Best Pillows for Back Sleepers
Check out what back sleepers should look for in a pillow as well as our top picks.
Feb 18th, 2022 •
Many doctors and sleep experts found that back sleeping is the best sleeping position for your body. This position benefits your head and neck while you sleep as well as your spine alignment. But, if you are a back sleeper waking up with aches and pains in your neck or back, your pillow might be the problem.
We’ve compiled a list of our favorite back sleeping pillows to help you get the most out of this healthy sleep position. We’ve also shared some of our tips, tricks, and advice to help you find the best pillow for back sleeping.
Our Picks for the Best Back Sleeper Pillows
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Best Adjustable: Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft
The loft of your pillow is crucial when you sleep on your back. It determines if your alignment is perfect, or if you’ll wake up with a kink in your neck. Adjustable pillows take out the guesswork of finding that perfect loft because you can make it yourself.
The Coop Home Goods Premium pillow is filled with shredded memory foam and microfiber fill that gives you that perfect medium-firm support. The pillow is designed so that you can get to the fill, then add and remove it to find your perfect loft. The removable covering is made of a mix of bamboo-derived rayon and polyester, making it resistant to dust mites and hypoallergenic. You get a 100 night sleep trial and 5-year warranty with the purchase of this pillow.
Best Organic: Hullo Buckwheat Pillow
If you are the type of sleeper who prefers a non-toxic, 100% organic sleep experience, check out the Hullo buckwheat pillow. Buckwheat creates a pillow that is malleable, yet firm. It offers great support for your head and neck, which keeps your body aligned.
The buckwheat hulls that make the filling are sourced and grown in the USA. It is wrapped in an organic twill cover that unzips for a customizable experience. This pillow promotes airflow to help keep you cool all night.
Best Budget: MyPillow
You don’t have to break the bank to have a great back sleeping experience. The MyPillow comes in four different firmness options: extra firm, firm, medium, and least fill, so you can find a loft that supports your neck. The patented fill conforms to your head shape for a fit that seems customized.
Each MyPillow is machine washable and dryable for ease of cleaning. It even comes with a 10-year warranty, ensuring the longevity of your pillow.
Best Hotel Quality: Sahara Nights Pillow
Hotel pillows are often some of the most comfortable things to rest your head on. If you are a back sleeper and find you want to take one of these pillows home, look no further than the Sahara Nights Pillow. Filled with polyester gel fiber fill, you’ll swear this pillow is down.
The design is soft and malleable, but the support is firm, great for alignment. The 100% cotton shell is 233 thread count for softness and comfort. This pillow is also machine washable and dryable, making cleaning easy and extending the life of your pillow.
Best Cooling: Sleep Innovations Cooling Contour Pillow
If you’re a hot sleeper, cooling sleep accessories don’t just stop at cooling sheets and comforters. This Sleep Innovations pillow is both cooling and contouring, so you kill two birds with one stone.
This pillow features a gel memory foam filling and comes in both a high and low contour option, tailoring it to your body shape. The contour relieves neck and shoulder pain while supporting proper alignment. These pillows are made in the USA and come with a 5 year warranty.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Back Sleeping
Although only roughly 13% of people sleep on their backs, back sleeping is considered the healthiest way to sleep. Let’s explore this discrepancy by looking at the pros and cons of sleeping on your back.
- Good Spinal Support: Lying flat on your back on a good, supportive mattress is the best way to sleep in terms of spinal alignment. This position allows the spine to maintain its natural curve, giving you good posture all night long.
- Good Neck Alignment: Back sleeping allows for good neck alignment as well. With the right pillow, your neck lies in a neutral position that causes no strain, eliminating neck pain.
- Fewer Wrinkles: Unlike side sleepers and stomach sleepers, your head isn’t smushed into the pillow when you sleep on your back. This may result in fewer wrinkles a few years down the line and less acne spots because your face oil isn’t pooling into the pillowcase.
- Can Be Uncomfortable: Despite being great for your alignment and skin, back sleeping is among the least popular sleep positions. Why? Because many people find it uncomfortable. It isn’t easy to toss and turn at night in this position, and those who do fall more into the combination sleeper category.
- Snoring and Sleep Apnea: The biggest con to back sleeping is the effect it can have on breathing. When you lie on your back, your throat muscles relax and obstruct your airways. This can causes snoring or worse—sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when your airways are blocked so much that you actually stop breathing multiple times throughout the night.
What Back Sleepers Need
When choosing a pillow, back sleepers need something that will keep their neck aligned with their spine to avoid waking up with neck pain. They need a pillow that isn’t too low to avoid hyperextension, but one that isn’t too lofty that compresses the neck. It is also advisable to place a thin pillow underneath the lower back or the knees to reduce some of the pressure on your lower back as it presses into the mattress.
Related: Best mattress for back sleepers
What to Consider When Shopping
While you’re on the lookout for a new back sleep pillow, here are some pillow features to look out for.
Your neck and spine alignment both depend on pillow loft. A pillow with a low loft is less than three inches in thickness and is considered too flat for back sleepers. Low loft pillows are great for stomach sleepers because it reduces neck strain, but they increase neck strain for back sleepers due to hyperextension.
Pillows with a medium loft vary between being three to five inches thick. This is the ideal loft for both side sleeping and back sleeping because it keeps the neck in a neutral position and works well for those with average shoulders.
A high-loft pillow is any pillow thicker than five inches. This loft is also ideal for back sleepers. It elevates the head and keeps your posture in the best position. People with broaders shoulder will usually opt for a higher loft compared to those with smaller and average shoulders.
The firmness of a pillow refers to the support it offers and the malleability of the pillow. Pillows with soft firmness are the most malleable, but they are not ideal for back sleepers. Pillows that are too soft cause your head to sink too far down, and you risk misaligning your neck.
Medium-firm pillows have average malleability. Medium works for back sleepers as long as the neck stays aligned and doesn’t sink too far.
Firm pillows work well for back sleepers too as long as the loft isn’t too high—firm pillows offer little to no sink. Regardless if you choose medium or firm, maintain the neutral neck position throughout the night.
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat fill is made from buckwheat husks and is ideal for back sleepers. This fill often makes a thick, firm, supportive pillow. Buckwheat pillows are also adjustable. You can remove the fill for your desired loft.
- Feather: Feather pillows are a mix of duck/goose feathers and down feathers. When the ratio of feathers to down favors feathers, the pillow tends to be more supportive, which is exactly what back sleepers need. You can also usually remove as many feathers as you need to adjust the loft.
- Memory Foam: Memory foam pillows work for just about any type of sleeper. This type of fill conforms to your head shape and is often firm enough to offer adequate support. If the pillow is filled with shredded memory foam, you can remove handfuls and customize the height and firmness.
- Latex: Latex pillows are similar to memory foam except they are naturally cooler and can be made of organic material. This type of material is not adjustable, but it is firm and supportive enough for back sleepers.
Back sleepers can either opt for a flat, normal pillow shape or a contoured design. A contour pillow is a pillow designed to conform to your head, neck, and shoulders. Some have this straight forward design and some are more complex. Regardless of the complexity, contour pillows are great for back sleepers because they offer a mold for your body to fit into and stay supported—some can even help with snoring.
Back sleeping pillows vary in cost from $20 to $100. Down alternative and feather pillows are usually the cheapest while down and latex are priced at a more luxury value. Memory foam tends to run the gamut of prices depending on quality.
Back sleepers need to look for a pillow that keeps their neck in a neutral position to make this the best sleeping position for your alignment. Some contoured pillows can even help with the snoring side effect of back sleeping. Whether you pick a pillow from our list or venture out to find one on your own, remember our tips, so you can invest in a pillow that works for you.
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