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Bed Basics
Bed Basics

Why One-Size-Fits-All Pillows Don't Exist

Heap of cushions and pillows on a bed with blanket and plaid against a window with curtains in ground floor room.
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Would you buy the exact same mattress as your mom? How about your neighbor? Your boss? Of course not! Yet, for some reason, we like to think everyone can sleep with the same pillow. Just like shopping for a mattress, there is no one-size-fits-all pillow choice. Why? Because your pillow accounts for 25% of your sleep surface. So, if you want the best night of zzz’s, learn how to pick a pillow that actually suits your needs.

Why Picking a Pillow Is a Personal Experience

Getting the best night of sleep relies on both a great mattress and the right pillow. And similar to how you spent time testing mattresses to find your perfect match, it’s necessary to do the same for pillows because without one, you can experience stiffness, tension, headaches, and overall discomfort (on top of a bad night of sleep!).

Using the same determining factors as mattress matching, you’ll want to consider things like your sleeping position, material preferences, health considerations, and mattress firmness to ensure you’re sleeping on the right pillow for you. Let’s dive into each.

Sleeping Positions

When you’re sleeping in the right position for your body, your spine is aligned, your joints are supported, and you get the restorative sleep you need each and every night. Plus, your sleeping position also helps determine what type of pillow you should be using.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers need a pillow that supports their head, neck, and shoulders, as each point will be resting on the pillow. We recommend a pillow that’s lower in height than one for side sleepers to keep your spine in alignment.

Side Sleepers

When you sleep on the side, your pillow has to support your head and neck to maintain a straight and horizontal line along your spine. For this reason, you’ll likely need a thicker pillow to do so. Tip: Place a pillow between your knees to further keep your spine in a neutral position.

Stomach Sleepers

Sleeping on your stomach can place significant stress on your neck and back if your head is propped unevenly. For this reason, we often recommend sleeping directly on the mattress without a pillow to avoid further strain. If you're a stomach sleeper who prefers a pillow, it needs to be the flattest model available.

Material Preferences

Just like mattresses, pillows are made with different fillings that can either improve or disturb your sleep. For example, memory foam pillows offer incredible support, but can generate a lot of heat for people who sleep hot. For them, we’d suggest a gel hybrid pillow, which uses thermal regulated technology to give you the support and coolness you want.

Of course, you may want to explore pillows with latex or hypoallergenic fibers to control allergies and other irritating symptoms that may keep you up at night. Speaking of allergies, we have a few specific recommendations for you.

Sleep Issues and Health Considerations

If you have sleep issues like sleep apnea and use a CPAP, the right pillow can help prevent your mask from falling off at night. Other health considerations, like allergies, mean hypoallergenic pillows may be best. These are often made with materials that resist allergens from settling into the pillow’s fill and feature a removable, machine-washable cover so you can clean with ease as often as you want.

Check out some of our favorite hypoallergenic pillows here.

Loft Levels

The loft level of your pillow refers to its height, and depending on your sleep position, you may need a higher or lower pillow. Just remember, a pillow is there to support your head, neck and shoulders to keep your spine aligned. If you’re a stomach sleeper, a flat pillow—or no pillow at all—is needed. Back sleepers need something a little higher to support your spine. And side sleepers will need the highest loft to keep your spine horizontal from your neck to your lower back.

Price vs. Quality

Some people think the higher the quality, the pricier the pillow—and vice versa. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our clearance section is stocked with name-brand pillows ranging from 20-60% off based on the age of the pillow, inventory, and newer models. Don’t be afraid to seek out our budget-friendly pillows because you’ll never have to sacrifice quality for price at Mattress Firm.

Pillow Fittings

If you want to take the guesswork out of finding the right pillow, let our Sleep Experts® find the perfect pillow for you through a personalized pillow fitting. According to Brandon Sparks, one of our most valuable Sleep Experts, “A perfect pillow completes the last quarter of the perfect sleep surface. It allows us another variable that we can take into consideration and adjust when developing a sleep solution as an entire setup.”

So, if you want perfect sleep, consider joining one of our Sleep Experts in a pillow fitting. Much like our mattress matching experience, our Sleep Experts will ask you about your sleep positions and sleep disruptors and focus on any neck or back pain. Questions like:

  • What position do you start in vs. which position do you wake up in?  
  • How does pain or discomfort affect your position when you first lay down and throughout the night?  
  • Do you often experience cricks in your neck throughout the day, and how does that affect you?  
  • Can you describe your relationship with temperature both when you first get in bed and throughout the night? 

After getting to know your sleep preferences, we’ll give you a selection of several different pillows that meet your needs. What comes next? You guessed it—you get to try them out. Lie down in your normal sleep position and get comfy. And don’t worry: each pillow comes with a fresh, clean cover for you to use.

Taking as much time as you need, you’ll find one pillow will stand above the rest. And if it doesn’t, we’ll continue working with you to find the right fit. If you want to improve your sleep with the perfect pillow, talk to one of our Sleep Experts about a pillow fitting today.

Check Out Our Sleep Expert® Approved Pillow Picks