The Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 22 minLast updated June 8, 2021

Because only 7.3 percent of people sleep on their stomachs, very few pillows are made especially for stomach sleepers. If you’ve noticed that you always end up with an uncomfortable pillow, it is actually possible to choose a suitable one. I will list the best pillows for stomach sleepers and list the criteria that make for a good one.

A Quick Preview

Dual Comfort Pillow by Amerisleep
Editor’s Choice

Dual Comfort Pillow by Amerisleep
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Saatva Latex Pillow
Best for Adjustable Height

Saatva Latex Pillow
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Vaya Pillow
Best Value for Advanced Features

Vaya Pillow
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Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
Best for Face-Down Stomach Sleepers

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
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GhostBed GhostPillow
Best for shape maintenance/No Fluffing

GhostBed GhostPillow
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Our Reviews of 5 The Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers

Editor’s Choice – Best for Combination Stomach and Side Sleepers — Dual Comfort Pillow by Amerisleep

Dual Comfort Pillow by Amerisleep

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Highlights

  • A low-loft option for stomach sleepers to keep your spine aligned.
  • A soft and firm side for combination stomach and side sleepers.
  • Memory foam for easing pressure and alleviating neck pain.

Because stomach sleepers need to sleep on a flat pillow to prevent their necks from bending backwards, or sideways if they sleep with their heads turned, most pillows are too high for them. This pillow comes in a low-loft version for stomach sleepers in addition to the normal-height one. Without a head that lies on top of it, it is five inches, which smashes down to three inches or less when you lie on it. Researchers proved that this is just about the perfect height for stomach sleepers in a study presented at an international health and safety conference in 2017. (1)

This pillow is perfect for combination sleepers who do not sleep on their stomachs all night, as it has a firm side for side sleeping and a soft side for stomach sleeping. Since a 2017 study found that sleepers spend only 7.3 percent of their time sleeping on their stomachs, it is likely that many or even most stomach sleepers are actually combination sleepers. (2) When you roll over on your side and need your head to be higher off the mattress to accommodate your shoulder, simply flip the pillow over so its firm side is on top. And when you roll back onto your stomach, flip it over again so you lie on the soft side that allows your head to sink closer to the mattress.

The Dual Comfort Pillow is made of memory foam that collapses to take on the shape of your head or face. This alleviates neck pain, as it does not resist when your head needs to sink into it. It also means that your face is not crushed into a firm surface that causes permanent pressure wrinkles, an important consideration for stomach sleepers that will be discussed in more detail below. (3)

Best for Adjustable Height Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow

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Highlights

  • Three-layer construction that makes its height adjustable.
  • Plushness that provides great head and neck support.
  • Stitched sides that prevent flattening and clustering.

This pillow is made of an outer cotton pillow cover, a pillow made of microfibers, and an inner core of shredded latex. The latex core is removable, so if the pillow is too high to sleep comfortably on your stomach, simply remove it. You can always put it back when you want to lie on your back or sit up in bed to read. 

It is really spongy and your head can sink as close to the mattress as it needs to do to sleep comfortably. It is, accordingly, great at keeping your spine aligned while you sleep on your stomach and can also fight off those wrinkles mentioned above. Scientists also found in 1999 that soft pillows were the most comfortable because of eliminating contact pressure between your skin and the pillow. (4)

The sides of the cover are tightly stitched to ensure that the pillow keeps its shape for longer. As a result, it gives way while you’re lying on it, as it should, but it is pulled back into shape in the mornings when you’re gone. This makes it last longer than most memory foam pillows that just collapse. It also means that the fibers are pulled apart if they clump together. 

See the benefits of the Brooklyn Talalay Pillow below, as this pillow shares its breathability, moisture-wicking, and hypoallergenic features.

Best Value for Advanced Features — Vaya Pillow

Vaya Pillow

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Highlights

  • Plushness for comfort and spinal alignment.
  • Shredded filling for super breathability.
  • Fully machine washable.

Like the first two pillows on our list, the Vaya pillow is beautifully soft and allows your head to sink as deep as is required to keep your spine aligned. This is because it is not made of a solid piece of foam that poses resistance, but rather of shredded pieces of foam and microfiber. 

Because of the shredded rather than solid filling, you can breathe through it if you sleep with your face down and it does not warm up below your head as much as a solid pillow does. 

Its cover is not removable, but the whole pillow is fully machine washable, so long as you air dry it afterward.

As you can see, this is not just the most cost-effective pillow, it actually has an impressive set of features for the lowest price, especially when you add the 10-year warranty.

Best for Face-Down Stomach Sleepers — Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

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Highlights

  • Cotton cover and breathable latex for face-down sleeping.
  • Made of latex, research-backed as one of the best pillow materials.
  • Made of natural latex to avoid causing allergies.

Its 100 percent cotton cover allows moisture to dry quickly and its latex filling enables you to breathe if you sleep with your face down, as many stomach sleepers do. You consequently don’t have to sleep with your face in the wetness of your own drool and you don’t have to turn your head to the side, which increases the risk of twisting your neck while lying on your stomach.(5)

Many studies have found latex pillows to be better than foam, memory foam, down, artificial down, and feather pillows at preventing neck pain and improving sleep quality. (6) This is mostly because latex is slightly firmer than other materials and can thereby provide better neck support if your pillow is the right height. This Brooklyn model comes in a low-loft version, so pick that to benefit fully from the medium-firmness of the latex.

The latex in this pillow is natural and washed several times with clean water to wash off the latex proteins that cause allergies. The cotton in the cover is also organic and, thus, has not been exposed to pesticides and herbicides that can cause allergies.

Best for shape maintenance/No Fluffing — GhostBed GhostPillow

GhostPillow

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Highlights

  • Memory foam that contours to your head and maintains its shape.
  • Good reviews and ratings and a long trial period.
  • Many cooling features to improve sleep quality.

One potential problem with shredded materials is that the pillows that are filled with them can lose their shape, requiring constant fluffing and reshaping to fit your head shape during the night. This is one of the prices you pay for their plushness and breathability, but it is a problem for stomach sleepers especially because hard protruding parts of their faces, like their chins, dig into their pillows. The GhostPillow is made of gel memory foam that does not have this problem, as it is firmer and contours to the shape of your head. 

76 percent of Amazon shoppers give it either a five-star or four-star rating, and if you dig through the reviews, you will see that some of them are stomach sleepers. Many of these stomach sleepers report that they don’t have to stick their arms under the pillow for extra support, saving them the experience of waking up with stiff necks and shoulders. But you don’t have to rely on reviews, you can try it out for yourself for an impressive 101-day trial period.

The pillow has three cooling technologies built-in, including the material of its cover, the inner mesh cover below that, and the gel memory foam itself. Many of the Amazon reviewers mention that you can immediately feel the coolness of the materials when you touch it. This is very important, as a large study on more than 765,000 people showed in 2017 that people slept poorly in the summer months when they were hot. (7)

Criteria to Pick the Best Pillows for Stomach Sleepers

Do you want to learn how to pick your own pillow for stomach sleeping?

We pick these pillows because they meet some of the most important criteria that pillows of stomach sleepers should meet. According to the research, these are the correct loft/height, appropriate firmness, pressure relief, breathability, moisture-wicking, quality of filling materials, shape, trial period, and hypoallergenic properties.

Let’s look at each of these, in turn, to see why they are important.

Loft

In 2017 at an international safety conference, a research team presented a study in which they tested pillows of 1.2, 2.8, 4.3, and six inches on 19 stomach sleepers.(1) The subjects reported the most comfort on the two lowest pillows, and the researchers also found that their spines were correctly curved while lying on them.

A review of the available pillow literature in 2021 in the Journal of Integrative Medicine similarly found that a height of not much more than 2.8 inches could improve sleep quality and reduce sleep-related neck pain in stomach sleepers. (9) 

The point is this:

If your pillow is too high, it will force the top of your spine backward. If it is too low, it will force it too far forward. To prevent joint and muscle pain in your neck, it should curve just a tiny bit forward, as it does while you are standing. 

Firmness

A specialist in neck pain and spinal cord injury at Lund University in Sweden conducted a study in 2009 in which she asked 52 neck pain sufferers to sleep on four different pillows.(10) They rated pillows favorably that were soft enough to be comfortable but still firm enough to give good neck support. Those were the characteristics that reduced neck pain and headaches and that improved sleep quality.

The same researcher performed a similar study on 55 adults in 1998 in which she also found that they preferred a pillow that was soft, but with two firmer supportive cores for neck support.(11)

Therefore, the ideal firmness for stomach sleepers is probably around medium firm. 

But you also have to remember that firmness and loft work together to provide neck support. If your pillow is on the high side, you can get away with more softness without forcing your neck too far forward. If your pillow is very low, you need more firmness to prevent your neck from bending forward.

Pressure Relief

People rate relatively soft pillows as the most comfortable precisely because they experience the least contact pressure between their skins and their pillows.(12) This is significant for stomach sleepers, as they have some of their most sensitive skin on their faces pressed against their pillows.

This is not just a matter of comfort; it can also affect your appearance.

When you press your face to a pillow for eight hours out of every 24, the skin stretches and folds that result can easily become permanent. This is especially true for stomach sleepers, as the skins on their faces have more contact with their pillows than those of side sleepers do.(3)

That’s why we like pillows that are quite soft.

Breathability

Solid foam pillows can be difficult to breathe through, especially for stomach sleepers who sleep with their faces down. That’s why it is important for a pillow for stomach sleepers to be breathable.

The most breathable materials are latex, foam with special breathing channels, buckwheat, and any shredded material.

Moisture-Wicking

Because stomach sleepers sleep with their mouths down or sideways, they are prone to drool during the night. Since it is uncomfortable and disgusting to sleep with our faces in such wetness, our pillows need to absorb the moisture and/or allow it to evaporate. While cotton is not necessarily the very best material to absorb moisture, it can still perform this function with aplomb. (14) 

Other materials that are good at it are nylon and polyester, but these are not as soft or breathable as cotton and they attract more bacterial growth. Rayon, on the other hand, is harder to clean, while bamboo is too expensive and wool is too hot.

Quality of Materials

In 2011, a researcher at James Cook University in Australia asked 106 study participants to sleep on their own pillows as well as on five provided pillows for one week each. They had to report their sleep quality, comfort levels, neck stiffness, and neck pain every morning.

The shocking finding?

The participants rated their own pillows to be the worst of all, and the researchers speculated that this happened because the provided pillows were better quality than the budget pillows people usually bought. (15)

The main takeaway from this study is that the quality of the materials inside your pillow is important.

Many studies rate latex to be the best filling material. A literature review of nine good-quality studies in 2021 found that it could reduce neck pain and waking symptoms for all sleepers, including stomach sleepers. (16) That’s why we like them too.

What about the ever-popular foam pillows?

They receive a pretty good shake from the research too. In a study with 332 Korean participants, scientists discovered in 2020 that latex and memory foam were the best at reducing neck fatigue. (15) But it is important that you buy a dense foam pillow that is, sadly, more expensive than low-density foam.

But, think about this.

The better quality the material, the longer the pillow lasts, so you will make your money back over time.

Shape

Most of the best pillows for stomach sleepers are rectangular. Some are concave with an indent where your face goes and a ridge for your forehead. Others slope upward from your shoulders to your forehead for those who want a bit of shoulder support. The specialized varieties are scarcer and more expensive than the rectangular ones are and these features are a matter of preference, not a necessity.

A more important consideration is whether it allows you to shape it to suit your unique head shape, which shredded foam and shredded latex do.

Another useful ability is to keep its shape throughout the night, instead of requiring constant fluffing. Latex is best at keeping its shape, followed by foam and memory foam, followed by artificial down, and then down. Feather pillows are the worst.

Trial Period

I like pillows that give a decent trial period of at least three weeks. If you are going to sleep on it for three to four years and pay a fairly high price for it, you need to know that it is comfortable, that it facilitates good sleep, and that it does not cause neck, back, or shoulder pain. 

Luckily, most of the best pillows for stomach sleepers, the best pillows for back sleepers, the best pillows for combination sleepers, and the best pillows for shoulder pain all have adequate trial periods.

Hypoallergenic Properties

Down and feather pillows tend to trigger allergies, and so do latex pillows that are not labeled Talalay.

It is possible for foam pillows to cause allergies and irritation too, but they should be safe for most people if they have a CertiPur-US label. This means that they are free of potentially harmful flame retardants and phthalates, heavy metals, and formaldehyde. It also indicates that they are low in volatile organic compound emissions.

This is important, as a study in the journal Building and Environment has shown that sleeping with our noses close to gasses, such as when sleeping with our heads under the covers or smashed into pillows, can increase our intake of these gasses by 24 factors.(16)

The Health Risks of Stomach Sleeping

Don’t allow people to tell you that stomach sleeping is incredibly unhealthy. Here are some facts that will make you feel better.

  • Research actually shows that side sleepers suffer the most discomfort while sleeping, especially in their necks and heads. (17) 
  • 67 percent of side sleepers report shoulder pain in the shoulder on which they sleep. (18)
  • Researchers have found no differences between the spinal symptoms of side, back, and stomach sleepers. (19)
  • Sleeping on your left side or on your stomach is best for people with acid reflux. (20)
  • Stomach sleeping is the best position for people who struggle with snoring and sleep apnea and can even eliminate these conditions. (21)

So, ignore the websites without academic references. Pick a medium-firm mattress and a pillow that meet the above requirements, and sleep however you are comfortable.

FAQ

What is the Most Important Requirement for a Pillow for Stomach Sleeping?

Loft. Once you have selected the correct loft of between one and three inches, you can follow the list of the criteria above from top to bottom when making your selection. Remember that it must be between one and three inches with your head resting on it.

What is the Worst Pillow for Stomach Sleeping?

One with a loft higher than three inches. This will force your neck to bend backward which, in turn, will cause neck pain.

Should Stomach Sleepers Place a Pillow Below Their Hips?

If your head pillow is a bit high, adding a pillow below your hips can maintain the correct curvature of your spine that will, in turn, prevent back and neck pain. (22) Most stomach sleepers who enjoy the feel of a substantial pillow below their heads do this. Otherwise, it is a matter of preference.

Conclusion

Stomach sleepers have very specific needs that a pillow should meet. It should be three inches high or lower to keep your spine aligned. It should be medium-soft for comfort and pressure relief. It should be breathable and moisture-wicking, especially for stomach sleepers who sleep face down. It should also be made of good-quality materials to ensure it lasts.

Do you sleep on your stomach and do you have anything to add to the characteristics that make a pillow suitable for stomach sleepers? Do you know anything the researchers don’t? Let us know and help your peers choose their best pillow ever.

References:

  1. Hu Huimin, et al. (July 2017). A Research on Effect of Pillow Height on Pressure and Comfort of Human Body’s Prone Position. International Conference on Digital Human Modeling and Applications in Health, Safety, Ergonomics and Risk Management. Retrieved from: https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-319-58463-8_2
  2. Eivind Schjelderup Skarpsno et al. (November 1, 2017). Sleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and insomnia symptoms. Nature and Science of Sleep. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5677378/
  3. Goesel Anson et al. (September 2016). Sleep Wrinkles: Facial Aging and Facial Distortion During Sleep. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/asj/article/36/8/931/2613967
  4. Hiroko Yokuraet al.  (1999). Using the Compression Properties of Pillows to Estimate Sleeping Comfort. International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/09556229910282415/full/html
  5. Adine Gericke et al. (2010). A Comparative Study of Regenerated Bamboo, Cotton and Viscose Rayon Fabrics. Part 1: Selected Comfort Properties. Journal of Consumer Sciences. Retrieved from: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/jfecs/article/view/61642
  6. Johnson Pang Chun-Yiu et al. (May, 2021). The Effects of Pillow Designs on Neck Pain, Waking Symptoms, Neck Disability, Sleep Quality and Spinal Alignment in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33895703/
  7. Nick Obradovich et al. (2017). Nighttime Temperature and Human Sleep Loss in a Changing Climate. Science Advances. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5446217/
  8. Ahmed Radwan et al. (February 2021). Effect of Different Pillow Designs on Promoting Sleep Comfort, Quality, & Spinal Alignment: A Systematic Review. Journal of Integrative Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1876382020314505#!
  9. Liselott Persson (July 11, 2009). Neck Pain and Pillows – A Blinded Study of the Effect of Pillows on Non-Specific Neck Pain, Headache and Sleep. Advances in Physiotherapy. Retrieved from: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14038190600780239
  10. Liselott Persson et al. (May 1998). Neck Support Pillows: A Comparative Study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9608378/
  11. Hiroko Yokuraet al.  (1999). Using the Compression Properties of Pillows to Estimate Sleeping Comfort. International Journal of Clothing Science and Technology. Retrieved from: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/09556229910282415/full/html
  12. Adine Gericke et al. (2010). A Comparative Study of Regenerated Bamboo, Cotton and Viscose Rayon Fabrics. Part 1: Selected Comfort Properties. Journal of Consumer Sciences. Retrieved from: https://www.ajol.info/index.php/jfecs/article/view/61642
  13. Susan J. Gordon (April 13, 2011). Your Pillow May Not Guarantee a Good Night’s Sleep or Symptom-Free Waking. Physiotherapy Canada. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3076923/
  14. Johnson Pang Chun-Yiu et al. (May, 2021). The Effects of Pillow Designs on Neck Pain, Waking Symptoms, Neck Disability, Sleep Quality and Spinal Alignment in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clinical Biomechanics. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33895703/
  15. Juhyun Son et al. (January 1, 2020). A Survey of Koreans on Sleep Habits and Sleeping Symptoms Relating to Pillow Comfort and Support. International journal of environmental research and public health. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31906363/
  16. J. Laverge et al. (January 2013). Experimental Assessment of Exposure to Gaseous Pollutants from Mattresses and Pillows While asleep. Building and Environment. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360132312002223#aep-abstract-id12
  17. Wu, Yung-Yu et al. (2014). Evaluation of the Body Discomfort Levels on Sleeping Postures and Pillow Types Using Analytic Hierarchy Process. Retrieved from: https://www.airitilibrary.com/Publication/alDetailedMesh?docid=a0000549-201411-201411240005-201411240005-81-95
  18. Bo Kempf et al. (June 2012). Association Between the Side of Unilateral Shoulder Pain and Preferred Sleeping Position: A Cross-Sectional Study of 83 Danish Patients. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22608285/
  19. D. Cary et al. (April 25, 2016). Examining the Relationship between Sleep Posture and Morning Spinal Symptoms in the Habitual Environment Using Infrared Cameras. Journal of Sleep Disorders: Treatment and Care. Retrieved from: https://www.scitechnol.com/peer-review/examining-the-relationship-between-sleep-posture-and-morning-spinal-symptoms-in-the-habitual-environment-using-infrared-cameras-pUfm.php?article_id=4826
  20. Ramez Khoury et al. (1999). Influence of Spontaneous Sleep Positions on Nighttime Recumbent Reflux in Patients with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002927099003354
  21. M.J.L. Ravesloot et al. (March 24, 2012). The undervalued potential of positional therapy in position-dependent snoring and obstructive sleep apnea-a review of the literature. Sleep & Breathing. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3575552/
  22. Waldemar Karwowski (2006). International Encyclopedia of Ergonomics and Human Factors. Retrieved from: https://books.google.co.za/books?hl=en&lr=&id=CqSA2DVm6nsC&oi=fnd&pg=PA2493&dq=Waldemar+Karwowski+(2006).+International+Encyclopedia+of+Ergonomics+and+Human+Factors.+&ots=UJzTg6BD7t&sig=7PIM9bxQxe4CYTLqYBnQk9Tk7QQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Waldemar%20Karwowski%20(2006).%20International%20Encyclopedia%20of%20Ergonomics%20and%20Human%20Factors.&f=false

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