How Many Pillows Should You Sleep With?

Most sleepers prefer using two pillows during the night, but experts believe that sleeping with one pillow under the head is sufficient. The primary purpose of a pillow is to keep your head slightly raised so that your neck and spine are properly aligned and your airway is open. However, depending on sleeping position and personal preferences, there may be some exceptions.

Some sleepers may use multiple pillows around them instead of under their head to enhance sleep and accommodate sleep posture.  A body pillow offers support, comfort, and helps in reducing back pain and even headaches. Therefore, depending on your usage and requirements, you may use multiple pillows to aid in a restful, quality sleep.

How Many Pillows Should Side Sleepers Use?

Sleeping on the side is the most common sleep position. For side sleepers, using two pillows is optimum for comfort and greater sleep quality. It is significant to bear in mind that the two pillows recommended are not for placing under your head during sleep, instead one pillow should be comfortably placed under your head and the other preferably snuggled between your knees.

The side sleeping position can put immense stress and strain on your spine as a result of the leg you place on top. This causes pressure on your lower back and hips, therefore placing a firm pillow between your knees to keep them from touching can help in weight distribution and thereby eliminating pain back or neck pain for side sleepers. You can also just use a specialized knee pillow that addresses exactly the same problem.

As for your head, a medium-firm side sleeper pillow is sufficient and provides ample comfort and support throughout the night.

How Many Pillows Should Back Sleepers Use?

Two low to medium loft pillows with thickness between 2 to 4 inches are the best match for back sleepers. People who sleep in this position have the greatest advantage when it comes to spine health as they rest in a naturally relaxed position for the back and shoulders. Back sleepers should invest in pillows that will hold the head in place between the shoulders and keep it from rolling to the other side during the night.

A pillow that is too thick may cause neck and spine pain, whereas using a very thin option may not offer sufficient neck support and cause it to crane backward awkwardly. Pillows with a concave center can benefit back sleepers as they help with reducing neck pain. With one soft pillow under your head, it’s recommended that you place another one under your knees as this is an effective method to keep the spine in its natural curvature. The pillow that goes under the knees should be a cervical one if you want better results.

How Many Pillows Should Stomach Sleepers Use?

Stomach sleepers should use only 1 pillow when lying on their belly. This pillow should be very thin ideally less than 3 inches, otherwise you’ll end up hurting your neck.

This position puts immense pressure and strain on the back of the spine, slipping it out of position. Stomach sleepers may also suffer from more severe neck and shoulder pain as the position contorts both uncomfortably.

Using a thick or tall pillow while laying on your stomach will push your neck back toward the spine, causing pain and cramping throughout the night and day. Using pillows similar to those found on a massage table with a large hole in the center can be ideal for this position, however not everybody enjoys sleeping this way.

To enjoy a more relaxing rest, it is better to switch to back or side sleeping, but if that is not an option for you, try placing a thin pillow under your pelvis as well while laying on your stomach. This keeps the back properly supported and pain-free. Try to avoid using a pillow for your head for this position, but if you require one, try a thin and soft option that keeps your head as low as possible.

pillows stacked on bed

Is it Bad to Sleep with Multiple Pillows?

Sleeping with multiple pillows under your head can do more harm than good. It may cause excessive pain in your back, shoulder, and neck region due to poor spine alignment.  Instead of stacking multiple pillows in search of optimal comfort, it’s better to invest in the right pillow that accommodates your sleeping habits, sleep positions, and body type.

Multiple pillows under your head may raise your head at an unsuitable height throwing your spine out of alignment. This provides little to no support for your neck, resulting in neck strain, cramping, and severe ache. If there is trouble with the height of your pillow and it has become too flat, you may want to replace your old pillow with a slightly firmer and thicker one. The extra loft provides support for your head and shoulders, and keeps your spine properly aligned.

Most experts recommend using one pillow for your head when sleeping at night as the purpose is to keep your spine straight and your head raised. Too many pillows may contort your body awkwardly in a painful posture and exacerbate pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do doctors ask how many pillows you sleep with?

Doctors may inquire about the number of pillows you sleep with to gauge the severity of different sleep health issues. If you suffer from consistent back pain, cramps, sleep apnea, insomnia, etc., this may be because of the number of pillows you sleep with. Other times, there may be incidents specifically related to your pillows such as orthopnea. Your doctor may inquire about the pillows you sleep with as ‘three-pillow’ orthopnea varies in severity compared to ‘two-pillow’ orthopnea.

Is sleeping with two pillows bad for your neck?

Whether or not sleeping with two pillows is bad for your neck depends entirely on your sleeping position and pillow thickness. Sometimes additional pillows can assist in maintaining spinal alignment and proper posture. However, if your pillows are too thick, then using two under your head might be an overkill and may cause muscle strain on your back, shoulders, and neck region. Always consult your doctor whether the number of pillows you sleep with is right or not.

How many pillows is too many on a bed?

Over eight pillows on a bed is considered excessive. This is because you will have more pillows than actual bed space for yourself. More importantly, if you are sleeping with eight pillows under your head or other limbs, you are susceptible to severe aches, cramping, or even injury that may take a very long time to heal. It is best to invest in one or two high quality, comfortable pillows for sleeping, and use a selection of bed shams, accent, sheets, cushions, or throw pillows for decorative purposes.

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