The Best Flat Pillows for a Refreshing Night’s Sleep
Need help with a better night’s sleep? Sleeping well and feeling re-energized requires a straight spine, and depending on your sleep position, flat pillows can help.
Sep 1st, 2021 •
A flat pillow is not like a flat tire, something the air has gone out of. You may initially draw that association, but a flat pillow is an intentionally thinner version of a regular pillow, one that is designed to support certain sleep positions with less loft.
Simply stated, a flat, thin, or low-profile pillow can be a great way to support your spine in maintaining proper alignment while you sleep. Maybe you already prefer a flat pillow, especially if you’ve had the experience of a big pillow misaligning your neck; you wake stiff, out of kilter, and ready to call the chiropractor.
A flat pillow could be your best option for both comfort and spinal alignment. But why do we need to sleep with our spines aligned? The short answer is that nerves and blood vessels run through our spine, and when the spine is unnaturally curved, especially for a prolonged period like during sleep, it can pinch nerves and restrict blood flow which can affect both sleep and health.
Our Top Picks for the Best Flat Pillows
There is not a singular component that makes a flat pillow great. There are many different kinds of flat pillows made from an assortment of materials to suit individual preferences. In choosing our best picks, we considered a variety of materials and cost ranges, but our all choices are high quality and readily available.
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Best for Price: Nectar Original Pillow
With the Nectar Original, you’re essentially getting multiple versions of a pillow for one price. The versatile design makes it easy to dial in a customized sleep experience.
The outer pillow is covered in quilted Tencel fabric designed for coolness and breathability, with high-quality memory foam underneath. The inner pillow contains two types of shredded foam so that you can remove or add the filling until you achieve the most comfortable height and shape for your sleeping position.
- Price: $75
- Size: Standard (20″ x 26″) and queen (20″ x 30″)
- Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars, 255 reviews
Best for Back Sleepers: Leesa Pillow
The Leesa Pillow has all the important qualities that back sleepers should look for, starting with its height. Having 5″ of clearance gives your head and neck plenty of room to gently sink into the memory foam as it contours around your shape. Although coolness remains one of the most common criticisms of memory foam, the Leesa Pillow features a breathable lycra-polyester cover and ventilated foam core.
Because of its one-piece foam design, the pillow offers back sleepers much-needed pressure relief for the upper back and shoulders. Its high responsiveness also makes it a good choice for side sleepers and combination sleepers.
- Price: $79 for standard, $99 for king-size
- Size: Standard (18″ x 26″ x 5″) and king (18″ x 32″ x 5″)
- Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars, 1,864 reviews
Best for Stomach Sleepers: Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Pillow
The Brooklyn Bedding Luxury Cooling Pillow has a core of plush memory foam that’s CertiPUR-US-certified, which makes it a great fit for stomach sleepers, back sleepers, side sleepers, and combination sleepers.
The memory foam provides firmness with enough contouring effect to balance support with flexibility. The 4″ height is recommended for stomach sleepers and the 5″ for other sleep positions. As the name suggests, the pillow also comes with cooling properties in the cover (a breathable cotton-polyester blend) and the core (foam infused with cooling gel and copper-graphite).
- Price: $129 (queen) and $149 (king)
- Size: Queen 20″ x 30″ and king 20″ x 36″, both available with 4″ or 5″ height
- Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, 119 reviews
Best Washable Pilllow: Bear Cloud Pillow
If you’d like an easier way to keep your pillow as fresh as the rest of your bedding, the Bear Cloud Pillow takes some of the hassle out of laundry day. Just machine-wash it in cold water and tumble-dry in low heat. The Bear Cloud is built to last and designed for easy upkeep.
Back sleepers, stomach sleepers and combination sleepers will likely get the best results, although this pillow might be too fluffy for side sleepers. It gets high marks for cooling and breathability, and the hypoallergenic material makes the Bear Cloud Pillow a strong choice for people who have allergies.
- Price: $75 (standard) and $94 (king)
- Size: Standard 18″ x 26″ x 2″ gusset and 18″ x 34″ x 2″ gusset
- Rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars, 175 reviews
Best Memory Foam Pilllow: Serta TempActiv
The Serta TempActiv will remind people who love memory foam mattresses that memory foam pillows have many of the same qualities. The TempActiv is made of molded memory foam, designed to provide support without being too firm. It matches up well with most sleep positions, although side sleepers could prefer a pillow with greater support.
The TempActiv technology that gives the pillow its name uses surface-infused gel and other features to promote coolness, while the foam core is ventilated for breathability. Retail price tops $100, but Serta backs the TempActiv pillow with a 5-year limited manufacturer’s warranty.
- Price: $109.99
- Size: Queen 26″ x 16″ x 5″
- Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 11 reviews
Best Cooling: Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Gel Memory Foam Pillow
We all love memory foam, but if it sleeps too hot for you, this breathable gel-infused version is a perfect choice. The thin, flat rise is perfect for back and stomach sleepers, and the memory foam supports neck and head for great spinal alignment. Another consideration is the toxic off gassing and unpleasant smell that can come with memory foam. Not the case with the Bluewave, which is CertiPUR-US Certified to ensure the foam is free flame retardants, mercury, lead, formaldehyde and phthalates, as well as testing for low emission levels. With the Bluewave, you can definitely breathe easier if you have allergies or asthma.
Beyond temperature and toxicity, the Bluewave was chosen because it is designed to support spinal alignment. If you are considering switching to a flat pillow, this might be your pillow. It is known to help with neck and back pain, alleviate snoring, migraines, and TMJ.
Further features include a removable washable cover made from bamboo and polyester that draws away moisture and ventilated foam the supports air circulation for freshness.
- Price: $39.95-$49.95
- Size: standard (24” x 16”), king size available, 3 to 4.5 inches in height
- Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars, 646 reviews
Are Flat Pillows Good for All Sleep Positions?
Every sleep position has its own set of needs when it comes to both mattresses and pillows. Firm beds aren’t for all sleep positions and neither are flat pillows. They are, however, great for some positions including stomach and back sleepers who make up roughly 30% of the population. They can work well for small frame people who sleep on their sides, and side sleepers who sleep with an arm under the pillow raising the height.
Stomach sleepers need a lower profile pillow, or their heads will be bent back in an unnaturally angled arch that can cause headaches, restless sleep, or back problems.
Back sleepers have a similar situation. Having too thick a pillow can cause a curvature of the spine that may result in pinched nerves, neck and back pain, and tossing and turning for a restless night’s sleep.
Side sleepers in general, need a loftier pillow. The space between the head and shoulders requires the pillow cover more space and support a deeper area between you and the bed. If you are very small and the space between your neck and the bed is minimal or if you routinely put an arm under your pillow, then a flat pillow can work for a side sleeper. For the most part, flat pillows are not a good choice for side-sleepers. Check out our article on the best pillows for side sleepers to find great pillow options for this sleep position.
Children and Flat Pillows
In a discussion of flat pillows, we don’t want to forget the little ones. Children generally start using a pillow around 18 months. Their body proportions don’t do well with the loft of a regular adult pillow, and flat pillows, until they are fully grown, are an important consideration. Check out our guide to the best pillows for kids.
Advantages of Sleeping on a Flat Pillow
Sleep and health are so intertwined that it is not an exaggeration to say that good health is dependent on good sleep. There are many factors that affect the quality of your sleep, but your pillow plays a crucial role. If you can’t get comfortable, or if your neck is unsupported leaving you tossing and turning, your sleep quality will diminish. Having the right pillow, and for many of us that is a lower profile, flat pillow, can improve sleep, which can improve health. Basic benefits of good quality sleep include:
- Betters immune response—less getting sick
- Lowers health risks for disorders like diabetes
- Helps with maintaining a healthy weight
- Improves memory
- Adds mental clarity for decision making and learning
- Increases energy throughout the day
If most people realized how much good sleep could improve both health and daily life experience, they would rush to do things that would improve it. Getting a good pillow that helps with sleep is one singular but very significant factor in improving health.
It sounds crazy, but it is true that pillows have an effect on skin quality. From acne to wrinkles, the type of pillow and the fit of your pillow can help determine how your face looks. Flat pillows in particular are known for reducing wrinkles. The reason being that a loftier pillow has more bulk to compress the face and create folds in the skin.
If you face stays in a folded position for numerous hours while you sleep, it causes temporary wrinkles that can over time become permanent. When using a flat pillow this is not the case and the lack of pillow pressure elevates wrinkles.
How Often Should You Change Your Pillow?
Whether you are considering a flat pillow or not, it is important to stay on top of having a good supportive pillow. If you are considering a new pillow, there is generally a catalyst. You might not be sleeping as well. Or maybe you find yourself waking to reposition your pillow throughout the night to get enough support. Maybe your pillow has gone lumpy, or you have heard a fresh pillow can help your skin condition.
No matter the reason, there is a rule of thumb that pillows should be changed at least every couple of years. The National Sleep Foundation supports what doctors recommend, to change your bed pillow at least every two years depending on the signs of wear. Here are some specific conditions that might warrant you changing it sooner.
- You Are Having Trouble Sleeping: If your lumpy pillow is keeping you awake and compromising your “must have” 7-9 hours of sleep per night, it may be time to change it out for a new one. Sleep is crucial to good health, and a pillow interfering with sleep is an easy fix.
- Your Pillow Is No Longer Supportive: A flat pillow, meaning one that isn’t supposed to be flat, can cause neck or back pain, or that all too familiar scenario of tossing and turning and endlessly fluffing up your pillow throughout the night. Since pillows are designed to give comfort and support, when they stop doing this, they essentially need to be replaced. Even if they seem to be in good shape but don’t work for you, get one that does.
- Acne, Wrinkles, or Other Skin Conditions: An older pillow, especially one that cannot be washed regularly like down, can have an accumulation of dead skin cells, dust mites, and oil which can cause skin conditions. Acne has been linked to what skin comes in contact with, and eczema has been associated with dust mites that live off the dead skill cells in your pillow. Wrinkles can come from a loose pillow pressing your face into folds. Any or all of these conditions can be helped by a fresh pillow.
- Allergies or Trouble Breathing: Do you wake up sneezing? Are you stuffed up and snoring? These can be signs of accumulated allergens like dust, pollen, bacteria, and dust mites. If your allergies have gotten worse or you have chronic sinus problems that might be associated with dust mites, try a new pillow. Look for one that is hypoallergenic.
- Stains or Smells: When you take off the cover, if your pillow looks yellowed or stained, it can be time to get a new one. If it smells and you can’t wash it like with memory foam, get a new one. For helping with dust mites and fluid retention use a pillow protector and machine wash both the protector and the case in hot water at least every few weeks.
Pillows are crucial to a refreshing night’s sleep and a flat pillow can be the right support for many depending on your size and sleep position. Young children in particular benefit from a flat pillow. Buying a new pillow is a small investment in good sleep and good health, and we have done the research for you in order to profile a great selection of best flat pillows. Consider if it is time to get a new pillow and enjoy the benefits of improved sleep.
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