Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
The perfect pillow is a deeply personal and subjective thing. We all have preferences for filling, for fullness, shape, firmness under pressure (the ‘loft’) and the feel of the surface fabric.
For stomach or front sleepers, finding a really comfortable pillow can be a pain. Super-firm pillows will force your face and head up at a painful angle against the cervical vertebrae at the top of your spine.
You’ll most likely wake with lower back problems, and your shoulders will feel like they’ve been attacked by pickax fairies overnight. That said, overly thin pillows usually have stomach sleepers sliding their hands or forearms beneath for that extra bit of height beneath the softness.
Again, this is hardly ideal—you’ll either wake up with knuckle ache across one cheek or you’ll have an arm so numb that not even your morning shower can shock life back into it. Sensation invariably returns just as you’re trying to pour hot coffee.
Experts in quality sleep almost uniformly recommend sleeping on our sides. This is fantastic advice for anyone who has control over their sleeping position. Most of us probably start on our sides but there is typically a migration at some point in the night.
There are so many ‘best pillow’ lists out there and even the bestsellers page on Amazon is several scrolls long. Which should you pick?
We’ve sifted the product descriptions, filtered the feedback, and narrowed down a list of good pillows for those who either opt to nod off in the freefall position or usually find themselves that way on waking. We’ve also provided a buyer’s guide which canters through a number of factors for you to take into account when refining your choice for your perfect pillow.
In a hurry? Here are our top five picks.
Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
At first glance, contour pillows look counterintuitive for front sleepers. It’s easy to see how it would suit a side-sleeper. The higher lip supports the neck to create a healthy gap between face and mattress, preventing the weight-bearing shoulder from rolling under and forward.
The higher lip goes beneath a back sleeper’s nape and encourages a little airway-clearing tilt of the head. The EPABO pillow also features a little indentation on that upper lip to prevent too much rotation of the head or shoulders during sleep. But how does the design help front sleepers?
For those who inadvertently spend some of the night almost completely face-down, it doesn’t hurt that the indentation leaves you with a little more breathing room. For those who need a less tall pillow, there is a removable section at the bottom which is a little under an inch thick. The proportions of the pillow remain the same, but the indented upper lip will be lowered to a more suitable support height for your spinal alignment.
EPABO establishes quite firmly that the pillow’s committing shape may take a couple of weeks to get used to. This may well induce a little apprehension in some prospective customers, but the pillow does appear to be reassuringly popular.
Comments back up its claims of durability, for example. Some reviewers have even taken the time to return to edit their feedback after a year to confirm that the shape and condition of their pillow are still going strong. Because it’s made of such a responsive foam, the pillow is a strong performer for banishing neck and shoulder aches.
Though extremely soft under pressure, EPABO’s pillow still seems to have hit design gold by providing three groups of people with spot-on height support. Orthopedic pillows have a tendency to feel over-stuffed to stomach sleepers, but EPABO has provided an exception to the rule.
One caveat is that it’s quite broad for a shaped pillow. Stomach sleepers of smaller build might find themselves struggling to know where to put their forearms.
- Very light (2.8lb) and even lighter with the insert removed
- Very comfortable for people with nerve pain in the neck or shoulders
- Good value for money
- EPABO will provide you with a bonus half bag of filling if you feel that you want a firmer surface…
- …But you have to contact EPABO and wait for the delivery of extra filling
- It’s quite boxy for stomach sleepers
As the name suggests, this pillow is aimed specifically at sleepers who nod off in “free-fall” position. It’s a popular choice among stomach sleepers with 378 ratings, 75% of which are five stars.
The mass of the pillow comes from memory foam, as with many of the competitors’ offerings, but Belly Sleep has introduced a cooling gel-infused pillow to prevent you from overheating at night. Adding to the comfort is the moisture-wicking bamboo-polyester cover, which is odor-resistant and easy to clean.
It’s an extremely light pillow, weighing in at just under 2lb. The lightness comes from its thin core–just 2.5” thick and curved at the edges to reduce head and neck rotation. The aim of the design is to keep the spine in its proper alignment and reduce stress on the pressure points. The customer feedback is very promising in this respect, with much praise given to the pillow’s combination of softness and firmness.
The Belly Sleep pillow comes in two sizes. This review refers to the mini, which is 16” wide, 12” long, and comes with its own carrying case so that you can take a good night’s sleep on holiday with you. There is also a regular pillow which is a wider 28” wide and 16” deep.
Belly Sleep provides replacement covers. These currently come in a shade of unexciting white, but the company is looking to introduce patterns.
- Great for good sleep on holiday
- The moisture-wicking cover works well
- Good sleep on hot nights
- Good to go–no need to ‘fluff up’ before first use
- Great for flexible arm positioning
- Getting it into the easy carry bag can be a two-man job
This pillow has a few things in common with the Belly Sleeper, such as the gel-infusion in the memory foam for coolness, and the easily removable cover partly made from bamboo-derived moisture-wicking Rayon.
This pillow is fractionally more dense than the Belly Sleeper at 2.75” when fully relaxed. It’s surface dimensions are standard at 24” by 16” deep. Bluewave are very proud of their advancements on gel-infused pillows, having produced an open-cell memory foam pillow which combines a firm surface structure with ergonomic ventilation to draw heat from the head and face into the center of the foam.
This pillow is also dust mite resistant, mold resistant, and hypoallergenic.
One thing to be aware of when purchasing this pillow is that the design seems targeted towards creating a super-comfortable all-rounder pillow rather than being focused on the needs of stomach sleepers. It’s a very popular option nonetheless, both among Amazon reviewers and sites run by sleep specialists. It does make sense, for example, that a slender pillow will be more comfortable for both front sleepers and side sleepers with a small frame.
Bluewave has invested a great deal of effort into designing a cool, supportive pillow which is slender enough to prevent spinal misalignment, but soft enough to cradle your head in its sleeping position.
However, this is flat on side and slightly contoured on the other. If you’re someone who tends to flip their pillow for coolness in the night, then this may not be ideal.
- CertiPur-US certified materials
- Good for hot climates
- Strong performer for sufferers of back and shoulder pain
- Really good customer service
- The pillow does take a fair bit of airing at first
- They could do with providing a dimensions chart for each pillow variation
Rather than being designed specifically for stomach, side or back sleepers, Faunna pillows feature removable filling so that you can change the amount of support or height that you need for your neck.
The filling itself is made of a gel microfiber which mimics the sensation of lying on soft, expensive down. If you’re a front sleeper, they recommend that you retain 20-40% of the gel fiber filling for a suitable density that will support your neck, spine and shoulders. These pillows are soft, comfortable, and firm, while pliable beneath the weight of your head.
It is not an instant use pillow. Having arrived vacuum-packed, they will need a day to reclaim their proper shape. You can help the process along a little by putting the pillow in the tumble dryer for ten minutes on a low heat cycle to fluff it up.
Perhaps one of the greatest selling points of the Faunna pillows is that they come in pairs, in Queen or King Size, and yet present the lowest wallet burden of any of the options on this list. This makes the Faunna set a great option for side-sleeping partners with very different builds. As you can use other cases on these pillows, you can mark your pillow out as your own to save any possible confusion.
The cases themselves are lovely, however. Made of 400 thread-count 100% cotton, they will help you to stay cool at night and they’re also mite-resistant and hypoallergenic.
If the 80% five-star feedback across nearly 800 ratings is anything to go by, this seems to be a very popular solution to the apprehension of buying a bulky item and facing the possibility of having to return it.
- Inexpensive and exceptional value for money
- Easy to manipulate the filling level
- Great for people suffering shoulder and neck pain
- A comfortable and breathable sleeping experience
- Sales instructions are unclear: you can put the cover in the washing machine but not the filling
- Promisingly heavy when full (nearly 6lb) but soft rather than supportive for side sleepers.
5. Dreaming Wapiti Pillows for Sleeping, 2 Pack Shredded Memory Foam with Machine Washable Bamboo Cover
The Wapiti pillows have a great deal in common with the Faunna adjustables. Wapiti pillows come in pairs (Queen sized), have a machine washable cover, and can be customized to your liking by removing as much foam as you need to for a shallower but still firm depth if you’re sleeping face-down.
While the Faunna pillows are bulked out by gel microfiber, the Wapitis are stuffed with shredded memory foam.
The covers are of a now-familiar blend of bamboo-sourced rayon and polyester, giving a silky feel and good resistance to mites.
What struck us about these pillows are how comfortable they appear to be. You might suppose that a cover rammed with shredded memory foam would be lumpy, but this does not appear to be consumers’ experience.
By all accounts, when you have lowered the pillow to the appropriate depth then the filling melds together and the heat of your body serves to keep the right molding in place to cradle your head overnight. It’s simple but effective.
It’s one of the heavier pillows, weighing in at 7lb when fully stuffed. Even if you removed half to your desired height and level of tension, it’s not really a pillow to take on holiday with you unless you’re taking the car.
- Soft and firm
- Good value for money
- A flippable pillow
- Not particularly portable
Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers – Buyer’s Guide
A healthy sleep posture
There are quite a few ways in which you could angle yourself in bed but you’ll get the best rest with the fewest morning twinges if you have postural alignment from your head through your spine, and an even weight spread across your joints. If you have a particularly high pillow then you could offset the stress on your neck by putting a thin, flattish pillow beneath your pelvis.
The quickest and surest way to develop pain at the back of your neck and between the shoulders is to have your head too high on a pillow while your arms are spread around the outsides. If you prefer a taller pillow with lots of give, then you might be better off with something that’s more flexible around the edges and not so rigidly rectangular as a contour pillow.
That strange, chemical smell
Nearly all memory foam products, when first unleashed from their packaging, bear the smell of the microbial cleaning that comes at the end of the manufacturing process. You wouldn’t be blamed for wondering what kind of chemicals are involved in making the pillow, so unwelcoming is that initial odor. However, it is only temporary. You will most likely find that pillows which need to ‘rest’ to retrieve their pre-packaging shape tend to lose that unwelcome odor before you sleep on it for the first time.
Solutions others have tried and tested are washing the pillow case first, using an under-case for the first week or so, and allowing the inner core of the pillow to air during the first week. In the case of the softer, lighter pillows (3lb or less) you can hang them from a washing line for an hour and let the breeze do the work for you.
Memory foam can create the sleep of champions but even with all the fantastic technological evolutions in open-cell foams and ventilation methods, a lot of heat is retained. On hot and humid nights when there is no air, this can become somewhat oppressive. That doesn’t matter too much if you can flip your pillow. If you’re a part-time side sleeper or if you frequently crack one eye to flip the pillow for a cool spot, then it’s worth:
- investing in cotton pillow cases to form a barrier between your face and the pillow’s core
- Buying gel-infused cool sensation memory foams
- buying a twinset of adjustable pillows for easy-reach changeovers on super-hot nights
- or making sure you have a pillow which is slender and flippable.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is CentiPUR-US certified pillow?
The last thing you want is to spend every night with your face pressed into a surface made of harsh chemicals. CertiPUR-US is a ratification system to confirm that no chemicals have been used which, when combined, can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) through the cover and into the sleeper’s respiration system.
How often should I replace my pillow?
It’s a good idea to replace your pillows every 18 months or so. Although memory foam and other synthetic fillings have a much longer shelf life than natural down, this can mean that the shape denigrates slowly over time without you noticing until suddenly your old, unwelcome pains make a cameo reappearance in your life. It’s best to cut that danger off at the pass.
Does it matter what kind of mattress I have?
Yes. As a rule of thumb, if you have a soft mattress (or mattress topper) then you’ll need a firmer pillow By way of compensation to protect you from the sensation of your soft layer sinking down into the mattress and misaligning your spine. Conversely, a hard mattress warrants a slightly springier pillow.