Choosing the Best Pillows for Back, Side and Stomach Sleepers

Choosing the Best Pillows for Back, Side and Stomach Sleepers

Creating a comfortable and healthy sleeping position often comes down to choosing the right pillow. But what are the factors to consider when selecting the perfect pillow for your sleep position?

How often do you purchase new pillows? If you’re like most consumers today, you don’t replace your pillows every year or two, like you should. In fact, many of us go 5-10 years on the same $10 polyester pillow purchased at the local big-box store…and we wonder why we wake up with a stiff neck or find a good night’s sleep so elusive! The human body wasn’t designed to comfortably sleep on a flat surface, so pillows are our way of outsmarting our natural physiology to deliver a more restful, healthy sleep. Let’s look at how to choose the best comfort pillow that pairs perfectly with your sleep style.

Choosing the Best Pillows for Back, Side & Stomach Sleepers | Mediflow


What Is Your Sleep Style?

You can ask your partner for input on your unique sleep style, use feedback gained from a sleep study, or simply take note of how you wake up each morning. There are three basic sleep styles to consider (though there are sub-categories to each) - back, stomach, and side sleeper.

If you’re a back sleeper, you’ll generally want to avoid pillows that are too thick. A pillow with too high of a profile can force the head to jut forward. This can create possible tension and strain on the area and potentially causing respiratory issues. A pillow with a thin to medium level of thickness, preferably with a softer center section or adjustable firmness feature, is ideal for back sleepers.

Side sleepers tend to benefit from a firm pillow, as the void created between the sleeper’s ear and their outside shoulder must be fully supported by a pillow to create ideal head and neck alignment. Again, responsive support is key here, but an overall firmness level that is on the firmer end of the spectrum will likely create better physical alignment between head and neck.

Stomach sleepers are likely to benefit from a flat, thin pillow for optimal head and neck support. While some stomach sleepers can get away with using almost no pillow, most experts suggest that you use a thin pillow, at a minimum. Placing a pillow under the stomach can help alleviate potential back pain during sleep.

But what if, like most of us, you alternate between back, side, and stomach sleep positions? If this is something you tend to do, you’ll want to seek out a pillow that offers a good balance of size, firmness, and responsive support.


What Type of Fill Is Right for You?

How do pillow filling options pair best with the three unique sleep styles discussed above? This choice is probably the single most important one you’ll make when determining the right comfort pillow, and it isn’t something that can be figured out while you’re at the store. It often takes around a week to really identify if a pillow works for you, so be sure to consider all the pillow fill types.

Goose Down

Sure, there is something luxurious about goose down, but there are a lot of tradeoffs to consider. Goose down pillows are generally best reserved for back sleepers.  They tend to offer a thicker overall profile that can be reshaped easily to create a “channel” for the neck down the center of the pillow. Expect to pay about $150-$200 for a good comfort down pillow.

Memory Foam

If the memory foam pillow is the right shape and size from the factory, it might work well for back or some side sleepers. Many people report that these pillows are simply too thick for stomach sleepers though. A consideration to weigh if you’re thinking about a memory foam pillow is that they usually are designed for one specific sleeping position and are non-adjustable. They should “fit right” from the get-go which makes selection tricky unless you have slept on it. Expect to pay about $50-$200 for a memory foam pillow.


The quality of polyester-filled pillows depends on what you pay. Regardless of your sleep position, steer clear of the bargain-basement prices and lower quality of polyester if you’re looking for optimal head and neck support. That said, a well-made, quality polyester can make an excellent fill material if used in conjunction with another supportive element.

Water Pillows

A water pillow is great for any sleeping style because they can be adjusted by simply adding or subtracting water from the resealable waterbase. The Mediflow® Waterbase® Pillow is a perfect example of the many benefits of water pillows. It provides responsive support so you can create the perfect head and neck position. All you need to do is fill it up with water for your desired comfort level. It is available in combination with all of the popular filling types, including down, gel memory foam, and fiberfill pillows. Prices are generally affordable, too - about $40-$100 for a top-quality design.

In a John Hopkins study, the Mediflow Waterbase Pillow was clinically proven to improve quality of sleep compared over all other pillows tested. Those who slept on the Mediflow Waterbase Pillow also saw reduced morning pain and increased pain relief.

Finding the right pillow based on your unique sleep style can take some trial and error. If you’re looking for a better night’s sleep, make sure to consider all the available pillow fill options.
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