how high should pillow be

How High Should Pillow Be [Best for Side, Back & Stomach Sleepers]

Have you ever thought of how your pillow affects your sleep? Research has proven that pillows don’t just decorate our mattresses but they affect our body posture and our sleep, amongst other things. Picking the right pillow for you might seem unnecessary but your spine will thank you so why not invest in your sleep. 

How high should your pillow be? The short answer is that it depends on your sleeping position. Stomach sleepers need a much thinner pillow than back and side sleepers. Keep reading to find out what are the exact advisable heights, how your pillow should be positioned and much more.

Related articles: Best Pillow for Side Sleepers, Best Pillow for Back Sleepers and Best Pillow for Stomach Sleepers​. Or if you’re in a hurry, top-rated pillow for side and back sleepers in 2023 is Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow ​and best for stomach sleepers is Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow.

pillow high side sleeper

Ideal pillow height

Proper pillow height for side sleepers

Side sleepers are the most common and the ideal pillow height should be high compared to back sleepers.

This brings a balance between the neck and the head also helping maintain a natural horizontal line.  The most common pillow size is the standard-sized pillow (20” x 26”); however, this should be adjustable to proper head-neck-spine alignment.

For side sleepers, there is a larger gap between your head and the mattress so pillows of greater thickness are needed to align your neck with your head and spine.

The importance of maintaining the natural curvature cannot be overemphasized. The thickness and height in the pillow is the solution to one of the challenges side sleepers face.

What’s the challenge?

Due to the pressure the head has on a pillow when the body is in a sideways position, the pillow tends to collapse.

That’s why side sleepers prefer or at least would be more comfortable with a thick pillow with an appropriate height.

Note: Folding compressed pillows or doubling them can’t be compared to having the right pillow and it won’t give you the desired comfort for your sleep and this can cause your neck to bend forward, resulting in neck or back pains

pillow height back sleeper

Best pillow height for back sleepers

Back sleepers should possess quite thick pillows but the pillow shouldn’t be as high as pillows for side sleepers.

Their back needs to maintain natural curvature as too high or too low affects breathing and triggers snoring. Some back sleepers prefer having a second pillow for beneath their knee, one with adequate thickness. If you’re one of them, check out the best knee pillows.

The ideal pillow height for back sleepers keeps the head in a neutral position like when standing, filling the gap between the head and neck, it also maintains an upright and straight state of the head as it faces the ceiling. 

When choosing a pillow back sleepers should have in mind that when on your back, gravity tends to pull the head to the left, so they should select a supportive and malleable pillow that keeps the head upright throughout the night. An example of moderate pillow for side sleepers is the wedge pillow.

How high should a pillow be for stomach sleepers?

Stomach sleepers should have the thinnest. It’s not a problem for them to disuse pillows in order to avoid improper alignment. Stomach sleepers who use ideal flat pillows also prefer a second pillow beneath their stomach.

Sleeping on the stomach comes with risks but the risks can be minimal when using the appropriate support (pillow), stomach sleepers have little or no gap to fill although the head is still kept in an unnatural bent position. 

Hence, they have relatively flat pillows. Stomach sleepers—in most cases— breathe directly on the pillows, so they need pillows of breathable material and ones that do not retain heat. Examples of materials are listed later on the article so keep reading!

Pillow height and neck pain

Your pillow height should be such that there is no gap between your shoulder and neck i.e. it should assume your body in a neutral or standing position. When the height is more or less, the neck is bent in an unnatural way resulting in severe neck pain.

There are a number of things that go wrong when pillow selection doesn’t fit your preferred sleeping position. 

Some include: 

  • Sleep apnea
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Poor sleep
  • Snoring (yes, snoring might be uncomfortable to your partner or neighbors and poor pillow selection is one of the reasons people snore!)  

Pro Tips

  • There is no normal when it comes to pillow height, but there are healthier and more comfortable options. What most people don’t realize is their mattress will play a big role in which pillow is best for them, so pick your pillow after considering the type of mattress you use. 

  • When choosing a pillow, one of the most important things you should look for is zipper access to the fillings so you can adjust the filling to get the correct alignment you need; however, some pillows are already made fit various styles of sleeping.

  • Another thing to note is that size or physique affects the gap between neck and body. Petite people with falling shoulders will have a small gap to fill compared to persons with huge structures and broad shoulders. So, consider also your body when choosing the right pillow.

  • More so, if you have allergies, the material or filling of your pillow should be taken into consideration. There are various types of pillows with different fillings, some include latex pillows, buckwheat hull, feathers e.g. down pillows. Others include: wool, polyester, memory foam and gel, these are the most common types of fillings and each of them has their pros and cons so make sure you consult your doctor so you select the correct pillow.

Do pillow height and sleeping position make me snore?

Sleeping positions alongside a poor choice of mattress or pillow are known to make people snore.

If you think your sleeping position is influencing your snoring, it is advisable you consider positional therapy to start sleeping in quieter, healthier positions—if it bothers you or others anyway.

What pillows can help my snoring problems?

Wedge pillows are recommended as pillows that help stop snoring, making you sleep better and peacefully.

For back sleepers who simply can’t sleep on their side; wedge pillows elevate your head which lessens the effect of the weight or pressure on your airway.

How can my partner stop snoring?

Lifestyle changes, such as exercise and healthier food choices, reduction in alcohol intake and avoiding it close to bedtime, sleeping on your side reduce or stop snoring.

pillow position depth


Is it better to sleep on a high or low pillow?

It all varies on your sleeping position; if you’re a stomach sleeper, for example, a low pillow height would be better and if you are a side sleeper a high pillow would be better.

How should your pillow be positioned?

It should be positioned in a way that your chin is not tucked into your neck or elevated in the air.

Your shoulder likewise should not be elevated by the pillow, only your head should lie on the pillow to avoid neck pains and spine complications. Lastly, it should be positioned such that there is no gap between your shoulder and neck i.e. it should assume your body in a neutral or standing position.

How many pillows is it best to sleep with?

There really isn’t a right answer to this; some sleepers prefer their knees and feet to have pillows so you can have two just to ease any tension.

Should you sleep with 2 pillows?

There really isn’t a right answer to this, some sleepers prefer their knees and feet to have pillows and some restless sleepers use two pillows side by side to maintain support when they toss and turn

Should shoulders be on a pillow when sleeping?

No. shoulders should not be elevated with the head as the aim of the pillow is to fill the gap between the shoulder, neck, and head.

memory foam cushion

Best pillow for side and back sleepers in 2023 is Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow ​and top-rated pillow for stomach sleepers is Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow.


So, how high should your pillow be?

Pillows should be selected carefully as it goes a long way in forming our posture. We spend about one-third of our lives on a bed and a pillow so investing money and time for a healthier sleep is worth it.

Your health matters and your sleep helps your health, your pillow helps your sleep.

So, be sure to choose a pillow with the correct height – low for stomach sleepers, medium for back sleepers and high for side sleepers. Sleep tight!