One question I am asked regularly is “How can I tell if I am using the right pillow?” Having the right pillow is extremely important for anyone who suffers from headaches, neck or back pain and can drastically improve the quality of your sleep.

If you are waking up with a sore neck or a headache it is a pretty good indicator that you may not have the correct pillow.

Below I have comprised an easy checklist to help you make sure that you are choosing the right pillow for you.

The most important thing to look for when you are searching for a new pillow is proper support. Generally whichever position you sleep in; whether you’re a tummy, side or back sleeper your pillow should be able to support your neck in a ‘neutral’ position.

The best way to tell if your neck is in a neutral position is to have someone else check for you. Once you are lying down on your back with the pillow in position get a friend to check your alignment from a side-on view. The most important thing to check is the alignment between the head and the body.

The following checklist should be used to check head and neck alignment:

For back sleepers

Nose position: your nose should be pointing directly to the ceiling. Check that it is not tilting up nor down.

Chin and forehead: your chin and forehead should also be parallel to the ceiling. When looking side-on check that the chin isn’t tilting upwards or down, if the chin is pointing down the pillow is too high and it the chin is pointing upwards the pillow may be too soft.

For side sleepers

Side sleepers generally need a higher and firmer pillow in order to fill the gap between the shoulder and the neck.

Ear position: The ear should be parallel to the ceiling. Again, check that it is not tilting up or down.

For tummy sleepers

People who sleep on their front need a softer pillow so there are no ‘kinks’ in their neck when lying down.

Ear position: Ear should be parallel to the ceiling.

Most importantly the pillow that you choose should be comfortable all throughout the night. When trying a new pillow it can take some time to adjust to so I would suggest to give it a good week before deciding whether it’s the one or not.

If you suffer from headaches, neck or back pain remedial treatment from an experienced therapist can help.

Do you have the right pillow for the way you sleep? Please comment below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com


  • I think I’m all over the place but tend to start off on my side.

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  • these are great tips. i am a side sleeper but i should sleep on my back to avoid wrinkles

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  • Thank you for the tips, I am a back and side sleeper.

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  • My partner and I actually swapped pillows as we liked each others better lol. I think it is time I get a new one though. I am a side sleeper and we recently upgraded our bed to a very firm latex one as my partner has a horribly bad back and I am finding that my pillow isn’t giving me enough support.

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  • Sorry to sound rude but this is absolutely no help! I start to fall asleep on my back but must have my head turned to the side. I also turn onto my side and have been known to sleep a small amount of time on my tummy. Do you have a pillow for this?

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  • Great tips thanks, but what if you’re all of the above? ????

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  • You can buy pillows designed specifically for the way you sleep. I sleep on my side and bought pillows designed for that. I sleepover at one place a lot so I keep one there so I don’t have to take a pillow with me. I now sleep much better amd have less neck, back and head discomfort. If you are prone to allergies you may want to avoid “down” pillows. They contain feathers which release a lot of dust. very fine feather “fibres” which trigger hayfever and asthma for some. Even Target’s own brand pillows are very good quality if you get the right one suitable for you. They would be made by one of the big pillow makers anyway. I bought one of each and can’t tell the difference.

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  • I hate looking for a new pillow, I end up buying a new one every week until i find the right one

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  • Where does one get a firm, high pillow? I find it hard to get the pillows right for me.

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  • Tricky to find the right pillow. I have regularly neck and back pain and know it has to do with the pillow. Thing is I fall asleep on my side but turn on my back in my sleep, roll on my side again and then on my back again etc.

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  • I’m getting a sore neck, ive got a latex pillow, about 2 yrs old, still feels ok so not sure

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  • I couldn\’t agree more! The wrong type of pillow is often the culprit of ongoing headaches and neck pain! x

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  • The older I get, the more important a good pillow is! I didn’t used to notice until I slept badly on the wrong type of pillow and ended up with a horribly sore neck and headaches. It’s amazing the difference a pillow makes to sleep – something we often don’t think about until an article like this.

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  • I’m a side and back sleeper, so find it difficult to get the correct pillow.

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  • I could’ve used these tips ages ago when I was trying to find the right pillow. It took me months. I now sleep on a memory foam pillow and it is amazing. Worth every penny.

    Reply

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