Side vs. Back Sleeping pillow

Side vs Back Sleeping pillow

Sleep is essential for anyone who wants to live a long and healthy life, whether it is an 8 hours or 10 hours of slumber. Your sleeping habits should have an adequate number of hours as it is the period when the body and brain rejuvenates itself.

A pillow is the support we use under the head or neck to make ourselves comfortable during the crucial hours of slumber. Depending on the purpose, a pillow can be categorized in the following types i.e. Orthopedic, bed and cushions.

Our topic of discussion is about the orthopedic pillows which is further divided in the following two types namely Side sleeping pillow and back sleeping pillow.

Side Sleeping Pillow

Side sleeping is the most preferred position as it minimizes the chances of snoring, breathing difficulties etc. Since the whole bodyweight rests on the shoulder and the arm, it may cause frozen shoulders or stiff neck.

This can be minimized by using the side sleeper pillow, which generally comes with gusseted sides thereby providing room for the arm to be placed conveniently beneath the head. They also come with ample height, which facilitates the shoulder, and neck is in a neutral position.

Back Sleeping Pillow

Unlike side sleeping position, this position favors incidents like snoring and back pain. This issue can be attended with the usage of back sleeping pillow which provides support beneath the three critical curves of the body as in the neck, back and lower back.

Advantages of Side Sleeper Pillow

At this position the whole body rests mostly on the arms and shoulders, thereby making the person more prone to problems like stiff neck and frozen shoulders. This can be avoided by using the side sleeper pillow which supports the head and neck and keeps the same in a neutral position.

By positioning a pillow in between the legs it keeps the spine in a strain free position thereby blocking the possibilities of back pain. Also the height of the pillow is such that it matches with the shoulder width while keeping the neck less strained.

The most preferred side sleeping pillows are those with memory foam as their filling is incorporated with a natural material such as bamboo fiber, latex pillow, contour shaped pillow etc.

Advantages of Back Sleeper Pillow

This is a very critical position and poses a great deal of pressure on the manufacturers to come up with products that support the natural curvature of the body beneath the neck, upper back and lower back.

The height of the pillow should be less than that of the side sleeping pillow. This type of pillow alleviates back pain and also eases the pressure on the facet joints of the spinal column. It also provides adequate support to the spine especially to those who are recovering from spine surgery.

Difference between Side and Back Sleeper Pillow

Side Sleeper Pillow Back Sleeper Pillow
Supports the head neck and spine by keeping them in a neutral position Provides support beneath the crucial points of the back of the body i.e. on the back of the neck, the upper back, and the lower back.
Generally comes with reinforced sides thereby providing ample support to the neck. These pillows come incorporated with supportive humps placed perfectly on the crucial points of the body thereby providing support to the upper and lower backs
Helps in reducing neck pain and frozen shoulders. Helps in reducing back pain resulting from strain and stress in the spinal cord.
It is a bit expensive when compared to that of its counterpart, since manufacturing such products requires a lot of research and development and scientific information. Comparatively cheaper than side sleeping pillows as not much R&D is required for perfecting these products.
Also the materials used in side sleeper pillows are much more advanced both in terms of quality and quantity. The materials used are mostly faux leather or fabric, which is both cost effective and durable.
Serves all with or without special needs such as a person recovering from a broken bone or a misplaced vertebrate of the spine Serves especially to those who are recovering from spine surgery or undergoing physiotherapy.
Examples are Latex infused memory foam pillow. Polyester filling or feather filling pillow.


Left Or Right? Why Sleeping On Your Left Side May Be Best

General opinion seems to favour sleeping on your left side as this aids digestion, reduces the chance of heartburn and helps with lymphatic drainage. There are however some arguments that the right is better saying the left side puts strain on the inner organs.

Doctors advise pregnant women to sleep on their left side and studies have shown this to be the most favoured, with patients showing better sleep and health in these sleep studies.

If your not used to sleeping on your side and wish to try it, this article may help.

Who should be going for the Side Sleeping Pillow?

People who are habitual side sleepers should always go for side sleeping pillows, since they offer proper head, neck and spine alignment. It is advisable to go for a thicker support (pillow) if you are a side sleeper which further depends on whether the mattress is a soft or a firm one. A softer mattress couples well with a thinner pillow, whereas a firm mattress does well with a thicker pillow.

People suffering from chronic stiffness of the neck or frozen shoulders are recommended to opt for this variation.

Who Should Be Choosing a Back Sleeping Pillow?

Sleeping on one’s back is not preferred by most since it facilitates incidents like snoring and is even detrimental to one’s cervical and spinal health. It also causes other orthopedic problems such as chronic back pain and spondylitis.

Back sleeping pillows comes with a curve or in more technical terms, a contour which facilitates in maintaining the curvature of the body. If the curvature is not maintained by the pillow a person uses, the spinal cord and cervical bones gets strained excessively thereby causing pain and discomfort.

The following points should be kept in mind before choosing the right contoured back sleeping pillow which largely depends on the anatomy of one’s body.

  • A regular contoured back sleeping pillow for those who have an average neck and upper body curve.
  • A deep contoured back sleeping pillow for people with a deep upper back curve.
  • An asymmetrically contoured pillow for people with a flat neck and deep upper back curve.


Choosing the right pillow according to your sleeping habits is crucial to avoid cervical and spinal strains and injuries which if left unchecked may add up to serious health problems.

The traditional pillows we are generally accustomed with are either too thin or too thick to suit our needs, thereby leaving us either with an unsupported or excessively strained neck.The following advice can be taken into account before choosing the right pillow based on the fact whether you are a side or back sleeper.

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