Do you want a high or low loft pillow?
Loft… Loft? Did he say loft? What on earth is he talking about?
When it comes to pillows, loft is a very simple concept to understand:
Loft refers to the height or thickness of your pillow
You can essentially replace the word ‘loft’ with ‘height’. So when the salesman is talking about the loft of your pillow, he is simply referring to the height of the pillow, when it lays flat on your bed.
Some pillow brands use the term “profile” instead instead of loft. With a low profile pillow being thing and a high profile pillow being thick.
It gets a little confusing in that there isn’t an exact measurement that marks the difference between a high loft and low loft pillow. However, the correct term to use is loft.
However, after browsing more types of pillows than we can count, we learned that manufacturers tended to group their pillows by the following:
- Low-Loft – Less than 3 inches thick
- Medium Loft 3-6 inches thick
- High loft More than 6 inches thick
Now we must stress that this was averaged out over many pillows. This should not be used a guideline. Take the Malouf low loft pillow for instance. Despite claims of being low loft, it was over 4 inches thick. Definitely on the higher side of loftiness.
Loft and Firmness work hand in hand
When pillow shopping, you will often come across the pillows loft, followed by the words plush or firm.
While the loft refers to the height of the pillow, the word plush or firm refer to just how soft the pillow is.
A high-loft plush for instance would refer to a thick pillow that is soft enough that your head can sink into it. On the flip side, a low-loft firm would refer to a thin pillow that has a hard and supportive surface, to keep your head propped up.
This is important to take into consideration, as you might find that a high loft pillow sinks down to a medium loft once you place the weight of your sleeping head on top of it.
If you have the opportunity to test a pillow before you buy it, be sure to spend at least 5 minutes laying on it. This way you will be able to determine just how far your head sinks in and whether or not you will need a higher loft or a firmer pillow.
How do you determine the right loft for you?
It may seem simple, but choosing the right loft can greatly impact your sleep. When deciding on the right loft for you, it is important to consider the following:
Your sleeping position
The position you sleep in at night will help determine the right pillow loft for you.
Supportive yet not so lofty that it pushes your neck forward. Doing so will result in your spine being thrown out of line and difficulty breathing. A low-medium loft firm or high loft plush pillow is commonly used by back sleepers.
When it comes to stomach sleeping, low loft is where it’s at. The heads of stomach sleepers sit lowest to the mattress, and only need a thin pillow to rest their head, otherwise you risk angling your neck upwards, throwing your spine out of alignment. Many stomach sleepers prefer a low-loft plush pillow.
You want a pillow that bridges the gap that your shoulders leave between your neck and head. Your head should rest on the pillow in a way that keeps your neck horizontal with your spine. Side sleepers use the loftiest of pillows with Medium to high loft pillows being favored by many side sleepers.
As you can see below, the wrong pillow loft can leave you sleeping in an awkward position:
To put it simply, the loft of your pillow entirely depends on how high your head would naturally sit off the mattress. Your pillow fills in that gap, allowing you to comfortably rest your head at an appropriate height, so that you can fall asleep without getting a stiff neck.
Below are some factors that will determine the height where your head naturally rests, and by association, how lofty your pillow needs to be.
1. Mattress firmness – You will sink lower into a soft mattress than you will into a firm one.
2. Body size/weight – A heavier or larger body places more pressure on a mattress, sinking further than a lighter or smaller body.
3. Pillow Placement – Sleeping on the edge of your pillow will see you need a loftier pillow than someone who sleeps in the center.
4. Shoulder size – For side sleepers, a broad shouldered person will need a higher loft pillow, because the shoulder width causes the head to sit higher off the mattress.
5. Head size – A larger, heavier head will need a loftier pillow than someone with a smaller and lighter head.
By paying attention to how your head naturally rests in your favorite sleeping position, you will have a better understanding of just how lofty you need your pillow to be.
What pillow loft do you find most comfortable? Let me know in the comments below!