Fact checked by Jonathan Eilenberg
Jonathan Eilenberg is a Senior Ergonomics Engineer at Casper with over 6 years of experience in occupational injury prevention.
Nothing beats falling into a feather-soft bed topped with cozy flannel sheets, warm blankets, and squishy pillows after a long day of work or play. But while you might start snoozing in a matter of minutes, optimizing your sleep environment to promote REM cycles and deep sleep can help ensure your slumber is restful and rejuvenating.
So, what’s the optimal pillow position for sleep?
Like many things in life, the answer is, it depends. Whether you habitually sleep on your side, back, stomach, or a combination of these can influence your ideal pillow position.1 Knowing the best way to place your pillow regardless, however, can help you give your body the support it needs for all-night comfort.
So, you want to know how to sleep with pillows correctly? Generally, you’ll want your head and neck in alignment with the rest of your spine and torso when resting on the pillow.1 Find out which types of pillows work best for your preferred sleeping position. Your sleeping position will help determine whether a sturdy memory foam pillow, squishy down-alternative, or mid loft hybrid will work best to promote a restorative night’s sleep.
Here’s how your sleeping position can help determine how and where pillows should be placed while you sleep:
If you’re a supine sleeper, congrats on mastering one of the most beneficial sleeping positions.2 The best pillow position for sleeping on back is to have your head and neck fully on the pillow (but not your shoulders). Your cervical spine should be resting parallel to the mattress and your head gently cradled in a relaxed position.
To achieve your best supine sleep positioning, look for:
Back sleepers can also benefit from pillow use in other locations, as well. Positioning thin pillows below your pelvis or knees is an excellent way to minimize pain for back sleepers by keeping your body neutral and relaxed, so you can rest well without being bothered by discomfort.
If you’re a side sleeper, the distance between your head and the mattress means you’ll need a little more head lift than when you’re on your back or stomach. To keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine while on your side, you can double up your pillows or choose one with a mid or high loft. Too flat of a pillow can lead to a stiff neck, back pain, and general discomfort. Alternatively, too thick of a pillow will also leave your neck uncomfortably high.
When you’re sleeping on your side, try:
Side sleeping is also the recommended position for pregnant women, especially later in pregnancy.3 If you’re begrudgingly altering your sleep style from stomach or back sleeping to side sleeping temporarily, you’ll appreciate the support of adding extra pillow padding between the knees and under your belly.
Did you know that the side you sleep on can impact your health? Because of the way our organs are positioned in our bodies, sleeping on the left or the right side can either compress or relax various organs. For example, left-side sleeping could help with digestion, while sleeping on your right side is recommended for heart health.5 The left side is also the preferred side during pregnancy for better circulation and alleviating organ pressure.
If you like to sprawl out belly-first on your bed, you’re a stomach sleeper. Whether you stay in one spot all night or adjust your limb positions as the night goes on, you’ll benefit from the help of properly placed pillows to ward off pain and keep you comfy through all your sleep cycles.
Keep these considerations in mind for comfortable stomach sleeping:
Tucking another thin and soft pillow under your torso is a good way to keep your spine aligned and relieve pressure points while you’re deep in dreamland. Your torso will get enough lift to keep your spine neutral and minimize chances for lower back pain.6
Combination sleepers need a little of everything for the best sleep. If you’re not committed to one sleep position and instead rotate around through the night, you’re a Goldilocks type—meaning you’ll need a pillow that’s not too firm and not too soft but just right.
You’ll want to look for the best pillow for all sleep positions—a pillow that is firm and supportive but able to adjust and form to your many movements. While you might be rotating in your sleep and unaware of how you move, you should at least start the night with proper head and neck alignment.
If you find yourself switching to your side a lot, you can stash an extra pillow within reach to place between your knees or under your pelvis to maintain body alignment and get comfy quickly.
When you top your bed with the right pillow for your sleep needs, you may find better quality sleep sooner than you think. Pillow type and positioning can also play a role in promoting healthy rest. Here are some of the ways the perfect pillow position can lead to better quality sleep:
Beyond the physical health benefits, overall pillow comfort plays a big role in sleep quality as well. When you feel cozy and comfortable, it’s easier for you to go to sleep. And a comfortable sleeping area encourages you to stay asleep longer, allowing you to complete your full sleep cycles and wake up feeling rested and refreshed instead of cranky, groggy, and tired.
Now that you’ve mastered the proper pillow position for sleeping, make sure your mattress matches up as well. Many of the same features that make a pillow perfect for bedtime carry through to your mattress, too. When you’re looking for the perfect mattress to meet your sleep needs, consider some of these features:
While your pillow will have your head and neck properly supported, the best mattress for quality sleep will make sure the rest of your body is aligned, relaxed, and comfortable as well. And don’t forget to complete your sleep space with soft, cozy bedding that will make you want to keep hitting snooze when the sun comes up.
Your pillow position may seem like just a preference—but when it comes to the changes you make for better quality sleep, it’s important to understand just how beneficial improving our sleep environment can be.
There’s a big difference between tossing and turning all night due to discomfort and peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. But why is good sleep so important? Clocking in a complete, restful night’s sleep does more than just make you refreshed for the next day. Sleeping helps your body to heal and rejuvenate while supporting essential life functions such as:9
Creating the ideal bedtime environment to help you sleep deeply and comfortably—including a supportive pillow and mattress—will get you on the right path to a successful snoozefest.
Prop your head and neck up on a supportive pillow, stretch out on your ultra-comfy mattress, and tuck yourself into your fluffy down duvet—because you’re perfectly positioned to drift gently off to dreamland in your sleep oasis.
At Casper, we live, breathe, and sleep the science of slumber, seeking out new innovations for better sleep quality every day. Whether it’s sustainability, durability, ergonomics, or body temperature, we’re always improving our products to bring you the most modern advances in pillows, mattresses, and every other snooze-worthy sleep accessory.
Find optimal sleep with Casper today.
Casper blog articles are written by skilled authors and periodically reviewed by our team of sleep experts at Casper Labs. Driven by comprehensive research and evidence-based practices, we ensure that the content we publish is reliable, actionable, and practical for enhancing sleep quality and wellness.
Our articles incorporate trusted third-party sources, cited within the content and listed at the end for easy reference. At Casper we strive to be an authority and trusted resource for all things sleep.