How Many Pillows Should You Sleep On To Feel Comfortable?

Last Updated June 29, 2023

Have you ever wondered why we use pillows? Sure, they’re nice and soft and comfortable – but so are many mattresses … so why not skip pillows altogether? Well, you need pillows to support your spine and neck to avoid any unnecessary pain and straining. So the question then becomes: how many pillows should you sleep on to be most comfortable and reduce the risk of pain and strain?

Well, it depends on your sleeper style. From side to back, front or combo, how you sleep will affect how many pillows you should sleep with. For example:

For side sleepers, one pillow under your head, and one between your legs is typically ideal.

For back sleepers, one to two pillows behind your head is recommended, with one behind your knees for extra comfort.

The Benefits Of A Pillow

  • Keeps your upper body aligned
  • It helps to stabilise your head
  • Relieves pressure
  • Helps to alleviate snoring issues
  • Snuggly fits the natural curves of the body

Tips For Using Pillows Correctly

Rather than asking how many pillows you should sleep with, it’s probably better to ask how to use a pillow properly (yes – there are right and wrong ways to use pillows!) Let’s take a look:

1. Understand Your Sleeping Position

It is important to understand your sleeping position during the night. You should know whether you sleep on your stomach, on your back, or your side. Everyone has their own sleeping style and you should choose a pillow based on your dominant sleeping position.

2. Only Rest Your Head And Neck On The Pillow

The work of the pillow is to make sure that your neck and head are protected and stabilised. If your shoulders are up there too, your head and neck won’t be aligned and fit on the pillow as intended – it’ll almost just be like lying on the mattress without a pillow. So, for the best night’s sleep, keep just your head and neck on the pillow.

3. Pillows Aren’t Just for Your Head

While pillows are mostly designed for head and neck support, that’s not to say you can’t use it between or under your legs. In fact, resting a pillow between your knees if you’re a side sleeper or under your knees, if you’re a back sleeper can actually help keep your spine more aligned and help give you a pain-free sleep.

Pillow Tips Based On Sleeper Style

  • Side: When sleeping on your side, a pillow should support the head and neck, so the spine maintains a straight and natural horizontal line. A thicker pillow is ideal. Place another pillow between the knees to help keep the spine in neutral position. 
  • Back: When sleeping on your back, your pillow should support the natural curvature of the spine, with adequate support under the head, neck, and shoulders. Pillow height should be lower than for side sleepers. Placing another pillow beneath the knees further alleviates any back strain.
  • Front: Sleeping on the stomach is the most stressful position for the back and neck. Most doctors advise not sleeping on the stomach, but this isn’t always possible. So, if you do sleep on your stomach, the pillow should be relatively flat, or the head should rest directly on the mattress so the head and neck aren’t strained. 
  • Combo: If you’re a combo sleeper, you probably need the most pillows – one for when you’re side sleeping and one for when you’re back sleeping. If you’re front sleeping, you can have a separate pillow for that position too or just rest your head on the mattress. Using a single all-purpose pillow will probably turn out to be one that is too high for sleeping on the back and too low for sleeping on the side.

Pillow Material

Another aspect you could consider is the material of your pillow. Here are some of the most common materials used:

  • Memory foam – this is one of the most common materials used in pillows for back sleepers. It offers excellent support and comfort.
  • Polyurethane – this is an affordable material that offers a good amount of support to the neck and shoulder area.
  • Gel fiberfill – this is a newer material similar to memory foam, except it is known for its cooling properties.
  • Bamboo – this material offers a good level of firmness while still remaining a plush and comfortable feel. 

Final Thoughts

If you still wonder how many pillows you need to sleep comfortably, one should suffice. But more importantly, you need to determine your sleeping position and invest in a pillow that will provide you with the most strain-free and comfortable sleep.

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Ally Burnie
Head Dreamer Ally Burnie
Journalist, presenter and host based in Sydney with a passion for cooking, outdoor adventures, hiking, humanitarianism, and travel.
Ally Burnie Head Dreamer Ally Burnie
Journalist, presenter and host based in Sydney with a passion for cooking, outdoor adventures, hiking, humanitarianism, and travel.


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