Should you sleep on one pillow or two? Here’s what the experts say

Pillows (Image credit: Shutterstock)

When it comes to our bedtime routine, having one of the best pillows  is essential to help us sleep soundly. Not only should your pillow offer adequate neck and back support, but should be comfortable for your sleep needs. But if you have a cozy pile of plush pillows, you might be wondering, should you sleep on one pillow or two? 

While it is a case of personal preference, it’s vital to get the right choice for our needs to help us sleep better. This is especially true if you experience neck or back pain. In addition, is there a correct height level that our pillows need to be adjusted to?

According to experts, there are certain benefits for sleeping on both one or two pillows, and this all depends on your sleep position. So if you want to know if you should sleep on one pillow or two, here’s what the experts say. 

Has your pillow seen better days? Here are 7 signs that it’s time to replace your pillow

The case for sleeping on one pillow 

Woman asleep in bed, lying on her back

Woman asleep in bed, lying on her back (Image credit: Getty)

Typically, sleeping on a single pillow is the best option to keep spine alignment in its natural form, and prevent any niggling aches or pains. “One pillow allows for a more natural alignment of the spine and neck, which can help reduce the risk of pain and discomfort,” advises Kelly Collins, Head of creative at Swyft Home. “It also allows for better breathing and circulation while sleeping.” 

Of course, your sleep style and position should be taken into consideration. Are you a side sleeper? Or do you prefer sleeping on your back? “It is not about how many pillows you should sleep on but rather, is it keeping your head in a neutral position?”, says James Wilson, Sleep Expert and Founder of The Sleep Geek. “In other words, the position of your head when you are looking forward, with your back being straight. When I work with people on their sleep posture, I prefer them just to have one pillow that fits their body shape, as this is easier to replicate due to there being less variables.” 

The same applies if you tend to sleep on your stomach: just ensure it’s not a bulky pillow that will raise your head into an unnatural angle.

The case for sleeping on two pillows

How to sleep better at night naturally, featuring a man sleeping on his side, facing away from a window

Man sleeping on his side, facing away from a window (Image credit: Shutterstock)

If you do need extra support however, or suffer from chronic neck pain or other conditions that affect the quality of sleep, experts suggest sleeping on two pillows. “Two pillows can provide additional support for the neck and shoulders, which can be beneficial for people with certain conditions such as chronic neck pain or sleep apnea,” states Collins. “Additionally, two pillows can provide a sense of comfort and security for people who tend to sleep on their backs.”

Side sleepers will be more comfortable with a deeper pillow – or two pillows for support. However, experts tend to agree that frequently sleeping with multiple pillows could disrupt the spine’s natural alignment, especially at the incorrect height. In which case, sleeping with one thicker pillow is generally more preferable than two pillows. 

“If you're unsure of the height you require, opt for an adjustable pillow so you can find the perfect thickness,” advises Katie Mortram, Homes Editor at Tom’s Guide, “Pillows will naturally lose height and support the older they get — poly or down filling will compress and memory foam can dent. Replace when necessary, otherwise it can affect your sleep. If you fold a poly pillow in half and it doesn't bounce back, that means it's time to replace.” 

Remember, even our pillows need some TLC, so be sure to check out how to wash a pillow, to keep it fresh and spotless, and avoid it turning yellow over time. 

Getting the right height for your pillow 

Woman laying on her back on bed wearing earphones

Woman laying on her back on bed wearing earphones (Image credit: Getty/FreshSplash)

A quality pillow should be the right height to assist in relieving pressure on the muscles, and ensure maximum comfort. This also ensures that the head is not tilted too far left/forward or right/backward, which can put a strain on the neck muscles. “The height or level of the pillow is also important for maintaining proper alignment of the spine and neck. 

A pillow that is too high or too low can cause strain on the neck and shoulders, leading to pain and discomfort,” states Collins.  “It is generally recommended that the pillow should be at a height that allows the neck and spine to remain in a neutral position, which can be achieved by adjusting the height of the pillow or using a pillow with adjustable support.” 

How to choose the best pillow 

A person positions two white bed pillows on a bed

Making a bed (Image credit: Getty)

When investing in a quality pillow, it’s important to consider the following factors:

Pillow loft  — The loft refers to a bed pillow’s thickness and height. Typically, low loft pillows are three inches thick or less. Mid loft pillows are between three and five inches thick, while high loft pillows are five inches thick or more. Back and stomach sleepers are usually fine with a low loft height, while side sleepers can benefit from the supportive high loft (because it better plugs the gap between your head and shoulders). 

Firmness — This refers to how much a pillow can maintain its original shape after weight (your head) has been placed on it. Pillows with a medium firm or firm level of support are best suited for back sleepers, while soft pillows are ideal for stomach sleepers. Side sleepers often feel better supported by a firm pillow, in order to align their neck and back correctly.

Fill — The fill weight is the number of ounces down inside the pillow shell. There are different types of fill including feather-filled, latex, polyester fibrefill, memory foam pillows and more.  Also, if you suffer from allergies, it’s best to stay away from feather fills and choose a down alternative pillow instead. 

Verdict: Should you sleep on one pillow or two? 

While there is no right or wrong answer, the general consensus is that sleeping on one pillow is more beneficial for our spine's natural alignment. Ultimately, this will depend on your sleep position, style and needs. 

If you’re a back or stomach sleeper, experts recommend a thin pillow to offer adequate support for your back and neck. However, if you feel that you need extra support for your neck or shoulders, an additional pillow can help to relieve any discomfort during bedtimes. “Overall, it’s important to experiment with different pillow options and find the one that provides the most comfort and support for you. If you do suffer from chronic pain or any sleep disorders, be sure to consult any major changes in your sleeping set-up with your medical practitioner beforehand.”  

Have you ever wondered what happens to your body when you sleep on your side? If so, you might need one of the best mattress for side sleepers or perhaps check out one of the best memory foam mattress for comfort.

Or do you have trouble sleeping? Try these 5 tips for helping you sleep better, or check out these 5 plants that could help you sleep better

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!