john miller physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

What is the Best Pillow for You?

The best pillow is designed to keep your spine in a neutral stress-free alignment

However, just like the three bears in Goldilocks... we are all built just a little bit different... so your best pillow may differ to that of your partner, child or best friend.


In simple terms, the best pillow for you needs to be:

  • suitable for your preferred sleeping position
  • supportive of your neck and head
  • suitable for your head, neck, shoulder shape and size
  • comfortable to lie upon
  • durable - to keep support for the full night and for many years.

If we reflect upon the three bears. Big daddy's pillow is likely to be larger and firmer than mummy bear's pillow. Baby bear's best pillow will be more than likely be thinner and softer than the rest of the bear family.

Your Favourite Sleeping Position Matters

You'll sleep the best in your favourite position. About 70% of people are side sleepers, 20% back sleepers and 10% stomach sleepers.

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What's Your Preferred Sleeping Position?

Back, side or stomach? 

Once you've decided which is your preferred sleeping posture, we can start to look at the best pillow shape for you.

Matching Your Pillow to Sleeping Position

The best pillow for you will need to support your spine in a stress-free alignment in YOUR favourite position: whether that be side, back or stomach.


Side Sleeper Pillow


Most people prefer a to sleep on their side.

Side sleepers should aim to support your spine in a neutral position. The best pillow for you will fill in the space between the mattress and your head and neck. 

Contour pillows, as shown above, are a good choice if your neck is thinner than your head.

memory foam pillow

If your head and neck width are similar, then you may gain better support from a conventionally shaped pillow.

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Children don't require a pillow until their shoulder width increases beyond the width of their head when a thin pillow would be suitable.

Back Sleeper Pillow

therapeutic pillow

The second most popular sleeping position is on your back. Pillow height is critical.

The more rounded your upper back, the more your head protrudes forward of your neck and upper back, which means the higher the pillow you require.


This a common reason for older people sleeping on two pillows as their upper back increases its C-curve shape, which makes their head sit further forward. One pillow is simply not enough to support your head and neck.

Stomach Sleeper Pillow

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Stomach sleeping is not recommended due to the sustained rotation of your neck. You are essentially looking over one shoulder for a few hours. This compresses one side of your neck and over-stretches the other. This commonly results in neck pain, neck stiffness and neck headaches.

Pillow Comfort

A large part of what makes a good pillow is personal preference. If the pillow feels comfortable, it is likely to help you relax, get a good night’s sleep, and feel well rested in the morning. The pillow's surface can also be a source of comfort - some people prefer a pillowcase with a cool, smooth feeling (such as cotton), some prefer warmth (such as flannel), etc. Obviously a chance of season can alter your favourite pillowslip.

Pillow Fine Tuning

Ideally your pillow should conform to your various sleep positions and support the weight of your head. New technology such as memory foam has successfully addressed this issue. They adjust to the unique shape and curves and sleeping position of the user. A pillow should mould to one’s individual shape and alleviate any pressure points.

Pillow Durability

In reality, a high quality supportive pillow will last several years before needing to be replaced. Unfortunately, cheap polyester or cotton-filled pillows will usually only last a few months. They simply lost their oomph and don't bounce back.

Look for reputable manufacturers, who offer longer warranties. You'll find the best pillows last the longest, as reflected in the warranty. In addition to a better sleep they are better value in the long-term.

Over time, most pillows will begin to lose their firmness and no longer support your neck and head adequately. When your pillow has reached this stage, buy a new pillow.

What to Expect on Your First Night?

It is important to know that your neck may feel different or uncomfortable during the first few nights of using any new pillow. This is because it is still adjusting to the healthy support. In the vast majority of cases, you'll look forward to extreme comfort within a few days.

However, a pillow that does not ease your neck pain within a week is probably not supportive or you have a neck condition that requires professional treatment.

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FAQs about Pillows

  • What are the Healthiest Sleeping Postures?
  • Headache or Migraine... What to do?
  • Migraine? Free Online Test
  • Neck Headache? Free Online Test
  • Tension-Type Headache? Free Online Test
  • What are the Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries?
  • What are the Healthiest Sleeping Postures?
  • What are the Signs of an Unsupportive Pillow?
  • What Can You Do To Help Arthritis?
  • What is the Correct Way to Sit?
  • Related Treatment Options

  • Ergonomics
  • Posture Correction
  • Deep Neck Stabilisation Exercises
  • Related Injury Information

  • Facet Joint Pain
  • Pinched Nerve
  • Spondylosis (Spine Arthritis)
  • Wry Neck
  • Call PhysioWorks

    Book Online

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    Last updated 19-Jan-2018 11:52 AM

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