You won’t find many doctors or sleep experts recommending that you sleep on your stomach, but for a small minority of people, it remains the most comfortable sleeping position. For these sleepers, despite its comfort, stomach sleeping can pose serious risks to proper alignment of the spine and neck. One way to help prevent problems in this position is to select an appropriate pillow.
In this guide, we’ll cover what you need to know about sleeping on your stomach, the range of pillow types that you’ll find for sale, and the key considerations for stomach sleepers who are buying a new pillow. You can find all this in the sections below, or you can click here to jump straight to our recommendations for the best pillows for stomach sleepers.
Why the Right Pillow is Important for Stomach Sleepers
About Stomach Sleeping
Sleeping on your stomach is generally recognized as the worst sleeping position. Unfortunately, as demonstrated in the following table, it comes with far more drawbacks than benefits.
Decreases snoring: unlike other sleeping positions, especially back sleeping, stomach sleeping does not tend to put increased pressure on the muscles and soft tissue of the airway at the back of the throat. By helping to keep the airway open, stomach sleeping usually is not as strongly associated with snoring.
Tendency to excessively bend spine: many stomach sleepers suffer from back issues because it is hard to get proper spinal alignment in this position. The lower back can easily become arched (if a mattress is too firm) or overextended (if the abdomen sinks too deeply into the bed).
Neck strain: finding proper head placement can be a major struggle for stomach sleepers, and this can lead to neck discomfort if the head is turned throughout the night or bent at an awkward angle.
Body twisting: some stomach sleepers contort their body -- such as bending a knee up toward their shoulder or putting an arm under their head -- which can, over the course of the entire night, lead to aches in the morning.
Increased risk of wrinkles: the pressure of the face against the pillow or mattress can contribute to wrinkles.
Spinal Alignment for Stomach Sleepers
Sleeping on your stomach can be a perilous position because it poses a number of risks to proper alignment of the the body and spine. While it may not be possible to switch to a different sleeping position, you can work to optimize your alignment while sleeping on your stomach.
Selecting the right mattress and pillow is a critical aspect of promoting proper spinal positioning for stomach sleepers in order to avoid aches and pains. More information about selecting an appropriate mattress can be found in our guide, Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers, and this guide will help lead you to a pillow that helps avoid the pitfalls of this sleeping position.
Pillow Considerations for Stomach Sleepers
Stomach sleepers need to take many different factors into account when looking for a new pillow. Some of these are unique to stomach sleeping while others are more general and apply to anyone shopping for a new pillow.
Considerations Specifically for Stomach Sleepers
A few of the things that are important for stomach sleepers to take into account when considering a new pillow include:
Whether a pillow is necessary at all: for some stomach sleepers, the best pillow is no pillow at all. Because too much pillow loft can irritate the neck and misalign the spine and because some pillows may feel suffocating to stomach sleepers, going without a pillow is an option to consider. While this doesn’t work for everyone, it may be worth your consideration if you find most pillows to be too tall or too suffocating.
How you place your head on the pillow: stomach sleepers typically use their pillows differently from people in other sleeping positions. For example, they may not place their head fully on the pillow itself. Some people in this position only put their forehead on the pillow, which can help to create space for airflow between the mattress and the nose and mouth. A pillow under the forehead, though, can create problems for arching or overextending the neck if it is too tall and may not be comfortable for many stomach sleepers.
Additional support pillows: some stomach sleepers find that they can boost their comfort and support by positioning pillows around other parts of the body. For example, a pillow under the chest or under the pelvis or abdomen may be able to help address problematic curvature issues related to the spine or lower back.
Compatibility with the mattress: it is important for stomach sleepers to keep in mind that their selection of a pillow must be made in the context of the mattress that they will use. The feel of the mattress and the amount of support that it provides directly influences the best choice for a pillow. For example, people with a softer mattress need to be extra careful when it comes to pillows with a lot of loft because this can exacerbate the disparity between the height of the upper body and the lower back.
General Considerations for Buying a Pillow
Beyond those specific considerations for stomach sleepers, there are also general factors that relate to pillow selection in general.
Loft describes a pillow’s height. Pillows may have a stable loft level that doesn’t change even when weight is applied to them. Or they may have a more variable level of loft that will be noticeably different when you lay your head on them or when you mold the shape of the pillow.
Stomach sleepers generally are best served by a low loft pillow and/or a pillow with variable loft. A medium or high loft pillow tends to cause hyperextension of the lower back and the neck, both of which can lead to pain and sleep disruptions.
Firmness describes the feel of the pillow, such as how hard or soft it feels in terms of comfort. A pillow that is very soft normally won’t have as much consistent loft. Some common materials used in pillows, like buckwheat or latex, are inherently more firm than others, like down feathers.
Because comfort is so subjective, we can’t say that only one firmness is level is best for all stomach sleepers. The ideal firmness for stomach sleepers can also vary based on whether they rest their whole head or just their forehead on the pillow. Some stomach sleepers prefer a firmer but thinner pillow. Other stomach sleepers may want a plusher feel, however, this can also sometimes make the pillow feel more suffocating if they rest their whole head on the pillow.
Though support and firmness are sometimes thought to be the same thing, they are actually different. Support deals with alignment and positioning rather than with comfort. A supportive pillow gives the proper amount cushioning to keep the head and neck from contorting in problematic ways. Support is usually provided through responsiveness, which means that the material contours to the sleeper based on the pressure that is applied.
Stomach sleepers typically do well with responsive pillows because they can prevent excessive loft that may harm neck and spine alignment. However, a pillow with too much contouring may make some stomach sleepers feel like their head is too deeply sunk into the pillow, creating difficulty in breathing easily or creating problems with overheating.
Pillows do not last as long as mattresses, but you should still be able to use a new pillow for at least a few years. If you opt for a well-made pillow, it will be more likely to provide you with a high level of support and comfort over time. Look for pillows for which it is clear that the manufacturer has invested in quality materials and workmanship.
Durability is an important factor for stomach sleepers because a pillow that starts to break down will not be able to give the support that is essential to overall alignment. Or if the pillow starts to sag, it may also create issues with excessive sinking of the face into the pillow.
The feel and performance of a pillow is predominantly determined by its construction. Consequently, pillow type is a crucial consideration for anyone shopping for a new pillow. There is no one “best” type of pillow since each style has its own benefits and downsides.
For stomach sleepers, it is generally advised to avoid more firm materials like latex and buckwheat. These tend to have more firmness and loft than needed for stomach sleeping. Shredded memory foam, down, and down alternative (synthetic) pillows typically are the best options for stomach sleepers because of their adjustability and moldability without having excessive loft.
What Types of Pillows Are Available for Stomach Sleepers?
If you’re just learning about what kinds of pillows are on the market, this table can help introduce you to the types of pillows that you’re most likely to come across.
These pillows are made with the extremely soft interior feathers from geese or ducks. Some down pillows are 100% down feathers while others are made with between 75% and 100% down. These pillows are durable, lightweight, plush, and highly-moldable.
Downsides include their high price and their tendency to become lumpy.
Down pillows can be a good choice for stomach sleepers because they have a lower level of loft and are more easily adjusted to find the right amount of height and firmness.
Feather pillows also use plumage from ducks and geese, but in these pillows, most of the material comes from the exterior feathers, which are not as soft and airy. The performance of a feather pillow is similar to down with a high level of malleability and significant softness.
While feather pillows are less expensive than down, they are usually not quite as durable or luxurious. These also tend to have issues with lumpiness and regular need for fluffing.
Given their adjustability and lower level of loft, feather pillows can often be viable for stomach sleepers.
Because down is expensive and because it also causes allergy issues for some people, synthetic materials have been developed to try to capture the feeling of down. These pillows are generally made with polyester or cotton (or a blend). They are generally moldable but may have more of a tendency to lumpiness than true down. They also do not normally last as long as down or feather pillows.
Because the feel of a down alternative pillow is very similar to a down or feather pillow, it also can be a good choice for many stomach sleepers.
This material, also known as viscoelastic foam, was initially developed by NASA and is best known for its high level of contouring. As weight is applied to the foam, it responds to provide an enhanced level of cushioning and support. This support, along with a general feeling of comfort, tends to be the biggest selling point for memory foam pillows. The main downsides are that the material can retain heat and may not last as long as other types of pillows. Memory foam pillows can be made with just one piece of foam or with many smaller pieces (known as shredded memory foam pillows).
One-piece memory foam tends to have a lot more loft than shredded memory foam, so it is usually not a good fit for stomach sleepers. But shredded memory foam, which is both responsive and moldable, can be an excellent choice.
Latex is a rubber material that can be produced either naturally or synthetically. As with memory foam, latex can be either in one piece or shredded to create a pillow. The properties of latex, which include both responsiveness and bounce, make these pillows supportive enough for many sleepers while maintaining relatively high levels of loft and firmness. The downsides to latex pillows are that they are often expensive, heavy, and usually there are far fewer models to choose from.
One-piece latex is typically far too firm and tall for a stomach sleeper. While shredded latex is an option, its high price and firmer feel usually make it less desirable than shredded memory foam for back sleepers.
These pillows are made using many buckwheat husks (the small part that surrounds the kernel). These pillows are easy to adjust and shape and provide support without being too firm. The biggest downside to buckwheat pillows is that they are noisy, which can be disruptive in the night if you need to move the pillow.
Because stomach sleepers are more likely to try to modify their pillow in the night, the noise from buckwheat can be a major issue. In addition, the loft level of these pillows tends to be too tall for stomach sleepers.
With all of the pillows available even just online, trying to decide which one to buy can be daunting. We’ve made it easy by picking our top 5 best bets for pillows for stomach sleepers.
For a quick overview of these pillows and a comparison of how they stack up on key issues (with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best), start with this table.
|Pillow||Affordability||Durability||Support||Noise||Lightweight||Odor||Ease of Cleaning||Firmness||Adjustable Height|
|Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow||3/5 ($50)||3/5||4/5||4/5||3/5||2/5||4/5||4/5||4/5|
|Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Shredded Memory Foam Pillow||3/5 ($55)||3/5||4/5||4/5||3/5||2/5||4/5||4/5||4/5|
|Continental Bedding Down Pillow||2/5 ($85)||4/5||3/5||4/5||4/5||3/5||2/5||2/5||4/5|
|Brooklinen Down Pillows||2/5 ($69)||4/5||3/5||4/5||4/5||3/5||2/5||2/5||4/5|
|Sleep Restoration Gel / Down Alternative Pillow||5/5 ($17.50)||3/5||4/5||3/5||3/5||4/5||4/5||3/5||4/5|
To learn more detail about each of these pillows, you can keep reading and decide which is best for you.
This shredded memory foam pillow is responsive and highly adjustable, plus it comes with a 6-year warranty.
Why?: This pillow has a zippered opening that allows you to take out pieces of memory foam if the amount of loft is too high. For stomach sleepers who have unique support needs, this adjustability, combined with the responsiveness of memory foam, can be extremely beneficial.
Why Not?: Memory foam can retain heat, and if you’re placing your whole head on the pillow, it may feel too warm or suffocating. Some customers also claim that this pillow has a tendency to get lumpy if it is not fluffed regularly.
The Bottom Line: Memory foam has many benefits for stomach sleepers, and alongside the ability to tailor the loft level of this pillow, this allows stomach sleepers to put this pillow to use in a way that will best maintain their neck and spinal alignment.
This Coop Home Goods pillow has a zippered opening that allows for the amount of shredded memory foam to be easily modified. The pillow also comes with a 30-day tryout period and a 5-year warranty.
Why?: By using shredded memory foam, this pillow is highly malleable and adjustable in size, helping to provide the flexibility that can be useful to stomach sleepers. It has an extensive history of strong verified reviews.
Why Not?: Some customers have had issues with lower-quality foam, smells from the foam (offgassing), and difficulty in knowing exactly how much foam to take out in order to achieve the desired size and loft level.
The Bottom Line: With the significant number of reviews that this pillow has received, it should come as no surprise that some customers haven’t found it to their ideal pillow. But for people who want an adjustable shredded memory foam pillow, this is a strong choice that is backed by a 30-day return window and far more positive reviews than negative ones.
The Continental Bedding 100% Premium White Goose Down Luxury Pillow is pure, 100% down, which means it offers the most in terms of softness and moldability.
Why?: Despite being 100% down, this pillow is still available for under $100. It has been well-reviewed by verified customers and is available in both a regular and firm model.
Why Not?: For some stomach sleepers, this pillow may be too soft, even when molded to try to provide more loft or heft. And even at what is a reasonable price point for down, this pillow may be out of the price range for some customers.
The Bottom Line: the Continental Bedding down pillow is a strong option as it is competitively-priced, 100% down, and highly moldable.
Brooklinen makes a number of different bedding products including these down pillows. Stomach sleepers can choose from three pillow options to match their specific needs.
Why?: Brooklinen offers three different down pillow models — plush, firm, and mid-firm — and most stomach sleepers will do best with either firm or mid-firm. The modlability of down allows you adjust the loft of the pillow depending on your preferences and how you place your head on the pillow. The pillows come with a 60-day risk-free trial period in which you can return the pillow to get a full refund if it isn’t working for you.
Why Not?: Like most down pillows, these are on the expensive side, and some people may find that the process of constantly fluffing and reshaping the pillow can become tedious.
The Bottom Line: Stomach sleepers often do well with down pillows that can be molded to support their neck, and the combination of the three firmness options and the 60-day trial make these options from Brooklinen an excellent option to consider.
This pillow features a gel-filled fiber that mimics the feeling of down. It is available at a very low price and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Why?: A down-alternative pillow is soft and moldable, allowing stomach sleepers to position it in the way that best serves them. While offering the feel of down, the price for this pillow is accessible to most customers.
Why Not?: A synthetic pillow of this type won’t normally last as long as a down pillow and may not perform to quite the same high standard. Some customers have reported receiving this pillow with mold spots on it out of the box, but these reports are rare and would be covered with the 30-day return policy.
The Bottom Line: While this isn’t the most luxe pillow, it provides a solid feel and level of performance at its price point and is likely to work well for many stomach sleepers.