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.
May 14th, 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 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
Best Support: Elite Rest Slim Sleeper, Natural Latex Foam Pillow
This pillow has so many great features it is hard to know where to start. We might start with what it is made of, which is all-natural latex. Made from rubber trees, this latex is chemical free, hypoallergenic, antifungal, mildew resistant, and it repels dust mites. The latex is very durable and has a long lifespan meaning you won’t be replacing it any time soon.
The latex is molded into a slim form with pinhole construction to keep it cool and the air circulating. It has been designed to be extremely comfortable, not too soft, not too hard. It gives great support that can relieve neck, back, and shoulder pain, and improves breathing and reduces snoring. The cover is 100% cotton and machine washable.
- Price: $41.96
- Size: 24 x 16 inches, 2.75 inches high
- Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars, 281 reviews
Most Customizable: Pancake Pillow
The Pancake Pillow has a unique design that allows you to create a custom height. Although not strictly a flat pillow, it can be thin or thick depending on your needs. Layer one, two, or more for a perfect fit. The pillow comes with six layers, so buy an extra cover and get two flat pillows. The case will expand as needed with a three-sided zipper, and is made from luxurious hotel quality 100% cotton with a 300 thread count. The filling is the best imitation down puff gel microfiber for a soft, comfortable and very supportive pillow, that is also hypoallergenic.
- Price: $59.99-$79.00
- Size: standard/queen, or 18 x 34-inch king
- Rating: 4.3 out of 5 stars, 579 reviews
Best Organic: LIFEKIND, Buckwheat Hull Pillow
Natural buckwheat hulls are an amazing pillow filler. The pillow is usually firm but one that can mold and shape to fit your head and neck. The hulls are small and moveable and have a unique feel that people love. They cannot be washed but can be put in the sun to dry and refresh. You can add or subtract hulls easily to create a custom feel.
The cover is made from 100% cotton that is GOTS certified. GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard—the certification for the gold standard of world-wide organic recognition. They look at sustainability practices and chemical content of textiles from raw materials through finished product.
- Price: $49.50
- Size: standard
- Rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars, 6 reviews
Best for Infants: John N Tree, Organic Cotton Baby Protective Pillow
Most parents won’t be buying a pillow for their infant but some will need it to prevent flat head syndrome. A great organic option for your infant is the John N Tree Protective Pillow that is designed with flat head syndrome in mind. A flat pillow to prevent a flat head, no pun intended, this low-profile pillow is a perfect fit.
Another outstanding feature is that this flat pillow is made from organic cotton. It carries the GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard certification, a world-wide recognition of organic standards in textiles. Safe for next to baby’s skin, there are no harmful fumes to inhale while they sleep.
This pillow also comes in animal shapes including a dog, an elephant, a horse, and a lamb. Works well as a stuffed toy as baby grows older. Machine wash to clean.
- Price: $13.95 (price varies for other animal types)
- Size: 15” x 8”
- Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars, 1,165 reviews
Best for Kids: RestCloud Memory Foam Toddler Pillow
The perfect size memory foam pillow for your 2 to 7-year-old, this flat pillow has an ultra-thin profile to keep your little one sleeping in perfect alignment. This flat pillow is certified by both ROHS and Reach 100% safe for kids to be free of harmful chemicals and toxins that can affect breathing and health. Both these regulatory entities were founded in Europe and have strict guidelines on chemical safety.
This convenient travel size pillow comes in two colors, green and pink, has a travel case, and a removable cotton blend cover for easy washing. The cover is antimicrobial and hypoallergenic. It retains its shape for optimal spinal support and a great night’s sleep. Consider this flat pillow for your little one.
- Price: $22.99
- Size: 15.4” x 10.3”
- Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars, 133 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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