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Choosing the Right Pillow for Your Sleep Style

By Lisa Klaus, D.C., Faculty Clinician, Palmer Chiropractic Clinics

pillows stacked up on a bedThere’s nothing more frustrating than tossing and turning all night long watching the clock because you’re either having trouble getting to sleep, or just not staying asleep.  While there are several reasons for poor sleep, your pillow may be part of the problem.

Learning about different pillows for different sleeping positions may not only help you get better sleep, but also keep your spine in proper alignment.

  1. Back Sleepers: If you’re a back sleeper, look for a medium-firm pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position. A pillow that’s too thick will push your head forward causing too much flexion, and a pillow too thin will cause your head to be too far back causing too much extension. Some find that positioning the pillow so that it’s tucked closer to the bottom of your neck and shoulders is more comfortable. This allows the head to be farther up the pillow and relaxes some of the neck muscles. When sleeping on your back, also put a pillow behind the knees to decrease strain on your lower back.
  2. Side Sleepers: If you’re a side sleeper, a higher/thicker pillow would be more beneficial. While lying on your side you want to fill in the gap of the space between your ear and the bed with your pillow. This will keep your spine straight. When sleeping on your side, adding a pillow between your knees provides additional support.
  3. Stomach Sleepers: This position is not recommended because it causes you to spend hours with your neck turned and low back arched, putting excess stress on your spine and muscles. If you do find yourself sleeping in this position, a flat pillow (or no pillow) would be your best choice. Changing how you sleep is difficult, but trying to fall asleep first on your back or side reduces some of the time on your stomach. Also, placing a pillow under your hips/lower abdomen may provide additional support.
  1. Combination Sleeper: For those with varying sleeping positions, finding a pillow that has higher areas on the sides for side sleeping, and a lower, possibly contoured area in the center for back sleeping is helpful.

We spend one-third of our life sleeping, so why not do what’s best for our body’s alignment? The faculty at Palmer Chiropractic Clinics can help with questions on proper alignment of the spine and proper sleeping positions.

The Palmer Chiropractic Clinics network delivers over 170,000 patient visits every year. Learn more or find contact information to make an appointment at