Fact checked by Vincent Wang, MS CPE
Vincent Wang, MS CPE
Vincent Wang is a Senior Human Factors Engineer at Casper and a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE) with over 10 years of experience in Human Factors Engineering, Product Design, Biomechanics, Anthropometry, and Strategic Planning.
Have you ever spent the night at a hotel and wondered what it was that caused your neck and back to ache so much the next day? Or maybe it was reversed — you had the best sleep of your life and can’t quite pinpoint why. While the mattress may have been a contributing factor, a big part of your experience could have been the result of your pillow. Knowing how to choose a pillow that’s right for you will help you either avoid or relish that hotel experience every night.
Having the correct pillow height and firmness can do wonders for your beauty sleep. Depending on your normal sleeping position, your pillow can either help or hinder your spinal alignment. Knowing how to choose the right pillow will help you avoid sleeping in unnatural and uncomfortable positions — thus eliminating aches and pains.
Many times when we think of “the right pillow” we think of something soft and fluffy that feels like a cloud when laying your head on it. However, the right pillow is actually one that will keep your head, neck, and spine neutrally aligned while supporting your spine’s natural curvature. For some, this can still be that soft, fluffy pillow — but others may want a firmer pillow that holds its shape better.
Before deciding on the right pillow, you’ll need to determine what your go-to sleeping position is. Back, stomach, and side sleepers will all have different things to look for in their perfect pillow, so be aware that you may be on the lookout for different qualities than your partner or friends are.
When shopping around for pillows, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
When sleeping on your side, your shoulder bears most of the support — which is why having a mattress designed to be softer in this area is beneficial, like our Nova Hybrid. Depending on certain factors like your mattress firmness and shoulder width, a low, medium, or high pillow loft can be best. For many side sleepers, a firmer pillow can also be both comfortable and supportive enough to sleep comfortably, however, this can vary from sleeper to sleeper.
Here’s what to think about if you’re prone to side sleeping:
While not the most popular sleeping position, back sleepers tend to reap the most benefits — especially when using a mattress designed for support. If your mattress doesn’t provide enough support for your spine’s natural curve, it can be beneficial to tuck a small pillow underneath your lower back and knees.
Because many mattresses don’t provide that specific support, we’ve designed our Zoned Support™ foam to be firmer around the waist and lower back area, while being softer around the shoulders. This helps with ergonomic spinal alignment so you don’t need to use extra pillows under your lower back and knees. The Zoned Support™ foam is found in the Casper Original Mattress, the Nova Hybrid, and the Wave Hybrid.
Here’s what to look for in a pillow if you’re prone to back sleeping:
Despite experts recommending sleepers avoid snoozing on the stomach due to short-term and long-term spinal problems that may arise, many find this a comfortable position. Because sleeping on your stomach with the wrong pillow leaves you at risk for neck strains and low back pressure, use a pillow that will help your body avoid this pain. It’s also a good idea to use your pillow more towards your chest to reduce neck bend if you regularly sleep in this position.
Here’s what to look for in a pillow if you’re prone to stomach sleeping:
You may want to consider putting a low loft pillow underneath your stomach and pelvis to help your body stay in a neutral position and your spine maintain its natural curvature.
While the key points we mentioned are important to look for in a pillow depending on your go-to sleeping position, there are also a few general things everyone should keep an eye on. No matter how you sleep, referencing the following points will help you know how to choose a pillow that’s right for you.
Here at Casper, we offer a mix of different pillow fills and materials. Each pillow comes in either a standard or king size, and you have the option of choosing a low or medium loft.
Using a pillow not conducive to keeping your head, neck, and spine in alignment will inevitably leave your body with some discomfort. However, unless you prefer sleeping without a pillow, knowing how to choose a pillow for your needs can dramatically change how you feel when you wake up in the morning. And if you’re still unsure what pillow loft is best for your normal sleeping position, take the pillow height quiz on any of the Casper pillow pages next to “Select your pillow height.”