Proper Pillow Placement for Any Sleeping Position

Sleep is one of the most elemental of human needs. Good sleep refreshes and rejuvanates the body and soul; bad sleep can make for a miserable day, week, month, or even year!*

Getting enough sleep can be difficult, and it certainly doesn't help if you can't seem to find a comfortable position. When you wake up in the morning with a cramp, what are the first words out of your mouth? "I must have slept wrong." Avoid tossing and turning (and prevent cricks in the neck!) by using proper pillow placement to align the spine and muscles for optimal relaxation.

*Trivia: There is a family in Italy for whom insomnia runs in the genetics. Upon reaching adulthood, carriers of the gene gradually get less and less rest, in spite of all attempts at treatment, until they eventually pass away from sleep deprivation.

Pillow Placement for Good Sleep

The natural curvature of the spine is illustrated here.
The natural curvature of the spine is illustrated here.

Did your parents ever tell you to "stand up straight?" As it turns out, they were giving you bad advice. The spine, when in proper alignment, possesses a natural S-curve, which pillows should support during sleep, so that your muscles don't have to. Misalignment causes your muscles to seize up, causing the cramps that wake you up in the middle of the night or the sore shoulder that bothers you for days after a bad sleep.

Proper pillow placement varies for different sleeping positions, but the principles are the same. Your body is probably used to sleeping one way, but you may want to try all the positions anyway, as pillow placement can make quite a change. It may feel unnatural at first, but when your body adjusts, it will end up thanking you.

Pillow Placement for Stomach Sleepers

Place the pillow under the hips and/or lower stomach.
Place the pillow under the hips and/or lower stomach.

You've heard that stomach sleepers shouldn't use a pillow, or worse, that you should never sleep on your stomach at all. The fact is, sleeping face down is a natural human instinct, and with proper pillow placement, there is nothing wrong with it at all.

Place a pillow under the hips to take stress off of your lower back and neck. If you have a hard mattress, or otherwise find it too uncomfortable not to have cushioning for your face, try shifting the other pillow from your hips to under your ankles.

Pillow Placement for Side Sleepers

Place a pillow under the head and neck, and one between the knees.
Place a pillow under the head and neck, and one between the knees.

Sleeping on your side comes highly recommended by chiropractors, and, if you snore, your spouse as well. Also called the fetal position, this is the position God or Nature chose for us for the duration of our 9-month stay in the womb.

Place one or two pillows under the head and neck, depending on their thickness, to ensure that your cervical spine (see first illustration) is straight and elongated. An extra pillow between the knees opens your hips and prevents knees from knocking together or legs from chafing.

Another option is to buy a body pillow, which provides a "partner" to throw your limbs over... and best of all, it doesn't move just when you're getting comfortable.

Pillow Placement for Back Sleepers

Place one pillow under your head and one beneath the knees.
Place one pillow under your head and one beneath the knees.

Sleeping on your back opens the lungs... and, unfortunately, can sometimes result in the worst snoring, for those prone to it. If you're not one of those (or if you sleep alone), put a pillow under the head, and another under the knees to relieve pressure on the lower back.

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Comments 82 comments

Eileen 2 years ago

I can only sleep on my side, but had terrible knee and back pain. I tried a pillow between my knees, but the big one woke me up when I tried to turn over, and I lost the small pillow when I turned over.

So, I developed Sleepy Kneez, an ultra comfortable knee pillow that stays put all night, and doesn't negatively impact the kneecap. Now, I sleep like a baby!


Arc4life profile image

Arc4life 2 years ago from Florida

Great Article. Getting the right pillow for under your neck makes the best possible sleep. I think its especially hard when you have neck pain and are trying to sleep: http://hubpages.com/health/NeckPainPillow


rk874848 3 years ago

An ultimate guide to find the best pillow for side sleepers. We help you choose the best pillow for side sleepers through our detailed and honest reviews.

http://findbestpillowforsidesleepers.comBest pillow for side sleepers


Hullo Buckwheat Pillow 4 years ago

I tried a buckwheat pillow and loved it so much I started making them myself: http://hullopillow.com Most people who use buckwheat pillows are very enthusiastic about them.


howtoguides2learn profile image

howtoguides2learn 4 years ago from Chennai, India

Thanks for the useful hub. I came here through Google and got info on what I searched for.


danielabram 4 years ago

Is it better to have feather pillows, water pillows, or air pillows?


B. Leekley profile image

B. Leekley 4 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

Up, Useful, Interesting, and shared. I'll give these suggestions a try.


louromano profile image

louromano 4 years ago

owe Nie information ! It's helpful for me.


MarilynW 4 years ago

Maddie I have been sleeping with a pillow under my knees for years and even in my sleep now as I turn to the side position my pillow just seems to move with me between my knees. I also have a problem which has surfaced in the past 6 months with a dull aching in the top of my ankle when my toes point so I have been sleeping with a pillow at the bottom of the bed to keep my feet/ankles in a natural standing position. Strange one but it helps.


Tosin 4 years ago

Nice one,i am a stomach sleeper n ma back really hurts.i use one pillow gettin another one now.c u in the mornin..chao


Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 4 years ago from Oakland, CA Author

Hi Rajiv,

That doesn't sound like a problem of sleeping position. Try doing something calming before bed, and doing some meditations as you fall asleep to try to stay relaxed.


rajiv chenavila 4 years ago

I am having trouble sleeping properly. I have used several types of beds, pillows etc. I start with sleeping on my back and then toss from side to side troughout the nights. Most morining I get up more tired than ever. Any suggestions how to improve my sleep?


Tony, Feltham, Middlesex, UK. 4 years ago

Awesome hub page. I sleep on my tummy and I've suffered with back pain for many years. I will try these tips. Thanks for the great advice.


Kara 5 years ago

I sleep on my stomach, too.

My doctor told me to put a body pillow under me to see if it tricks my body into thinking im on my stomach.

It seems to work, but once I fall asleep I move around and when I wake up the pillow is on the floor, Im on my stomach and my back hurts again :/


joe 5 years ago

great advise!


kyra warialani 5 years ago

what if i sleep without a pillow???


greenshellmussel profile image

greenshellmussel 5 years ago

Thank You, I'm a stomach sleeper and I always thought it was something wrong with me. Now I know the proper way to use my pillow. I've been tossing and turning recently so hopefully this will help.

Thanks Again Maddie.


Karlie Philpott 5 years ago

I sleep on my back and tried putting a pillow under my knees as suggested for extra support. At first it was hard getting use to, but I have found that it really helps. Thanks!


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri

Great hub! I have sleep disorders and am constantly looking for the perfect pillow. I am a side sleeper so it can't be too soft or too firm. Your hub provides great information. :-)


yvette 5 years ago

thanks for this article. but my real problem now is my sleeping position, i don't even know if i'm a stomach sleeper or a side sleeper. im having trouble sleeping lately.


Monzonr 5 years ago

I'm 6'4" I have a big frame and I find sleeping on my stomach the only way I can fall asleep. I find in the morning that my lower back seems to hurt when I wake up. I have tried the pillow under the hips but find it very hard to get used to...


The Bucket Lister profile image

The Bucket Lister 5 years ago

Would you recommend a body pillow over simply putting a pillow between your knees for side sleepers?


Garth 5 years ago

I know that my pains came from my stomach sleeping habit, but it was to hard to break. So I bought a body pillow and it keeps me on my side.


stacey C 5 years ago

wow!!! now i can sleep on my stomach more comfortably....


RichERich1175 profile image

RichERich1175 5 years ago

Very informative stuff. I am a back sleeper that has sleep apnea, so it is fascinating, reading about the proper pillow placement. Thank you muchly!


Jano 5 years ago

Still could not found right position of pillow. :(


jimtheauthor profile image

jimtheauthor 5 years ago from Chicago USA

I like the simple pictures on pillow placement, the stomach sleeper setup, would have not thought of that one.


6 years ago

interesting my toddler pulls her knees up under her when she sleeps on her stomach.... similar to the pillow position. I find watching what she naturally does provides excellent examples of proper posture.


John B Badd profile image

John B Badd 6 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Great advice, I will try this very soon.


AutumnLockwood profile image

AutumnLockwood 6 years ago from Northern California

I'm a stomach sleeper. Thanks for the tips. This hub is really informative.


gr82bme profile image

gr82bme 6 years ago from USA

Thank you for the tips. I never sleep right through. Now I can try some of your tips


Judy 6 years ago

I have found that it depends on your own body; I sleep the best on my stomach with my left arm straight and below my stomach / body which supports the idea of a pillow below to support your body. This is the only way it seems for me to sleep well and not wake up with a neck ache. So, I just think it depends on your body type. So glad to hear it is okay to sleep on one's stomach, thank you.


Silva Hayes profile image

Silva Hayes 6 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

Nice informative hub.


chzlinttonie 6 years ago

Great hub. I think i need to try all the sleep positions.

I don't really like to sleep I just want to lay my head on the bed.


brakel2 profile image

brakel2 6 years ago from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Great hub. I need to sleep better and also be more ergonomic on the computer. I have sleep apnea so really need help with sleep position. I guess I am a sloucher. I will follow your hubs and follow you.


Daniel J. Neumann profile image

Daniel J. Neumann 6 years ago from Harrisburg, Pa

Great hub. Chiropracters seem to agree with your conclusions as well.


skeeter 6 years ago

I sleep on my side, and no matter what kind of pillow I use under head, or between legs...I ALWAYS wake up with neck pain. any suggestions? ( I have had 4 back surgeries in the past few years,have sleep apnea, so never get a good nights sleep.)


adorababy profile image

adorababy 6 years ago from Syracuse, NY

I could not agree more with you on this post. Having a good night sleep can really spell the difference to make or break your day or even worst your week.


Eugene 6 years ago

Good info on pillow placement. I've never knew such position can affect sleeping. I have a tealeaf pillow which release smell that makes people relax and feeling sleepy.


KKalmes profile image

KKalmes 6 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

Hello Maddie, how timely to read your hub, I sleep on my side and back and I just started using a 2nd pillow to sleep because my hips and back were giving me so much pain. The pillow has made a world of difference.


Pure Chiropractic profile image

Pure Chiropractic 6 years ago from Nanaimo

Awesome hub! I wish more people were aware of proper sleeping positions. It would save a lot of pain. I usually recomment that people sleep in the side laying position exactly as laid out above. But some people are unable (arthritic hip, uncomfortable, habit, etc.) so it's good that alternatives are laid out.

Thanks again!

http://www.purechiro.ca


Selvam, Sivagangai 6 years ago

My problem is with my upper limbs. I don't know the comfortable position for my arms. I sleep either sideways or facing up. When sleeping facing up, I tend to stretch my hands behind my head and soon find that uncomfortable. No matter how I place my hands, I find it uncomfortable after sometime. I wish I could remove my hands when I go to bed, and put them back on when I am up.


Winson 6 years ago

Is there a 101 ways of sleeping positions? I can't even know how my sleeping positions after I fall on sleep and snoring. Well, have to show to my wife and ask her to monitor my sleeping posture from now onwards.


Andy Johnston 6 years ago

Interesting hub. A chiropractor suggested to me once to place a pillow between my knees to eliminate my back pain from sleeping. I hadn't seen the use of a pillow under the tummy for stomach sleepers. Interesting.


pacificmonk 6 years ago

This is a truly informative and well-written article. Thank you for the great information!


bhwrites 6 years ago

Good hub. Sleeping position is very important.


Sarah and Donnie profile image

Sarah and Donnie 7 years ago from Destin FL

Nice hub.. very useful


Nixie 7 years ago

Any sleeping position seems to work for me, but I always seem to sleep better when I have my Teddy Bear to hold on to or at least a big, fluffy pillow.


jamesmspacey profile image

jamesmspacey 7 years ago from Hobart, Australia

That's really interesting. I'm a dyed in the wool stomach sleeper, but always wake up on my side! I'm going to give some of these tips a try!!


Phoibos 7 years ago

Oh, by sleeping these ways, it will help you gain a proper standing postion right or they called ("striaght back")? not really straight but looks you are standing straight.


david stillwagon 7 years ago

Good hub and informative hub! I just joined hubpages and this is my first comment


samanthagardner profile image

samanthagardner 7 years ago from Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Thank you for the tips.


yerr 7 years ago

yerr


iwannasex 7 years ago

..thats very nice.... thank you...


Laughing Mom profile image

Laughing Mom 7 years ago

I'd be adjusting my pillows all night!!!! I can't sleep in any one position for more than a few minutes. Of course, maybe if I just had the pillow right.......

I'll have to try it out.


Andromeda10 profile image

Andromeda10 7 years ago from Chicago

Haha I only snore when I'm visiting a friend or my in-laws are over.


Anamika S profile image

Anamika S 7 years ago from Mumbai - Maharashtra, India

Very informative Hub! I am more of a back sleeper. And for ages i have been using one pillow under my head and one beneath my knees without even knowing that is the correct way of sleeping.


Jeff Watters profile image

Jeff Watters 8 years ago from Havre de Grace, MD

Very good article and let's not forget the material in the pillow can also affect your sleep as well.


success08 8 years ago

Thanks for creating this info. I'm always looking for tips on pillows and how to get the best sleep. This was very useful.

Christine Blowes


koncling profile image

koncling 8 years ago from Nice Winding Room

I don't know there alot of positions using pillows....

thanks


Die'Dre' profile image

Die'Dre' 8 years ago from The Great Pacific Northwest

I am a restless sleeper. I think it's time to invest in a few good pillows. Thanks for the illustrations for various positions.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 8 years ago from Sydney

Amber, the problem with tempurpedic pillows is they mould to where you put your head - so if you lie down in a bad position, you're more likely to stay there. I have an old neck injury and found a tempurpedic pillow, even though it was specially moulded, made it worse. I now use an ordinary latex pillow and find it great.


Amber Arendsen profile image

Amber Arendsen 8 years ago from Solana Beach, Ca

does the material of the pillow affect how well you are properly aligned, for instance in the head and neck area? I have used tempurpedic pillows, but they don't keep there shape. But cheap regular pillows, don't seem to do it for my head neck area either....... I would ne a fetal position sleeper, with an occasional back sleep. maybe it is the 3 year old hogging my bed and pushing me off the edge, that prevents a comfortable nights sleep.


johnr54 profile image

johnr54 8 years ago from Texas

This is the sort of information that is becoming more important as I grow older. It seems that I am becoming more attached to one pillow, and things like sleeping in a hotel room are torture without the old standby.


MarcNorris profile image

MarcNorris 8 years ago from Canada

I didn't realize that you would use a pillow if you were sleeping on your stomach, but I will have to try it out.

Is there any magic place to place a pillow to stop snoring?


ArtCantHurtU profile image

ArtCantHurtU 8 years ago

Hmmmmmm, I am already sleepy

great post- I really liked the diagrams and the different types of sleepers, thank you for this hub


2patricias profile image

2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Now all I need to know is how to sleep on my back (bliss!) and NOT snore. Unless everybody else is away, I always try to stay on my side.


DJ Funktual profile image

DJ Funktual 8 years ago from One Nation Under a Groove

WHAT USEFUL INFO! I'm gonna try your suggestions and I'll get back to you.


2patricias profile image

2patricias 8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

Thanks Maddie, I will mention this hub to clients who have difficulty sleeping,


WeddingConsultant profile image

WeddingConsultant 8 years ago from DC Metro Area

Maddie, great hub on sleeping/pillow positions. Being 6'4" I've always struggled to keep my back in good shape and sleeping incorrectly in the past has really lessened that effort. This hub will help me sleep in a more constructive manner.


Lela Bryan profile image

Lela Bryan 8 years ago from Alameda, CA

I am so glad to know that sleeping on my stomach is ok. I always sleep on my stomach and my brother in law, who is a chiropractor says that only snakes sleep on their stomachs.... oh well.... guess what I am....I think it is time to go to bed....zzzzzz


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hi Maddie, great info on this hub. I am putting this link in my hub about getting a good nights sleep. :-) Thanks so much.


aprilkerr profile image

aprilkerr 8 years ago from UK

Although I don't have back problems myself I still think it's good to prevent pain in the first place. My Dad has had to suffer from back pain for years so trying out these techniques sounds like solid advice. I tend to sleep in my front so will try sleeping with a pillow as indicated in the diagram.


The Phantom Blot profile image

The Phantom Blot 8 years ago

Thanks for the hub, I have a memory foam myself, but I'm not sure if its doing me good, bad, or the same. I guess that makes it no better than the others.


vishnu 8 years ago

i have been sleeping in an uncomfortable bed,,,,. i always wake up in the middle of the night,..,.,


MrMarmalade profile image

MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

Great news and most of it new to me. will be trying it.

I enjoy fours of sleep per night

Thank you


VickeyK profile image

VickeyK 9 years ago

Haven't dared to sleep on my stomach for years (lower back pain results). I'll try the pillow technique--thanks!


Maddie Ruud profile image

Maddie Ruud 9 years ago from Oakland, CA Author

cdosrun:

I'm not sure what you mean. Pillow placement under the hips/lower stomach is designed to align your spine, and therefore increase circulation and facilitate uninhibited communication between your brain and different parts of the body. Sleep is, after all, primarily for restoration, neurally, physically, and psychologically.


cdosrun 9 years ago

wouldn't placing a pillow in that area (for stomach sleepers) have effects on parts of the body?


cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

Thanks for the lovely blog, very informative, useful. I am going to bookmark it. Thanks a lot.


Lela Davidson profile image

Lela Davidson 9 years ago from Bentonville, Arkansas

I LOVE my buckwheat pillow. You just squish it around until it's in the perfect position and it stays like that. Great neck support for back or side sleeping.


gaussmarkov 9 years ago

interesting ... i did not know that stomach sleepers had a special pillow position. i thought it was just bad for your back to sleep on your stomach. i guess that pillow fixes that.

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