How Many Pillows Should you Sleep with? | MattressNextDay

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How Many Pillows Should you Sleep with?

How Many Pillows Should you Sleep with?

Most people tend to sleep with two pillows. But research suggests that you really should only be sleeping with one under your head. Why? Well, the reason is actually quite simple. A pillow is designed to raise your head slightly so that your head and neck are aligned.

The wrong type of pillow or even too many pillows can result in poor quality sleep. This in turn can impact your overall health and well-being. So it’s clear that getting your pillow right is just as important as choosing the right mattress.

So, what kind of pillows should you use? Our handy guide will give you all the information you need so that you buy the right type of pillow - and the right number.

Close up of white pillows on a white bed

How do you choose the right pillow?

Now that we’ve established that you only really need one, let’s look at how to choose the right pillow. There are three key areas that you should consider when you’re buying a new pillow – material, size, and fillings.


Natural fibres such as 100% cotton covers are the most desirable as they’re kinder on the skin and come from sustainable sources. They are more resistant to microbes, moisture from your breath (don’t forget you’re breathing into your pillow all night long) and bacteria.

However, some modern pillows are made using man-made fibres such as polyester blends. These are perfectly fine. But they may be irritating to some people with sensitive skin. The best way to protect your skin and your pillow is to always use a pillow slip or cover. This can be removed and regularly washed.


A standard pillow measures 20” wide x 26” long. You can get smaller pillows for children, and larger pillows such as the Silentnight Squishy Body Support Pillow. This is much larger at 147cm x 48cm (58.8” long x 19.2” wide) and is designed to be more of a body support pillow rather than a standard ‘head’ pillow.


Fillings for pillows range from natural down and feather to white fibres, bamboo, and even Octaspring technology in the Dormeo Octaspring True Evolution Plus pillow. Other pillows have CoolGel layers that give you a cooler feel. This means you don’t have to constantly turn your pillow over during the night to get the ‘cool’ side!

Anti-allergy pillows such as the Sleepeezee Anti Allergy Pillow contain a specially developed filling with a microfibre cover. This helps to prevent dust and allergens from building up within the pillow.

How many pillows should side sleepers use?

If you're a side sleeper, you do get to use two pillows but they're not both for your head! The best way to align your spine is to have one pillow under your head and one between your knees. In the side sleeping position, the leg you place on top can pull on your spine leading to stress on your lower back and hips. 

Try to use a firm pillow between your knees to keep the knees from touching. As for your head, a medium firm pillow is perfect. These two pillows combined will keep your spine & neck perfectly aligned.

How many pillows should back sleepers use?

As a back sleeper, you're already treating your spine a lot better than most. It is technically the ideal way to sleep for your spines health. So long as you use the right pillows, that is.

To really take the stress off at the end of the day, try sleeping with a soft pillow under your knees as well as your head. Having the two pillows positioned this way keeps your spine in its natural curvature. Raising your knees slightly when sleeping on your back is also proven to help people fall asleep quicker!

How many pillows should front sleepers use?

Sleeping on your stomach is dubbed the worst position for sleeping. This is because laying flat on your stomach puts high stress on the back of the spine, pulling it out of position.

If you can, try to avoid sleeping this way where possible. If it's the only way you can get those zzz's, place a medium pillow under your pelvis area. This keeps your spine in the best alignment it can be in this position. Ideally, try not to have a pillow under your head but if you need one, make sure it's a soft pillow. Keeping your head as low as possible will help to align your spine correctly.

How often should you change your pillows?

Most experts believe that you should change your pillows every one to two years to ensure they remain supportive. After this, you’ll find that even the best memory foam pillows start to lose their bounce. It can be difficult to get comfortable if your pillow has a big dip in the middle.

Pillows also need to be kept clean and free of allergens. By the second year, your pillow is probably starting to get a little grubby – it’s time to buy a new one!

How to break in a new pillow?

A new pillow can feel a little stiff to start with! A great way to break in a pillow is to pop it into a pillowcase, put it in the tumble dryer with a couple of tennis balls, and give it a quick tumble for five minutes. This should soften up the structure a little without damaging the shape of the pillow. Note that this technique will only work for fibre pillows, not memory foam pillows or down pillows.

Is it better to sleep without a pillow?

If you’re a stomach sleeper, it’s definitely better to try and sleep without a pillow as this keeps your spine straight and avoids blocking your airways. However, if you sleep on your back or sides, you do really have to have a minimum of one pillow to keep your head and neck properly supported.

Author: Ryan Thaker

Ryan is a Marketing Executive, who joined MattressNextDay in October 2021. Having over 5 years marketing experience in higher education and recruitment, Ryan is looking to broaden his horizons and learn more about the mattress and online retail industries. He will be looking into the latest bedroom decor trends, sharing ways to sleep healthier and providing insights on products and the features they provide. If you have any questions for Ryan, please give him a call today!