Sleeping wrong seems to be an epidemic in our society, at least this is what I’m hearing from my patients.

Most of whom, at some point during their care, come into the office with aches and pains correlated to sleeping wrong. Maybe you can relate?

I’ve previously written about the importance of sleep for your overall well-being, and it seems that many people continue to report challenges in obtaining a good night’s rest. There could be many contributing factors such as stress, room temperature, light, the mattress, and sound. All of these have an impact but a relatively simple place to start is in choosing the appropriate pillow for your sleep position preference.

Let’s start with looking at your sleeping position. The overall goal is to keep your head and spine in line, while reducing stress on joints like the hips, knees, and shoulders. Therefore, your pillow should be specific to the type of position you prefer.

For the back sleeper:

Thick pillows will elevate your head and increase stress on the muscles of the neck and upper shoulders. So choose a medium density pillow. Preferably one that’s thinner with a curved shape to support the normal curve in the neck. I personally use the Tempur-pedic Cervical Pillow. In addition, placing a small pillow under the knees may ease pressure on the lower back.

For the side sleeper:

The goal for the side sleeper is to keep your head positioned equally between the shoulders. Unfortunately, the weight of your head can flatten the pillow and lead to an abnormal spinal position. Choose a firmer, thicker pillow that fills the gap between the head and the bed. In addition, placing a pillow between the knees will ease pressure and keep the hips in the proper position.

For the stomach sleeper:

The stomach sleeper actually requires the least amount of support; therefore a thin, soft pillow can lightly cushion the head and reduce the forced rotation of the cervical spine. It’s important to note, I don’t recommend sleeping on your stomach as it causes increased stress on the neck. Sleeping this way with a soft mattress can also lead to forced extension of the lower back. If you must sleep on your stomach, choose a firmer mattress and a thin pillow.

Not sure where to get a pillow? Start at a big box store, like Bed Bath & Beyond or check our They usually separate pillows based on sleeping preference. Try one for a week and see if it’s the right support for you. Just with anything new, it may take a couple of days to get used to your new pillow. Don’t be disheartened if you feel sore after the first night.

Sweet dreams!

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