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How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With To Sleep Well?

image of our writer Filip Maric

Written by Filip

Sleep Advisor

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10 November 2023 6 min read

Most people do not pay enough attention to what kind of pillow they sleep on. And then they are surprised how their night’s sleep improves when they sleep in a 5-star hotel, and the reason is actually a high-quality mattress and pillow.

The pillow must be chosen according to your sleeping position, but also to be relatively new. Because even the perfect pillow for you can't be functional after a long time.

But one more thing is important, and that is the number of pillows you sleep with. According to researchers, most people use two pillows.

An inappropriate pillow, as well as an inappropriate number of pillows will negatively affect the quality of your night's sleep, and as a result, your health and energy level will suffer. 

On our website you can find numerous reviews and buying guides that will help you choose the ideal pillow, and in this article we will answer the question how many pillows should you sleep with.

But first – what is a pillow?

Pillow is essential sleep accessory designed to make your sleep comfortable and to raise your head slightly. It is necessary for the head to be raised slightly, so that the head and neck are aligned while sleeping. Head and neck alignment lead to spinal alignment which is of utmost importance. Exactly how much your head should be raised depends on the sleep position.

An image of 2 white pillows on a bed.

Choosing the right pillow

You should not approach choosing a pillow lightly. It is important to find out more information before you buy one or more pillows. It is not necessary to become a sleep expert, but first you need to know which pillow suits your sleeping position. The general rule is that side sleepers need a thicker, softer pillow, stomach sleepers need a flat and firm pillow, and back sleepers have the greatest choice, so they can mostly choose according to preference. However, a pillow with too low a loft usually doesn't suit them.

Another thing you need to pay attention to are the materials. The materials affect durability, but also whether a pillow is suitable for hot sleepers and allergy sufferers. Another important thing is that memory foam pillows are best for pressure relief, and who likes fluffy pillows should choose down or down alternatives, such as microfibre.


Could a pillow be the cause of neck or back pain?

When someone asks us could a pillow be the cause of back or neck pain, our answer is – most certainly yes, pillow can cause neck and back problems. If the pillow is unsuitable for your sleeping position and your body frame, as well as the weight of your head, head and neck are going to be in unhealthy position every day for 6 to 8 hours, maybe even more. This inevitably leads to problems with the neck and back, as well as with the whole body.

An image of a woman suffering from a neck and back pain, due to poor quality pillow.

How many pillows should side sleepers sleep with?

Two pillows are recommended for side sleepers. You should put one pillow beneath your head and the other between legs, more precisely between knees. We have already talked about the pillow you put under your head. Medium to soft pillow with good support and pressure relief is ideal. And that pillow that goes between the knees should be firmer.

An image of a woman sleeping on her right side .

If it is soft, it will not fulfill its task. And the task is to relieve stress on your hips and lower back. Also, a pillow between the knees further helps with spinal alignment. Thus, two pillows guarantee a perfect body position for the side sleepers.


How many pillows should back sleepers sleep with?

You remember we mentioned back sleepers have the largest selection of pillows available, and the same goes for the number of pillows. Still, we would recommend back sleepers to use three pillows. One, of course, should give head and neck support. 

The other two should be positioned under the lower back and under the knees. Pillows will reduce pressure on the spine as well as support the natural curvature of the spine, and slightly raised knees will contribute to comfort. It is important to note that back sleepers usually have snoring problems so when getting a pillow, don't forget to consider this issue as well.


An image of a woman sleeping on her back.

The pillow under the lower back should be medium to firm, and below the knees soft to firm. The one under your head can be a medium memory foam pillow, but it can also be another one according to your preferences.


How many pillows should front sleepers sleep with?

First of all, it would be best to change your sleep position or at least not sleep all night on your stomach as this is a sleep position that is not recommended. But since we know that there are a lot of people who can't sleep if they don't lie on their stomachs, then it is recommended for them to use only one pillow.

a man sleeping on stomach in his bed.

Thin pillow is best choice for stomach sleepers and it should be firmer to avoid unnaturally curved neck. The only situation where front sleepers can benefit from another pillow is if they have to sleep on a soft mattress, then they can put another pillow under the pelvis to improve the position of the spine.

Can I sleep without the pillows?

None of us remember when we started using the pillow, because it usually happens around the second birthday. So we never wonder if we should continue to use a pillow or maybe we should stop using it and sleep on a flat surface. But lately, more and more sleep experts are analyzing human anatomy and come to the conclusion that there are many reasons why sleeping without a pillow can be healthy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s something everyone should apply. If you are a side or back sleeper, sleeping without a pillow will be very uncomfortable and even very painful, and in the morning you will experience stiffness. A similar case is with back sleepers, which means that only stomach sleepers should consider this option.

An image of a guy trying to sleep without pillows.

But stomach sleepers should definitely consider this option because it is healthiest for them to sleep without a pillow. This way you will keep your spine straight and avoid blocking airways. There are some other benefits. For example, prevention of wrinkles and prevention of inflammation leading to acne. 

The main argument why sleeping without a pillow can be good for the prevention of wrinkles is the pressure you put on your face every night and thus improve circulation. And pillows are full of mites and bacteria, so whoever has acne may want to consider stopping using a pillow.

So, what is the right number of pillows you should sleep with?

There is no single answer to this complex question. The general advice of sleep experts, orthopedists and chiropractors is that front sleepers use one pillow, side sleepers two, and back sleepers three pillows. However, this is not a mandatory rule, but you should try everything to find out what you are most comfortable with. The point is to have a good night's sleep, not to follow the rules. So if you notice that you need another pillow or just one is enough for you, then go with it.

An image of a young woman sleeping in bed with multiple pillows.

Also, if you sleep on your stomach, consider whether you need a pillow at all. It is certainly better for stomach sleepers to sleep without a pillow, especially if they do not have a pillow that is suitable for stomach sleepers. And there are significantly fewer pillows on the market for stomach sleepers than for the other two sleep positions.

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