Proper Pillow Position for Sleeping

Proper Pillow Position for Sleeping 

Learning proper pillow position for sleeping will completely alter the course of your sleep journey. Correct pillow position helps you wake up revived rather than stiff or sore!

Proper head position on a pillow

The correct pillow position for your neck and head involves supporting your spine so that it is parallel to the mattress. If your pillow is too tall or too short, your neck will be bent. This can cause or contribute to neck stiffness, soreness, and pain.

Additionally, the space between your ear and shoulder should be filled in and fully supported. If there is even a small gap between your pillow and your shoulder, gravity will put strain on the joints and the discs in your spine.

For side and back sleepers, a neck wedge pillow is an easy way to ensure that proper pillow position is accomplished. The contours in the pillow maintain your spine in a position parallel to the bed. A neck wedge pillow also fills in the gap between your shoulder and neck.

Proper pillow position for sleeping on your back

If back sleepers sleep flat on their back with their legs straight, the hip flexors can pull on the spine and arch the back. This can cause compression on joints and nerves. Compressing the joints and nerves in the low back during the night makes back and hip pain worse.

The correct pillow position for back sleepers involves placing a wedge pillow under the knees. It is essential that back sleepers sleep with a slight bend in the hips and knees to allow the low back joints, muscles, and ligaments to relax. When your back can fully relax, sleep will come much easier.

Proper pillow placement for side sleepers

When sleeping on your side, it is important to support your back and hips so that your joints and muscles are resting in a neutral position. This means there shouldn’t be any major bending taking place in your spine. 

To accomplish this, use a side sleeper wedge to fill in the space between the top of your pelvis and your lower ribs. This small wedge pillow fills in the contour of your waist in between where your ribs end and your hip bone starts. The purpose of this wedge is to prevent your lower spine from sinking down unsupported while you sleep.

In addition, support your top leg so that it is as close to parallel to the bed as possible. This prevents the weight of your leg from pulling your lower back into a rotated position. A supportive leg separator pillow will help side sleepers accomplish this goal. 

The proper pillow position for sleeping takes some strategy and effort, but it can be very rewarding. Better sleep, improved pain, and decreased stiffness CAN be the end result if you can follow these simple principles.

-Bryan Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy


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