, they shouldn’t be used by stomach sleepers. Instead, a thin, flat pillow made of latex will provide just enough support to slightly lift your head, giving you proper alignment.
Latex is preferred because it won’t cause your head to sink, unlike softer materials like memory foam or synthetic filling. A latex-filled stomach sleeper pillow will provide the right amount of firmness and support at just inches thick while still being soft and comfortable. As a bonus, a stomach sleeper pillow can also be used to provide lumbar support for office chairs or when on an airplane.
Pillows for Side Sleepers
Side sleepers are more common, with roughly 70% of the population sleeping on their side. If you are one, you know how vital a good amount of support is. You may find yourself punching and folding your pillow in a ball to get the right size and amount of support. This is because, unlike back and stomach sleepers, you need extra support and height.
Despite so many people sleeping on their side, the majority of pillows are catered to those who sleep on their back. This is because when you sleep on your back, you need a smaller-sized pillow, but when you sleep on your side, there is a greater distance between your head and your bed. Therefore, when picking a pillow, you want to keep your head, neck, and spine aligned.
Essentially you want your spine and neck straight and in a neutral position. Your pillow's job is to fill the space between your head and the mattress.
When choosing pillow size, you need to consider your body size as well. The distance between your head and the mattress will be much larger for a man with broad shoulders versus a petite woman. A pillow with a high profile will keep your head up and aligned with your spine. As a side sleeper you should also opt for a firmer pillow. If you have a soft feather pillow, for example, your head will gradually sink down as you sleep, putting you out of alignment. Though personal preference will come into place, generally, side sleepers will find a firm pillow more supportive and comfortable.
An excellent option for side sleepers is a neck roll pillow. A buckwheat neck roll pillow will help you maintain posture as it has a higher loft than most pillows. It provides the perfect amount of support for your head, neck, and shoulder. Further, when it is filled with buckwheat hulls, it can be adjusted for your body size and comfort. You are able to remove or add the filling until you get that perfect fit.
Pillows for Back Sleepers
This sleeping position isn’t as common as side sleeping, but it should be! This is an excellent position for spinal alignment, and is recommended by health professionals. That said, if you are using the wrong pillow, those benefits won’t be received.
While a side sleeper needs a higher pillow and a stomach sleeper needs a lower pillow, your pillow will fall somewhere in the middle. When you lay on your back, there is still a gap that your pillow will need to fill, but it is not as big as when you are lying on your side. Your pillow should support your upper back, neck, and head and have medium firmness.
If you are a bigger person, you’ll require a larger loft (pillow height). To ensure you get the perfect size and firmness use an adjustable pillow like a buckwheat pillow. You can easily add or remove the organic buckwheat hulls to get the level of firmness and height you need. This is especially beneficial for those with posture, neck, or spine pain. Additionally, this material will conform to pressure, making your head feel cradled and supported.
It sounds simple enough when broken down into these three categories; however, many people will sleep in multiple different positions throughout the night. If this sounds like you, it could be beneficial to have a few other pillows or use an adjustable pillow that will work with your body, providing support where needed.
To wake up feeling refreshed and free from aches and pains, choose a pillow that works for your body type and sleep position – whether that be a stomach sleeper pillow, neck roll pillow, or buckwheat pillow. We spend about one-third of our lives on our pillow, so you want to make sure you are using the right one!