Believe it or not, the number of pillows you sleep on could be responsible for that bad sleep you had last night.
Even though pillows are plush and comfortable, too many can actually be a bad thing.
So let’s get the most common question out of the way first:
How many pillows do you need under your head at night?
The answer to this question is quite simple:
The recommended number of pillows is just one.1
Yep, a single pillow is all that you need to support your head and neck as you sleep.
The whole purpose of a head pillow is to keep your neck aligned with your spine and keep your airway wide open. If your neck angles too far in one direction or another it can disrupt sleep, lead to a stiff neck or even block your airway. And a blocked airway can cause you to snore like an elephant in heat.2
And one pillow is more than enough to support you as you slumber.
If you find that a single pillow is uncomfortable then chances are that you are not using the right pillow for your body.
There are a large number of factors that contribute to your ideal pillow; including your sleeping position, body size, preferred firmness and even existing medical conditions. A high loft pillow, for instance is better suited for side sleepers but will angle the neck awkwardly for back and stomach sleepers.
And even if you find a pillow that check all the boxes; you still have to make sure it won’t trigger your allergies.
I recently swapped out my embarrassingly old pillowfor one that was more suited to me (after I recycled my old one, of course.) And the difference it made to my sleep was incredible. Now I wonder how I ever slept on my previous lumpy excuse for a pillow.
Why you shouldn’t rest your head on more than one pillow
Two pillows is one too many.
Stacking pillows on top of each other adds height, which again leads to the very same problems I discussed above; broken sleep, snoring and even a stiff neck. The only advantage to sleeping with more pillows is that you have extra weapons to use should a pillow fight break out.
Now you may find yourself thinking:
But I am sleep more comfortably when propped up by two or more pillows.
If you find yourself sleeping better when positioned at an awkward angle then it may be possible that an underlying medical condition is the cause.
Dr. Lisa Shives, M.D. Medical Director of Northshore Sleep Medicine, explains further:
If you feel you breathe better when propped up on two or three pillows, you should discuss this with your doctor because you might be having lung or heart problems or gastroesophageat reflux.3
Not only that, but a second or even third pillow can shift as you toss and turn, leaving you to sleep the remainder of the night in an awkward sleeping position.
A single pillow under the head really simplifies the whole sleeping process.
But just because you should only have a single pillow under your head doesn’t mean that you can’t use more pillows on the rest of your body.
In fact, you can use an extra pillow or two to provide the optimal amount of support to sagging body parts that can place stress on your spine. Very important if you suffer from back pain.
The Ideal number of pillows for side sleepers
- One pillow under your head
- One pillow between your knees
In the side sleeping position your leg that sits on top can pull on your spine, leading to stress on your hips and lower back. Sleep with your knees pulled up slightly toward your chest with a firm pillow between them.4
Ideal number of pillows for back sleepers
- One Pillow under your head
- One pillow under your knees
The problem with sleeping on your back is that the natural curvature of the spine can be thrown out. A small pillow behind your knees will promote your spine’s natural curvature and reduce stress.5
Ideal number of pillows for stomach sleepers
- One Pillow under your head
- One pillow under your stomach/pelvis
Sleeping face down on your stomach can cause stress on the back of the spine, pulling it out of position. A flat pillow wedged between your stomach/pelvis area and the mattress can help keep your spine in a better alignment. The pillow under your head should be almost flat.6
But what if you disagree with the amount of pillows you should sleep on?
Look, we can argue about how many pillows you should be sleeping on all day. But what really matters is that you can achieve a restful and unbroken sleep. If it takes a single pillow or a pillow mountain, you gotta do what works for you.
How many pillows do you sleep with? Let me know in the comments below