Understanding Pillow Loft and Sleep Positions
If you’ve spent time researching pillows then you’ve heard the word loft. But what is loft, and why does it matter? Loft refers to the thickness or height of the pillow. Words like “firm” and “plush” are also used interchangeably for the same purpose.
For example a high-lofted plush pillow implies that the pillow is high yet soft enough to sink your head into.
On the other hand, a low-lofted firm pillow means that the pillow has both a supportive and firm surface. This goes a long way in keeping your neck and head aligned.
Finding the right pillow also depends on the pillow height you prefer. The ideal height for your neck, head, and spine can be a little tricky to decipher. But it can be made simple by looking at the various sleep positions.
High Loft: Pillows with an increased height are ideal for most side sleepers. A relatively tall pillow height should be able to match your spine so your neck and shoulders remain firm. This also reduces tossing and turning. Sleeping on a tall pillow can create a horizontal spinal curve, which is the correct postural alignment to begin with.
Side sleepers should aim for a pillow that is more supportive, with a higher loft profile (add fill). A higher loft will provide some nice pressure relief in your shoulder, and hold your head in neutral alignment with your spine ensuring that your head doesn’t gradually sink down, out of neutral alignment with your spine.
Medium Loft: Pillows with a medium increase in height are ideal for back sleepers. A height that places the neck slightly in an elevated position, but not too much, creates the perfect “S” curve for curing back pain problems. This also relieves cranio-cervical pressure.
Back sleepers should aim for a “happy medium.” This means that the loft should not be too high, or too low either, (remove a little fill) however, back sleepers often alternate between the supine and lateral positions.
Low Loft: Pillows that are appropriately low in height are ideal for stomach sleepers. Flat pillows offer orthotic support for better motion transfers. It does support your head and neck. Plus, it’s good for correct spine alignment caused by injuries or lack of exercise.
Stomach Sleepers in order to keep neutral alignment should use a pillow with low loft, and soft firmness (remove a lot of fill) to support the natural curvature of your spine, and make sure your head/neck is not craned upwards.
It’s important to remember that jumping to extreme ends such as too high or too low is not good for the muscles. Slight pillow elevation offers cervical relief and better spinal support. Multiple studies on various pillow heights have concluded that a medium increase in height can have a significant effect on sleep quality and cervical health.