Shop the best pillows for every sleeping position

Julianne Ross, CNN Underscored
Thu March 14, 2019

One secret to a good night's sleep is choosing the right pillow.

But picking a pillow is about so much more than just deciding between soft and firm. Depending what position you typically sleep in, certain pillows will offer the right level of loft (height) and support, while others will just give you a crick in the neck or end up tossed on the floor halfway through the night.

We've broken down the best pillows for side sleepers, front sleepers and back sleepers, so you can find a pillow that fits your needs.

Shop our picks to position yourself, quite literally, for the best sleep possible.

Our choice for side sleepers

Side sleeping is by far the most common sleeping position, but that doesn't mean just any old pillow will work. If you're a side sleeper, there's a good chance you've had to double up on pillows in the past. That's because side sleepers often need extra height to help close the gap between their necks and the bed. Look for high loft pillows, since these can help keep your neck and spine in a more neutral alignment while you snooze.

Coop Home Goods adjustable pillow ($59.99, originally $175.99; amazon.com)

The best-selling Coop pillow could work for just about every type of sleeper (evidenced by its 11,000 5-star reviews). We especially like it for side sleepers, though, because of its adjustable "premium certified foam." The Coop comes stuffed quite full, but you can easily remove as much of the interior foam as you want, to customize the pillow to your ideal height and fill. The foam itself is high quality -- a proprietary "cross-cut memory foam and microfiber blend" that's been tested to ensure it contains no harmful chemicals. Hypoallergenic, dust mite-resistant and machine washable, the Coop also comes with a 100-night trial and five-year guarantee that it won't go flat.

Some reviewers have noted a slight chemical smell out of the bag, which isn't uncommon with memory foam pillows and should dissipate after it's had a chance to air out. Memory foam also isn't the most breathable fabric — an issue Coop aims to address with its shredded fill and removable, washable "stay cool" cover. This still may not feel quite as cool as some of the other options on our list, but the Coop has nevertheless won near universal acclaim from well-rested reviewers across the internet.

Our choice for stomach sleepers

Ah, stomach sleepers. We are a special breed who happen to prefer the unhealthiest possible sleeping position. Stomach (aka face) sleeping is the rarest position and can also be the most vulnerable to pain, since it's easy to misalign your neck and spine or put pressure on your lower back. Alas, the body wants what it wants. If this is the most comfortable position for you, it's important to find a pillow that won't make things worse.

For stomach sleepers, it's all about flatness and squishability — not necessarily the first qualities that come to mind when considering pillows, and which often only come about after "breaking in" fluffier varieties. But stomach sleepers know that anything too full or firm can fluff up oddly around the sides of your face or make your head tilt back uncomfortably. Look for soft products with low lofts. And because you'll be sticking your face directly into the pillow each night, you'll definitely want something breathable and machine washable.

Downlite extra soft down pillow ($74.99; amazon.com)

The Downlite extra soft was specially designed for stomach sleepers. As Downlite points out repeatedly, "this is a very flat pillow." The pillow's low fill also means it should trap less heat. The pillow itself is covered with a breathable, 100% cotton shell, and the entire thing is machine washable and dryable.

The Downlite has 4.4 stars from 500 reviews, with users raving that it's "extraordinarily mushy" and that "if you're a stomach sleeper, this pillow from Downlite is perfection." Many further note that its rare combination of extreme flatness and squishiness is something that non-face sleepers simply won't understand: "It is very flat, but for some of us, that's just what we need!" one reviewer says, another adding, "It's weird for a pillow and it's freaking great."

Our choice for back sleepers

If you're a back sleeper, congratulations: According to the National Sleep Foundation, you're sleeping in the healthiest position possible. You'll still definitely want a pillow, though, to support your neck and prop up your head enough that your esophagus remains higher than your stomach. (Not doing so could contribute to acid reflux and snoring.)

Back sleepers should consider something firmer than stomach sleepers, with a loft in between what's recommended for side and face sleepers. You'll potentially want to consider something with higher loft in only the bottom third of the pillow to support your neck even more without pushing your head out of alignment.

Epabo contour memory foam pillow ($42.99; amazon.com)

This ergonomic option from Epabo features a raised, contoured design meant to better support your neck. Part of the memory foam is removable, so you can adjust the pillow's height to suit your preferences. The company warns that you might experience discomfort in the first two weeks "while your body is trying to adjust to the correct position" -- but with 4.3 stars from more than 400 reviews, it seems most customers have adjusted just fine. One reviewer calls it "supportive, but not squishy," which is pretty much exactly what you want in a back sleeper pillow. The Epabo comes in at an affordable price point and and it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it's a great way to see if a contoured pillow can help alleviate any neck woes.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed prices at the time of publication.