How we sleep can significantly impact our health. Sleeping on your back can have some pros and cons. One of the key factors in having a good night's sleep in this position is to pick the right pillow. This article will break down what you should look for in a pillow if you’re a back sleeper and offer tips to help you find the perfect pillow.
Back sleeping is the second most common sleep position, preferred by about 38% of people.
Sleeping on your back is considered the best position for alleviating back pain. However, it can worsen snoring and sleep apnea.
Ideally, your pillow should support your neck and maintain alignment with your chest and back.
When shopping for a pillow, pay attention to the following aspects: loft, level of support, ability to relieve pressure, price, and quality.
Other factors, such as the pillow’s size, shape, and materials used in its construction, can also affect how the pillow performs.
Is it good to sleep on your back?
Even though most people prefer sleeping on their sides, back sleepers are the second most common. According to research, around 38% of people are back sleepers, and 54% are side sleepers. This leaves the rest for those who prefer sleeping on their stomachs.
Your sleep position goes beyond personal preference; it can significantly influence the quality of your sleep. For instance, back sleepers are more likely to snore than those who sleep in other positions.
Studies show that back sleepers are more likely to experience obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and have more severe OSA than side sleepers. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by constant interruptions in breathing during sleep. This can lead to fragmented sleep and daytime fatigue. That’s why experts recommend that people prone to OSA should avoid sleeping on their back.
If you struggle with back pain, sleeping on your back can provide some relief. According to experts, this is the best position for back pain because it keeps your spine in a neutral alignment, reducing the pressure on your back and neck.
Best ways to sleep on your back
When sleeping on your back, consider using a pillow beneath your knees to relax your back muscles while keeping the natural curve of your lower back. If you want more support, place a rolled towel under your waist.
Use a pillow to support your neck. Ensure your pillow lines up with your chest and back to keep you comfortable.
What to look for in a pillow if you sleep on your back
If you’re a back sleeper, you must understand that not all pillows will be a great match. With so many options in the market, finding the perfect pillow can be tricky. Here are some things to keep in mind when picking your next pillow:
- Loft. This measure refers to the pillow’s height or thickness. Back sleepers usually find medium-loft pillows, around 3 to 5 inches (8 to 13 cm) thick, the most comfortable.
- Support. Your pillow should support your head and neck properly, keeping them aligned.
- Pressure relief. To ease the pressure, your pillow must evenly distribute your weight. Avoid too firm or soft pillows, as they can create pressure points on your neck and cause discomfort over time.
- Price. You’ll find pillows at all prices. But keep in mind that higher quality materials may cost a little more. For example, down and latex pillows are generally more expensive than memory foam pillows. Choose the one that best suits your budget.
- Quality. For certain types of materials, there may be different qualities available. For example, memory foam with a higher density is preferable over memory foam with a lower density.
Tips for choosing a pillow for back sleepers
When shopping for a pillow, you’ll come across pillows of all sizes, shapes, and materials. A closer look at these options can help you choose the pillow that suits you best.
When it comes to pillow materials, there isn’t a single type that’s perfect for back sleepers. Just go with the one that feels most comfortable to you. Pillow materials can include:
- Memory foam. Memory foam pillows are excellent at relieving pressure and contouring your body, but they can trap heat if they don’t come with any cooling technology.
- Buckwheat hulls. This is a natural pillow filling made from the shells of buckwheat kernels. One of its main advantages is that you can add or remove hulls to customize the pillow’s height. They are also breathable. On the other hand, these pillows can be pricier compared to other options.
- Latex. Latex is derived from rubber trees and processed to become a springy material. Latex pillows provide good support and pressure relief. They are also durable and tend to come with a higher price tag.
- Down. Down are the fluffy feathers found beneath the outer feathers of geese or ducks. If you want a super plush pillow, down is your go-to, but keep in mind they can get warm and can be pretty expensive.
- Polyester. These pillows are generally soft, inexpensive, and easy to find. On the other hand, they may not last long and must be replaced more frequently than other options, such as latex pillows.
- Cotton. Cotton pillows are a great pick for hot sleepers and people with allergies since they are breathable and hypoallergenic.
In your journey to find the perfect pillow, you might also come across pillows of different sizes, from standard-sized to body-sized pillows.
- Standard pillows are easier to find and are the top choice for most people. This compact pillow typically measures 20" x 26" (51 x 66 cm). If you move a lot while you sleep, you might prefer a super standard pillow which is 2 inches (5 cm) longer.
- Queen pillows typically measure 20" x 30" (51 x 76 cm); they are perfect for restless sleepers who need a bit more length. King pillows are even roomier; they usually measure 20" x 36" (51 x 91 cm), giving you plenty of space to move around at night.
- Body pillows typically measure 54" x 20" (137 x 51 cm). They tend to benefit side sleepers and pregnant women who cuddle up to them for a cozy night’s sleep.
You’ve probably noticed that most pillows are rectangular.
- Down pillows often have a rounded look.
- Memory foam and latex pillows are typically flat and rectangular unless they're molded into a different shape.
- There are also orthopedic pillows with irregular shapes designed for specific sleep positions.
If you like sleeping on your back, you’re not alone. The right pillow can align your spine and give you a cozy night’s sleep. With so many pillow options, you might be confused about which one to choose. Analyze the pillow's characteristics, such as its loft, firmness, and materials. Take your time and choose the option that best suits your needs and lifestyle.
- Nature and Science of Sleep. Sleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and insomnia symptoms.
- Science of the Total Environment. The joint association of ambient air pollution and different sleep postures with mild obstructive sleep apnea: A study conducted at Taipei Sleep Center.
- Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine. Mechanisms relating to sleeping position to the endotypes of sleep disordered breathing.
- Neurology. Body posture as a factor determining sleep quality in patients using non-invasive ventilation.