The Best Pillow Arrangements for Back Sleepers

Back sleeping is the best way to sleep, says anyone who knows a lot about sleeping positions. Side sleeping easily jams your shoulders and hips into the mattress, causing shoulder and hip pain; stomach sleepers have to crane their necks to the side to accomplish their sleep position, causing neck pain. Back sleeping, however, is much better for your shoulders, hips, neck, and body in general, because your spine is in alignment.

But back sleeping is not all sunshine and roses. If you're a back sleeper, you may still wake up sore - just in different areas and for different reasons. Today, we'll discuss the optimal arrangement of pillows to give you a good night's sleep as a back sleeper.

Back Sleeper Pillow Strategies

The majority of the problems that back sleepers have can be fixed by using a different pillow arrangement, and there are several different pillow arrangements that can help you to wake up pain-free. No one arrangement will work for everyone, so try them out and see which one works for you!

Strategy 1: Thin Pillow or None at All

When you just lay down on your back, without your head propped up on anything, your spine is in near-perfect alignment already. Often, propping your head up with a thick fluffy pillow can actually lead to more neck and back strain than you would feel if you just laid your head right there on the mattress. You think you're giving yourself good neck support, but instead, you're pulling your head into an unnatural position. The next time you sleep on your back, try it without a pillow - or, if you absolutely must have a pillow, try a thin one.

What if you have sleep apnea or acid reflux? Don't you need to prop your head up? Actually, propping your head up like that is probably not helping you at all. Instead of craning your neck with several pillows under your head, try a wedge pillow, which will elevate your entire upper body.

Strategy 2: Gel Memory Foam Pillow

While there are many people whose spines are best aligned while laying down flat, there are some who genuinely benefit from having their head propped a little. However, the standard down or down alternative pillow can disappoint in this area. Down does not make a firm pillow: it offers far too little support for the kind of person who needs it. Besides, down pillows get hot really fast. 

To avoid these issues with feather pillows, try a cooling gel memory foam pillow. As the name suggests, this pillow features a thermal-regulating foam to keep you cool. It's also more supportive than down, and molds to the shape of your neck. Since finding the best sleep position is all about spinal alignment, it makes sense that the right pillow should mold to the shape of your neck.

Strategy 3: Knee Pillow

If you have lower back pain from back sleeping, try this strategy. Often, the cause of this kind of pain is your heavy legs and chest pushing down into the mattress, over-arching your lower back. Fortunately, avoiding this problem is simple: if you get a triangle wedge pillow and prop your knees up with it, it effectively makes your legs less heavy, reducing the strain on your lower back. At first, it may seem annoying to sleep with more than one pillow, but you'll get used to it once you realize how much better your sleep quality is.


Back sleeping is one of the best positions out there, but it still has its flaws. We hope these strategies can help you mitigate those and get back to a great sleep.

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