How to Properly Sleep on a Pillow

No matter how expensive your pillow is, if you don’t know the proper way to sleep on a pillow, you won’t get good sleep. Period.

If you find it difficult to sleep with a pillow, you may be misusing your pillow, which results in neck pain and makes sleeping uncomfortable.

What is the best way to sleep on a pillow, you ask? We’ll get right to it but let’s first figure out if you should be sleeping with or without a pillow.

Pillow lovers often fawn over different pillow types because they provide a comfortable surface to lay one’s head on and make sleeping more comfortable. However, not everyone adores sleeping with pillows and some people may find it difficult to sleep with one.

​Should You Sleep With or Without a Pillow?

In order to maintain a good sleeping posture, it is recommended that you sleep with a pillow. It helps your neck maintain a neutral position and keeps your body properly aligned in any sleeping position. Specialized pillows are recommended for people suffering from neck and back pains as it reduces pressure on the neck and back.

Thus, you should sleep with a pillow to maintain good posture while sleeping and prevent sleep apnea, snoring, acid reflux, neck pain, and back pain.

Unfortunately, most health practitioners have not focused much on researching the benefits of downsides of sleeping without a pillow. However, there are also some people that attest to sleeping comfortably without one, and it may be difficult to tell which is best.

Unless your doctor approves otherwise, it is advisable to sleep with a pillow, especially if you suffer from any of the mentioned ailments or bad posture.

proper pillow placement illustration

​What is the Proper Way to Sleep on a Pillow?

If you feel uncomfortable while sleeping with a pillow, you may be wondering why and how to sleep better with one. Knowing the proper way to sleep on a pillow could make all the difference. You may fall in love with pillows if you place your pillow correctly. The appropriate way to place a pillow and sleep on it depends on your sleeping position.

​Sleeping on Your Side

Sleeping on your side is recommended for pregnant women, people who snore, and people who have arthritis. However, sleeping on your side may cause back and neck pain, and cause your face and breasts to sag in the long run. Thus, it is recommended that you use your pillow correctly for maximum support for curve of your neck while sleeping on your side.

To properly sleep on your side with a pillow, use an appropriate side sleeping pillow with medium firmness. Make sure your ear is in the same line with your shoulder and that the pillow you use fills the gap between your ear and outer shoulder.

This may prove difficult, but a tucked chin is usually a sign that your ear is not aligned with your shoulder. You can also use a firm pillow between your knees and curve your legs in a 45% angle to reduce pressure on your lower back and spine.

Sleeping on Your Back

proper pillow position for back sleepers

Sleeping on your back offers great health benefits is highly recommended by health practitioners, but some people find it uncomfortable. Some back sleepers end up feeling sore after sleeping on their back. Also, people suffering from Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and sleep apnea may find it difficult to sleep on their backs until and unless they are sleeping on a wedge pillow.

Fortunately, using the right pillow to sleep on your back, the proper way can reduce these issues. It’s advisable to keep your head slightly elevated while sleeping on your back. Thus, wedge pillows or firm pillows can do the trick.

Back sleepers should opt for a firmer pillow with a higher lift so it offers maximum support and keeps the head and neck perfectly aligned. Also, your shoulders should not rest on the pillow but directly beneath the below. You can also keep some pillows under your knees to reduce spinal pressure.

​Sleeping on Your Stomach

Sleeping on your stomach might be an effective way to reduce snoring, but it also has some downsides. It could cause a strain on your neck and back, which often results in neck and back pain. Also, pregnant stomach sleepers are discouraged from sleeping in this position.

However, if you’re comfortable sleeping in this position, you can get away without any pain if you sleep with a thin pillow. The flatter the pillow, the better comfort you stand to gain. You can also put a pillow just beneath your stomach to relieve pressure on your lower back and reduce back pain.

​Should My Shoulders Be on My Pillow?

One trick for sleeping better with pillows is ensuring that your shoulder is never on your pillow. Your shoulder should be immediately below your pillow instead. Keeping your shoulders on your pillow stresses your shoulder as your shoulder will be elevated. You want to make sure that your shoulder is relaxed as this reduces the risk of neck pain, and tensed joints or upper body muscles.

correct way to sleep on a pillow


How should you sleep on a pillow to prevent neck pain?

Neck pain while sleeping is often caused by poor alignment. While sleeping on your back and neck is recommended to prevent neck pain, you also have to ensure that your body is properly aligned. It’s advisable to adjust your pillow so that the end under your neck is higher than the part under your head. This keeps your neck aligned with your head and prevents stress on your neck and shoulder.

​Which end of a neck pillow do you place your head on?

​Knowing the right end of a neck pillow to place your head on is vital for preventing neck pain. The end you place your head and neck on will depend on your sleeping position. Side sleepers are advised to place the higher end of the pillow under their neck to align their neck with their head. For back sleepers, using an inclined pillow that keeps the head slightly elevated is recommended. Thus, if you are using a wedge pillow, you should place the flatter end under your neck.

Where do I put my arms when sleeping on my side?

Putting your arms in a wrong position while sleeping on your side can cause shoulder pain and leave your arms feeling numb. It’s advisable to keep your arms by your side while sleeping. Avoid tucking your arms under your pillow or raising them above your head. This affects your shoulders and is not a comfortable position. It could interrupt a good night’s rest as well.

​Is it bad to sleep with your arm under your pillow?

Sleeping with your arm under your pillow may feel comfortable, but it’s not advisable. This is common among stomach and side sleepers, and it can affect your arms and shoulders. People often do this when their pillow is not firm or high enough. It’s advisable to get a comfy pillow instead of using your arms to prop up the pillow. You may experience pain and numbness in your arms if you do this consistently for a longer period of time.

​Why does putting a pillow between your legs feel good?

If you have never tried sleeping with a pillow between your legs, you should. It feels so good and is a great way to fall asleep easily. If you do this regularly, you might be wondering why it feels good. This supports your body as your body is often weighed down on one side while sleeping on your side. It also keeps your hips and lower body properly aligned, and this reduces pressure on your spine.

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