Home / Pillow tips / Best Pillows for Back Sleepers

    Did you know that sleeping on your back is actually good for you as it gives you the most even distribution of weight across your entire body? By this I mean, think about when you are standing up with your bare feet on the ground and how your whole body weight is focused on the heels and balls of your feet,  putting a lot of pressure on each of those 4 little points.

    When you lie on your back there are numerous points of contact between your body and the mattress, (heels, calf’s, back of your thighs, buttocks, shoulders / upper back and head) so now each contact point has much less weight and means you can lay in that same position more comfortably for longer periods of time, and gain a much deeper and more relaxing sleep.

    Clinical studies however, show that less than 13% of the population actually sleep on their backs. Sure a lot of people (self included) will initially lay on our back when we first hop into bed, but then after we drift off to sleep we will normally roll over onto our side and fall into our deep rejuvenating sleep there.

    Why a low profile pillow is not ideal for a back sleeper

    Many people assume that because they (think) they sleep on their back that they need a low profile pillow, but this is incorrect as our body is not flat and in fact has many curves and bumps. (Just stand with your back to a wall and you will quickly see what I mean).

    So you can see from the image here that it is important to support the neck and cradle the head, this way you keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent any pressure points leading to discomfort or neck pain.

    But which pillow is best for a people who sleep on their back?

    There are many different pillows for back sleepers available but here I will mainly focus on Memory foam (softer “sink in” feel) and latex ( firmer ‘push up’ feel). I have found both personally and with more than 90% of my patients that these two types with a “contour” profile offer the best support, neutral spine alignment and comfort for most sleepers. (See how to choose the best pillow download) You may of course have your own personal preference to a more traditional style of pillow which is perfectly fine just make sure that you get nice alignment of your spine.

    Things to look for when selecting a pillow

    You will find there are many different types and styles of pillows available, from different feels of softness and firmness, to many varying sizes both in height of the pillow and in the actual legth and depth of the pillow. Some therapeutic or medical pillows can actually be much smaller than the size of a normal pillow, also, a seemingly similar looking but much cheaper pillow may only be cheaper because it is much smaller !  – which is OK except every time you roll over your head will fall off the pillow – not good!

    See my reviews on which pillows I recommend.

    What to avoid when buying your next Pillow

    I strongly recommend you stay away from the following:

    1. ‘Cheap department store specials’ of any kind, in nearly all cases they just do not offer enough support for your head or your neck.
    2. Any ‘down’ filled pillows, shredded memory foam or any other “adjustable fill” pillows as although you can puff them up or shape them to your desired shape when you first go to bed, remember we turn over anywhere from 20 – 40 times during an average night. So once this happens the shape will change and will either lead to discomfort or for you to wake up and re-adjust the shape which causes broken sleep.
    3. Do not shop on price! Even if you spent $250 on a new pillow, you will sleep on this pillow for 8 or 9 hours every night for the next 2 – 5 years (if cared for properly) which equates to less than a few cents per night. Peanuts when compared to your physio or chiro costs, let alone what your sleep health is worth!

    The final few points to remember are that it may take a week or two for your neck to adjust to the new pillow, but stick with it as the rewards will be eternal. Also buy a good quality, waterproof pillow protector. We all lose up to half a cup of body fluid as well as dead skin cells every night! Those yellow and brown stains on your pillow (yes you know you have them) are mold and mildew and they attract dust mites (Yuck) and the fluids also break down the foam in your pillow which is what makes them lose their shape and support after a year or 2. With a good quality protector your pillow will last you many years, in fact good quality manufacturers will offer 5 – 10 year warranties in many cases.

    I hope you found this article on the best pillows for back sleepers helpful and feel free to check out my other articles for more help on selecting pillows or email us support@mypillowzone if you would like further help or advice.

    Sleep Well!

    Ian