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Sleeping on your back can actually be very good for your organs and maintaining a low body temperature while you sleep.
However, your back isn’t exactly going to feel great when you wake up in the morning. It can put pressure on your neck, causing crinks, or it can lead to lower back pain. It’s like a balancing act when you’re sleeping.
Which is why we made this guide to help you find the best pillow for back sleepers – from contoured design to comfortable, supportive memory foam and more, everything you need to get a better, safer night’s sleep as a back sleeper is right here.
We’re going to cover the top pillows, as well as some alternatives that fit more budgets, so get ready.
Best Pillow For Back Sleepers – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Best Overall: YourFacePillow Personal Back Sleeper Pillow
It’s not enough to just have a little bit of boosted comfort. It’s not enough to just slightly increase your support. YourFacePillow is like taking those attributes and putting them on steroids.
While this pillow is made entirely out of memory foam, it’s designed in such a way that it doesn’t heat up or cause you any discomfort in the middle of the night. No face sweating, no sweaty neck – nothing but relaxing comfort.
As the best back sleeper pillow, it comes in at a high price point, but offers you a way to fully support your neck and head during the night in a way that feels entirely natural.
You have a base with a slope that helps support your neck, and two rounded side walls made of foam to help cradle your head.
There’s a perfect 7” gap between those two sidewalls. They aren’t rigid; they flow smoothly with perfectly contoured foam to make your head feel like it’s floating in a sense. For support, it’s fantastic, but there are some caveats if you are also a side sleeper.
It can be used for side sleeping, but not as effectively. Obviously, one of the side walls would be in the way of your mouth and nose, which can feel a little rough.
Because of this, your breath would heat up the memory foam. If you’re a combination sleeper, this might not be the pillow for you.
Outfitted with neck support via the pressure-relieving memory foam, as well as a tapered front to keep everything cohesive, and cooling flow channels, you have one of the most high-tech pillow designs out there.
Apart from staying comfortable, you’ll remain cool throughout the night so you don’t wake up sweating. It’s the next evolution of memory foam.
Last but not least, it’s no secret that we put our bodies through stress while we sleep (or at least, many of us do).
It can result in wrinkling and signs of aging, but thanks to the design of this pillow, your face is kept in the optimal position to reduce stress and tension on your skin. Less signs of aging, a better night’s sleep – where has this been all our lives?
Weight: 3.5 lbs
Dimensions: 21” x 12” x 5”
Type: Back sleeper pillow
Materials: Memory foam
Runner up: The Misiki Orthopedic Pillow
We’re used to those rectangular, fluffy, lopsided pillows of the past, but the Misiki pillow is a complete reinvention of it. It looks different, it feels different, and I’ll tell you right now that it surely takes some getting used to.
Technically, this pillow is acceptable for side and stomach sleepers as well, but based on the ergonomic design and support for your neck, it is initially meant to be a back sleeper pillow, and works best this way.
Built into the memory foam design, you get a vertebrae support area, extension area, and head support section on the opposite end. Head support extends to arm support, which seems odd for a pillow, but it has major benefits.
If you ever curl your arm under your head while you sleep, you’ve woken up with pins and needles, and this numb, paralytic feeling to your arm. Misiki protects you from that feeling, and the damage that can occur from it.
Misiki is on the higher end of the budget here, but much like with YourFacePillow, it works well to maintain your comfort and support throughout the entire night.
The pillowcase is built out of a 60% polyester blend, but some users might run into irritation or initial odors after unpacking this from the 40% staple rayon material in the pillowcase cover. It helps keep you cool, but it’s just not for everyone.
The case is detachable, and easy to clean – just throw it in the washing machine on a gentle/cold cycle, and heat it gently to dry it. It will stay as soft as the day you unpackaged it.
Pain from your cervical vertebrae can cause spinal issues and lower back pain from sleeping improperly, which is why you need to support yourself in your most vulnerable state: sleep.
Apart from being supportive, Misiki is also expected to hold its shape perfectly for two to three years before any changes happen in the high density memory foam.
Weight: 3.6 lbs
Dimensions: 24.8” x 15” x 4.7”
Type: Back sleeper pillow
Alternative: Cosium Back Sleeper Cervical Pillow
Cosium had the same idea as Misiki when it comes to pillow designs. This cervical pillow protects your vertebrae like nothing else, giving you the ability to rest on your back or on your sides without any issues.
No more tingling arms when you wake up in the morning, no more stiff neck, crinks or aching back – it’s a sleep solution, built out of memory foam.
While it’s one of the best pillow back sleeper and side sleeper folk could ask for, it’s not perfect.
There are two different thickness settings on the pillow, which are both good to have, but the B side (thicker side) can have issues with cooling in the middle of the night. You won’t wake up in a sweat, but it’s stuffy and gradually gets a little less comfortable as time goes on.
I’ll say this: most people use the A side, and the B side only gets warm in hotter weather, but it’s still something you need to be prepared for.
When you look at the design, they did one thing differently: there’s a hole in the center of your pillow, which acts as a drop point for your skull to cradle its pressure points better.
Overall, the entire design is very user-friendly, though it can take some getting used to if you’re using those rectangular old-style pillows.
After a two or three day adjustment period, it will feel like second nature, and you won’t be able to go back to those lump pillows of the past.
Last but not least, the skin-friendly pillowcase deserves some love, too. It’s entirely breathable, giving better ventilation to the memory foam to keep it as cool as possible.
Apart from being removable and washable, it’s soft to the touch, so you can just unpack this and test it out straight away.
Weight: 2.9 lbs
Dimensions: 21.6” x 15.8” x 4.3”
Type: Cervical pillow
Materials: Memory foam
Alternative: Mkicesky Memory Foam Pillow
If you’re familiar with memory foam, whether it’s through pillows or your mattress, then you know there are different types. Mkicesky used a very interesting foam type to bring this one-of-a-kind back sleeper pillow to you
As one of the best rated pillows for back sleepers, you also have a removable, totally hypoallergenic pillow case.
Just pull on the tightly hidden zipper, untie the button in the middle, and gently slide the pillow case off, alternating left and right as you do it. It’s washable, though you should use a delicate/cold setting to ensure it doesn’t warp.
Don’t just take that as a guideline; take it as a law when it comes to cleaning this. Anything over 104°F, and this is going to break down. Your case will fray, and won’t be viable to use anymore.
Because of the shape of this pillow and its case, you really don’t want to ruin the cover, otherwise you have to spend a lot of money to get a replacement from Mkicesky. There’s no other pillow design exactly like theirs, so aftermarket cases likely won’t fit.
There is a slight odor when you open the packaging, and while it’s not overpowering, it takes a long time for it to dissipate. The manufacturer actually suggests that you leave it near an open window for up to five days, which is a bit excessive.
Memory foam can produce an odor. Anyone who has unpackaged a vacuum-sealed memory foam mattress can attest to that. It’s just a long time to wait to use your pillow, especially if you’re sensitive to smells.
Because of the high impact memory foam, this pillow is fitted to last for up to four years before you have any serious problems with the curvature.
Memory foam isn’t designed to last forever, and with the weight of your head and movements in the middle of the night, this is no exception. It’s a great, long-lasting pillow that hits a middle-of-the-road budget that we can all get behind.
Weight: 3.0 lbs
Dimensions: 23” x 14.6” x 4.7”
Type: Cervical pillow
Materials: Memory foam, polyester
Alternative: Cosium Cervical Pillow for Contoured Shoulder Pain
Some of these pillows can seem like a bit much, but if you’re looking for a more budget-stable option that doesn’t go over the top, Cosium has an alternate pillow that helps with back and side sleepers.
If you’re a combination sleeper, this could be your ticket to a better night’s rest for the next three years of this pillow’s life.
While it’s not the most comfortable pillow for back sleepers, it’s very close in design to the other butterfly-shaped pillows on this list.
The case is entirely hypoallergenic, while the memory foam itself is CertiPUR-US certified to not contain any known harmful chemicals. Overall, Cosium’s level of quality control stays the same even for their lower budget pillow.
While the memory foam interior is breathable, it’s not quite as perfect as the other Cosium pillows. You might find yourself heating up if the room temperature is above 76°F, as it holds onto a bit of heat.
The pillowcase is good, it’s just not the best at ventilation, which is why you might run into this problem.
There’s a dedicated spot to rest your arms on the side wedges, that way you can sleep on your side without getting pins and needles on your arm. This helps prevent nerve damage over a long period of time if this is a regular thing that you find yourself doing.
Last but not least, the cutout area is specifically designed to protect you while you sleep.
If you move around a lot, your head will still stay in an optimal position because of the walls, leading to a supportive night of sleep regardless of your positioning. It’s one of the last pillow brands you’re ever going to need in your life.
Weight: 3.4 lbs
Dimensions: 24.4” x 15” x 4.7”
Type: Cervical pillow
Materials: Memory foam
Pillows For Back Sleepers Buying Guide and FAQ
Do Back Sleepers Need a Pillow?
Everyone needs a pillow. If you lay flat on the floor right now, you’re going to feel your heels, legs, back, and head on the floor. What about your neck? Is it supported?
The quick answer is no, it’s not. The best back sleeper pillow puts support under your neck. If you don’t use a pillow of some sort, you put additional strain on your cervical vertebrae, which is located in your neck.
This helps with muscle control and overall stability. During sleep, the body heals itself all over, from the toxins in your brain to your heart rate slowing down. The ligaments and muscles in your neck need time to not be supporting anything. It’s important for their functionality.
If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter (and who hasn’t?), you’ll notice that your head feels heavy. You lean your neck back when you sit down, almost as if you were wishing for it to come unhinged, all because your neck muscles are tired alongside the rest of your body.
It’s also why when you think about laying down, it’s more about leaning your head on a pillow than it is about just laying on any surface. That’s what we think of. Your neck needs the support, and for back sleepers, it’s absolutely critical to get it from a pillow.
What Type of Pillow Should a Back Sleeper Use?
Cervical vertebrae pillows are among the best back sleeper pillow types out there.
You have to protect your cervical vertebrae, which consists of seven different bones, C1 up to C7. These bones are critical for keeping your head up, and having a spot for your neck muscles to attach to.
It’s not so much about the bones as it is the intervertebral discs located in between each one of them.
These act as bridges between your spinal bones, which help you stay upright and keep your head from flopping about. These need the rest and relaxation more than the bones themselves.
When these are out of whack, you can experience what’s called a slipped disc – a watered-down medical term for an intervertebral disc sliding out of place from where it’s supposed to be.
Many of these injuries happen when you’re grossly overtired, or first thing in the morning when you wake up from sleeping in an unsupported manner.
These cervical vertebrae pillows contour to your neck’s shape, while also providing a small dome-shaped area for you to rest your head. This supports your head so that your neck doesn’t have to, while the slope of the pillow supports your neck and allows you to relax.
In theory, this should actually prevent you from jostling around in your sleep so much throughout the night. Many times when we move in our sleep, we’re repositioning because we’re putting stress on our body. This will help you fix that.
How do You Pick a Pillow for a Back Sleeper?
You look at the neck support above all else. If it’s going to support your neck, it’s a back sleeper pillow. This can be seen by one or two zones, or slopes.
One side of the pillow may appear universal with where you lay your neck, and have firmer neck support than the other side. These are referred to as the A and B sides.
If the back sleeper pillow you’re looking for shows that it supports the cervical vertebrae, and maintains balance for your spinal column while you sleep, it’s a safe bet.
To get a true back sleeping pillow, ignore any wings on the sides and just put all the focus on a spot for your head and neck.
The best pillow back sleeper and combination sleeper patients could ever hope for is one that remains cool as well. Most of these are made of memory foam, and when infused with gel or cotton, they can be very breathable.
How High Should a Pillow be for Back Sleepers?
The best pillow for sleeping on back positions should have the right height to support your neck.
More than half the reason you get a pillow like this is for neck support, but not everyone has the same distance between their neck and their back, or even their shoulder (for side and combination sleepers).
Generally, there are four different heights that will help with this, which are simply labeled low, low-medium, medium, and high. The more distance between your neck and the mattress, the higher your pillow needs to be.
Each manufacturer will have their own guidelines on the specific inch differences, but they boil down to four different sizes most of the time.
Pillows for sleeping on your back should meet your height requirement for your neck, but also for your head. The head height measures from the bottom of the dome-shape in the pillow, to the bottom of the pillow itself.
This is going to be very thin compared to the neck slope, just as a heads up. The greatest disparity in distance is between your neck and the mattress, which is what these pillows aim to correct.
What is the Difference Between a Side Sleeper pillow and a Back Sleeper Pillow?
Sometimes you’ll find combination pillows, but primarily, the difference is all in the wings. A back sleeper pillow usually includes a butterfly-shape design to help you with your neck placement, but one that includes arm support will have wings that dip down.
This creates an avenue for your arms to relax. Many of us will pull our arms up and place them under our head, even if we don’t do it intentionally.
This can lead to issues with veins and nerves in your arm, which leads to waking up with that pins and needles feeling, and can exacerbate blood clots from constricting those veins.
But with the wings, your arm can still come up close to you, and stop on the side of the pillow. These give your arms somewhere comfortable to lay, while staying out from underneath your head. That is a side sleeper pillow.
For the most part, back sleeper pillows are just for neck support and head support. You won’t find wings on many of them, because they’re just designed for back sleeping.
However, some are designed for combination sleepers, but marketed just as back sleeper pillows. Look for the wings for your arms.
A Better Night’s Sleep is on the Horizon
You already sleep on your back, but now, you won’t get those lower back pains as often, or those annoying crinks in your neck when you’re just trying to relax.
With these back sleeper pillows, you’ll be able to support your neck entirely, while also maximizing your comfort to get a better, more solid night’s sleep.