How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With?

How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With

Do you suffer from recurrent head and neck pain? Are you unable to decide the right number of pillows to sleep with?

The dictionary meaning of a pillow is “a rectangular cloth bag stuffed with feathers or other soft materials, used to support the head when lying or sleeping.” Pillows are not just a form of modern bedding. In ancient times, they used to have pillows even for decoration and therapy. 

Also, certain animals prefer to rest or sleep with their head elevated. Reptiles rest their heads on themselves whereas chimpanzees use their arm as a pillow. So, it is totally natural to sleep with a pillow under your head. If placed correctly, there are hardly any downsides to it.

There are plenty of benefits to using a pillow. Not only it keeps your upper body aligned during sleep but also easies tension in other parts of the body. For a healthy person, a pillow acts as a sleeping aid while for someone with spinal disorders, a pillow can help their spinal cord rest and recover quickly.

Should I use different pillows for different sleeping positions?

Before we get into the main focus of this post i.e. “how many pillows should you sleep with”, you need to grasp that each sleeping position requires you to use the pillow in a specific way. In the market, you will find pillows labeled for specific sleep positions.

Also Read: How to Use A Pregnancy Pillow?

The right way to use a pillow while sleeping on the back

How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With

If you are naturally a back sleeper, you generally won’t have to worry much about spinal disorders and back pain. Sleeping on the back is the most natural and safe way to rest your body. When you rest your head on a pillow and sleep in either a soldier or a supine position, you are allowing your body to maintain its natural position. 

As a back sleeper, you will need two pillows. One for your head and another for your knees. The pillow underneath your head and neck will maintain the natural curvature of your body whereas, a pillow placed in between or underneath your knees will ease stress and strain on your lower back.

The right way to use a pillow while sleeping on the side

According to a survey from ConsumerReport, 70% of the world population prefers to sleep on the side. This is a huge number. But how many of those use their pillows efficiently? There has to be a standard guideline that side sleepers can follow to attain optimal sleep. Sadly, there isn’t.

However, placing a thicker pillow between the head and upper part of your shoulder is found to be the most beneficial way to use a pillow for side sleepers. For sleeping on the side(either left or right), you will definitely need a more solid and packed pillow as there is now a huge gap between your head and the surface of the mattress. 

Furthermore, you need to adjust the height of the pillow–beneath your head–in such a way that your spine remains straight. Also, make sure the pillow fits comfortably between your head and the upper part of your resting shoulder. Any gap in between may put a strain on your neck; misaligning the spinal cord.

Besides, you can place another pillow between your curled up knees to support the position of the spinal cord. You don’t necessarily have to squeeze the pillow but merely closing the gap between your two kneecaps will get the job done.

The right way to use a pillow while sleeping on the tummy

According to a report by TheBetterSleepCouncil, 17% of the world’s population sleeps in a freefall position and only 7% prefer to sleep in a starfish position. Both freefall and starfish positions are similar if the person lies on their stomach. 

Both these positions can relax you after a tough day, but they have their pitfalls. When you sleep on your belly, you risk straining your neck as you have to lay with your face sideways. This also puts stress on your back. Hence, it is essential to keep your head elevated with a thin pillow beneath your face. Never use more than one pillow. You should also know that sleeping on your tummy is frowned upon by sleep experts. So, try to avoid it as much as possible.

The right way to use a pillow for combination sleepers

This is a very broad category as most people who identify themselves as back, side or stomach sleepers also lie in it. There are very few people who–during the entire duration of the sleep–can maintain the position they initially took. It is quite common for people to switch positions unconsciously in their sleep. If you are someone who does this more than usual, you might be a combination sleeper. 

How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With

For a combination of sleeper, it is best to purchase a pillow that has both thicker and thinner sections. The ideal pillow for a combination sleeper is the one that has a bulky midsection and a skinny circumference. You can also use more than one pillow(one thin and other thick). Place them side by side and switch them as you change positions or readjust in your sleep. With practice, you will adapt to using two or more pillows.

What are the different types of pillows I need to know? Which ones will benefit me the most?

1) Sleep apnea pillow

A report by the American Sleep Apnea Association states that around 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Most of the cases are still undiagnosed, so the actual number is estimated to be much more than 22 million. If you are one of the 22 million, a sleep apnea pillow can be a great alternative to traditional medicine.  

Sleep apnea patients need a special pillow particularly when they use a CPAP machine. These pillows are designed in a way to accommodate your head and keep it straight while you sleep wearing a CPAP machine. 

2) Neck pillow

Ergonomically U-shaped neck pillows are very popular among people who travel a lot. You must have seen people wearing these around their neck while seated upright in an airplane. 

This pillow is great for long haul flights and long-distance bus/train rides. It keeps your neck properly aligned with the spine.

We also recommend getting an Astronaut Travel Pillow for more comfort and backing. An Astronaut Travel Pillow provides additional support for the back of your head. Some also come with a built-in-hood for more convenience.

3) Wedge pillow  

A wedge pillow is shaped like a ramp and is popular among people who suffer from acid reflux in their sleep. This pillow can be placed on a mattress like a regular pillow. 

The main purpose of a wedge pillow is to keep the stomach lower than your esophagus. In general, a wedge pillow intended for people with acid reflux is inclined at 30-40 degrees. Plus, this pillow also bears side sleepers.

Besides, a wedge pillow has one more application. It elevates your head and neck during sleep. This aids airflow through the windpipe for people with breathing problems like asthma.

4) Lumbar pillow

A lumbar pillow is wider and shorter than a regular pillow. It is also filled with more stuff so, the cross-section is more circular than a regular pillow. You may have seen these pillows in cafes or lounges where the chairs have a lumbar pillow as back support. They prevent you from transferring all your upper body weight on the chair. Your bodyweight gets evenly distributed between your thighs and buttocks. 

5) Body pillow

A body pillow is a massive body-sized pillow that provides comfort and support for those who find it difficult to sleep on their stomachs. There are several types of body pillows available in the market. You will have to experiment with several of them to find the right one for you.

The main purpose of a body pillow is to keep your spine aligned and reduce back pain. Moreover, a fetal position is the best way to sleep with a body pillow. You can put the upper part of the pillow beneath your head, hug the middle part and squeeze the lower portion in between your curled up knees.

6) Buckwheat pillow

As the name suggests, a Buckwheat pillow is made from the outer cover of an edible grain known as Buckwheat. It is typically grown in Asian countries and consumed both by humans and animals. 

Here is how a Buckwheat pillow can help you sleep better: Buckwheat shells are round in shape and they look like tiny cups. When you fill-up a pillow cover with Buckwheat shells, it does not swell up like a regular pillow but stays firm and thin. As you sleep on a Buckwheat pillow(on your back or sideways), your head stays straight maintaining the alignment with the spinal cord; it never slumps down. 


I hope the above post helped you pick the right pillow for your unique needs. When it comes to the question “how many pillows you should sleep with?”, it really depends on your default sleeping position. Do not use more than one pillow just for the sake of it. Make sure you use them efficiently.

Also Read- 6 Tips to Fall Back Asleep If You Wake up in the middle of the Night