Guide to Back Sleeping and the Best Pillows for This Position

back sleeping position

If you’re a natural back sleeper, congratulations! Sleep experts opine that your spinal health should be in great shape!

Lying flat on your back is considered the healthiest sleeping position because it supports the natural curvature of the spine and mimics your standing posture.

However, as per a national survey done by a leading American retailer, back sleepers are a rare breed, comprising only 10% of all sleepers.

Who is a Back Sleeper?

A back sleeper is someone who sleeps on their back. No points for guessing! 

What are Their Sleeping Preferences?

Most back sleepers instinctively prefer to…

  • Fit a pillow into the curves of their neck and shoulders
  • Avoid pillows that keep the head over-elevated
  • Avoid pillows that allow the head to sink into them too much
  • Seek knee and lumbar support

How Do You Identify Them?

When a back sleeper wakes up, their hair is likely to be flatter or messier at the back of their heads. This is an indication of the particular sleeping position.

Also, if you frequently hear complaints about the person snoring at night, he is most likely a back sleeper.

What Are the Advantages of Sleeping on Your Back?

Improved Spine Alignment

As already discussed, the back sleeping position resembles your neutral posture when you stand up straight and supports the spine’s natural curvature.

This, in turn, ensures your spine remains correctly aligned and in good health.

Prevention of Acid Reflux

Sleeping on your back is the best possible solution to prevent acid reflux.

However, you must make sure your neck is rested at a higher level than your stomach when you lie down. This prevents food and acid from entering your esophagus.

Reviewed and tested pillows for acid reflux

Improved Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a medical condition in which the cavities surrounding the nasal passage become inflamed, causing a thin mucus to drain from the airways.

This mucus tends to pool in the sinuses and cause irritation when the head is rested at a level lower than the heart.

However, sleeping on your back elevates your head above your heart, removing any clogging in your nasal passage and relieving congestion.

Gravity takes care of the rest, and the mucus drains out, clearing the airways.

Alleviation of Tension Headaches

Some headaches mimic migraines but are caused by issues with cervical spine tension.

Such headaches are characterized by throbbing pain on one side of the head or face, as well as pain in the eyes, stiff neck, blurry vision, and sensitivity to light and noise.

Sleeping on your back, which keeps your head, neck, and spine neutrally aligned, can help you avoid this pain.

Alleviation of Neck and Back Pain

Back sleeping is considered the best position for alleviating neck and back pain as it prevents misalignment of the natural spinal posture.

In this position, your body weight is evenly distributed, so there is no pressure on the spine. As a result, tension and subsequent pain in the neck or back are relieved.

Deceleration of Wrinkles and Fine Lines

Because you’re not sleeping on your face, your facial skin will never come in contact with the pillow or mattress.

As a result, there is no friction or pull on your skin, which aids in the retention of any skincare product you use. No skin disturbance means no wrinkles or fine lines anytime soon.

Reduced Acne Breakouts

Back sleeping prevents acne breakouts for the same reason it decelerates wrinkles and fine lines. Your face does not come into contact with the allergens on the pillow or mattress.

The skincare products and essential oils on it remain intact and aid in the rejuvenation of the skin. This keeps acne, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, rashes, redness, and itching at bay.

You may also want to read: Best Pillowcases for Acne Recommended by Skin Experts

Deceleration of Puffy Eyes

Puffiness around the eyes occurs when fluids accumulate in the area. While this is unavoidable as you age, you should be aware that these fluids are heavily influenced by gravity.

By sleeping on your back, you prevent them from pooling around your eyes and subsequently building up. To make it more effective, elevate your head so that the fluids never reach those areas.

What Are the Disadvantages of Sleeping on Your Back?

Trouble Getting Deep Sleep

Many people opine that lying in the supine position is the hardest way to fall into a deep sleep. Although no scientific study has been reported on this matter, this is universally accepted and experienced by many.

The probable causes for such disrupted sleep could be excessive snoring and conditions leading to sleep apnea.

Increased Snoring

When you sleep on your back, you are basically sleeping face-up with your tongue rolled back into your mouth, which might even be open.

The base of your tongue and soft palate collapse to make contact with the back wall of your throat, causing a vibrating noise. As a result, you snore louder than usual.

Increased Risks of Sleep Apnea

Avoid back sleeping at all costs if you have sleep apnea. This sleeping position is known to aggravate the condition. It causes the chin to drop forward, making breathing difficult.

Increased Episodes of Sleep Paralysis

Although sleep paralysis has no morbid consequences, the experience can be terrifying. This condition, also known as the Old Hang Syndrome, occurs when a person alternates between wakefulness and sleep.

The mind remains awake, but the body is immobile. The episodes are brief and frequently accompanied by frightening hallucinations, such as hearing imagined whispers and seeing supernatural creatures.

Sleeping on your back can increase your chances of experiencing sleep paralysis, which happens due to a lack of deep sleep.

Back sleeping is never recommended for pregnant women because this position reduces blood circulation to the baby. If you’re pregnant, sleep on your side. Use a pregnancy pillow if possible.

While sleeping on their back, older and heavier adults might find it difficult to breathe. This occurs because gravity exerts pressure on the body, causing obstruction in the airways.

What are the Types of Back Sleeping Positions?

Back sleepers can be further categorized into the following types:


This back sleeper resembles a soldier standing at attention. While he sleeps on his back, his arms lengthwise rest on either side. In yoga, this position is known as Savasana.

back sleeping soldier position

Shooting Star

This back sleeper lifts one or both his arms over his head and spreads out his legs for maximum comfort.

back sleeping shooting star position

Which Pillows are Ideal for Back Sleepers?

The right pillow for back sleepers facilitates proper spinal alignment without putting pressure on the shoulders, hips, and back. The image below shows how a pillow affects the quality of sleep for a back sleeper.

pillow types for back sleepers

Consider the following aspects while buying pillows for back sleepers:


While regular pillows satiate most back sleepers, going for purpose-designed pillows could improve the quality of sleep for a back sleeper. We recommend four varieties

  • Wedge pillows
  • Cervical pillows
  • Lumbar pillows
  • Knee pillows

Wedge-shaped pillows are triangular and raise the torso while you sleep. They keep the spine straight as well as relieve pressure on the neck, shoulders, and back. This, in turn, helps you rest easier and work wonders in preventing acid reflux. 

Neck-shaped pillows, too, are ergonomically designed to promote optimal alignment of the spine, head, neck, and shoulder in back sleepers.

Similarly, lumbar pillows help in preventing pain in the lower back area while back sleeping while knee pillows placed underneath the knees help in relieving pressure in those areas.


Assuming we are talking about regular pillows, a back sleeper’s pillow should be of medium firmness so the head doesn’t sink in too much or remain elevated at an awkward angle. Pillows that are too soft or too firm are likely to cause neck and back pain.


A back sleeper’s pillow should be of medium loft (thickness), measuring between 3 and 5 inches. Pillows with thickness lesser than 3” or more than 5” are likely to cause improper spinal alignment.

Fill Material

Because back sleeping warrants pillows of medium firmness and loft, the following fill materials are considered the best for them.

  • Memory Foam – adequately firm and contours to a back sleeper’s head
  • Buckwheat – firm enough to offer reinforcement to the neck and soft enough to mold to the shape of the head
  • Latex – maintains spinal alignment, offers cushioned support, and contours to the shape of the head
  • Quilled Feather – conforms to the shape of the head and neck shape and promotes optimal alignment of the spine
  • Wool – strikes the right balance between firmness and softness

Back sleepers can also try pillows stuffed with kapok, millet hulls, and cotton. However, they might not benefit much from sleeping on Down pillows, as the fill material is super soft and fluffy.

When to Consider Switching to Other Sleeping Positions?

Consider switching to another sleeping position when you experience the following:

  • Pregnancy
  • Increased snoring
  • Sleep apnea
  • Persistent pain in the lower back
  • Discomfort in the back sleeping position

If you wish to learn more about all the sleeping positions, don’t forget to check out our detailed article.