Most of us sleep on at least one pillow every night. And, considering we spend more than a third of our lives sleeping, it’s essential that you have a pillow that’s not only comfortable but suitable for your body’s form, affordable, and long-lasting. What sized pillow is best to sleep on, and how do you know what to buy? What pillow dimensions do pillows come in, and should you be looking for one size over another? Bet you haven’t thought about this much before!
The thing is, choosing the right pillow is so important, and many people don’t give thought to the size and dimension of a pillow but simply touch it and see how it feels. However, your body will tell you a different story once you actually put your head down to sleep on it.
The first thing to know is, like beds, pillows come in different sizes. We’ll help you understand pillow sizes and pillow dimensions and which one is the best for you!
Most Popular Pillow Sizes
|Dimensions||20 x 26 inches||20 x 30 inches||20 x 36 inches||26 x 26 inches|
|Who is it best for||Best for all sleepers no matter the age; the most standard size. Ideal for sleepers who generally stay in one position because you won’t slide off the pillow, but it can accommodate all sleepers.||Slightly bigger than standard but typically falls in the same category. Ideal for combination sleepers who change positions often while sleeping because there is more space. Best pillow for queen beds.||Ideal for people who move around a lot/combination sleepers because there is so much space for your head to move. Also ideal for back sleepers and larger people in general.||These are square, decorative pillows that are not meant to sleep on but to adorn a bed or couch. It could be used as an armrest or to prop yourself up.|
|Pros||Fit in all sheets|
Works for all sleeping positions.
|Can fit in a standard sheet, giving it more firmness. A little more surface area than a standard.||Can be good for side sleepers, too, who like more loft on their pillows.||Can add more color to your bed, as a backrest, to elevate your arms or legs, or to place under your lower back.|
|Cons||May not be big enough and can look small on bigger beds.||Not many, but may look small like a standard pillow on a larger bet.||Not ideal for stomach sleepers as it can impact back alignment and may be too thick for smaller people.||Not to be used as a pillow to sleep on.|
The standard pillow size is 20 x 26 inches and is ideal for any sleeper, but more so a sleeper that generally stays in one position during the night, including stomach sleepers (though you’ll want a low-loft pillow, too). A standard pillow will be the easiest to find pillowcases for, but it can appear smaller if you have a larger bed. A standard pillow can be a great pillow to just have in case you want to bring it with you when you travel, too.
A queen size pillow is only 4” bigger than a standard pillow. It gives you a little more room if you need it while you sleep, meaning that a queen-sized pillow is great for both single-type sleepers and combination sleeps. Although standard and queen pillows are not the same size, queen pillows can fit inside standard pillowcases most of the time, but they might be a little firmer.
Like a king-size bed, king-size pillows are the largest “regular” type of pillow you can get, at 20 x 36 inches. They provide a lot of support for back sleepers and side sleepers, or if you’re a bigger person who wants the space to sprawl out. However, king pillows can be too big for some people, and they may be a bit harder to find sheets for. They could also potentially look strange on a bed that’s not a king.
A Euro pillow is a decorative pillow that you may see on top of a bed to give it some decoration. They are 26 x 26 inches and square. They’re not meant for sleeping, but they can be used to help prop you up or elevate part of your back or your limbs. Euro pillows are fun to use as decoration, and you can change the covers if you want to go for a different look.
Special Pillow Sizes
The pillow sizes and dimensions mentioned above are the most common, but those may not work for everyone, either. There are also special pillow sizes out there that might meet your comfort levels more or provide support during special circumstances.
A body pillow is an elongated type of pillow that’s ideal for people who need more support. It can be used to sit up in bed, or it can be used to hug at night — by placing it between the legs, it can provide back support. Body pillows are often made of memory foam and polyfoam, making them breathable and supportive for your whole body.
Body pillows are beneficial to those who need to feel the pressure of a pillow on their body at night or those who tend to have back pain or hip pain. They can be good for those who are pregnant, too. Some downsides are that they aren’t the ideal pillow for a bed as they’d take up the whole bed, not leaving space for your partner’s pillow. They can also be hard to wash, as it takes more time to take off the sheet and put it back on.
A neckroll pillow is also known as a cervical pillow, though some people call it a “foam roller.” These pillows are round and small in circumference but can also be long. They are placed under the neck as you lay on your back to aid positioning of the neck and help support your posture. Neckrolls can come on their own or be placed inside your pillowcase with your regular pillow. They are ideal for people who may suffer from back, neck, or other joint pain and can help with your posture and sleep positioning if you sleep on your back or side.
You should speak to your doctor before using one of these pillows, especially if you experience pain or discomfort regularly. Using it can improve your neck flexibility, but it can also hurt it if you don’t use the pillow correctly. Another con is that they can make sleeping uncomfortable for those who aren’t used to it.
A wedge pillow is shaped like a right triangle, and they are typically made of poly foam or memory foam. As the name suggests, a wedge pillow is used to “wedge” between your body and the bed, elevating your upper or lower body to reduce snoring, improve circulation, or simply make it more comfortable for those who like to be raised a bit in their sleep. Wedge pillows usually stay in place better than regular pillows if you move around a lot at night.
Some downsides are that wedge pillows may have the opposite effect and can cause pain or pressure in the back or hips. Some people may also simply find them uncomfortable.
Travel pillows are pillows that form a “U” around the back of your neck. They are most often used for traveling, as they will support your head when you’re on an airplane and can’t lay down while you sleep. If you’re a frequent traveler, then you may have noticed that not all travel pillows are created equally. Some are just inflatable, so the only thing supporting you is the air. Others are made of memory foam, microbeads, or other materials.
A major downside of travel pillows is that, typically, the more comfortable it is, the bulkier it is. They can’t really be used as a regular pillow if you’re camping out while you travel and can be rather expensive, so they aren’t very versatile. But they can make long plane rides a bit more tolerable!
What Is Pillow Loft and Why Does It Matter
The term “pillow loft” refers to the height of a pillow, or basically how high, thick, or tall the pillow is. A pillow’s loft is created by adding more fill to the pillow, or if it’s memory foam, altering the thickness of the piece.
Generally, when talking about pillow sizes and dimensions, most don’t consider pillow loft. Pillow loft is divided into three categories:
- Low-loft: Under 3” thick
- Medium-loft: Between 3” and 5” thick
- High-loft: 5” thick or more
When choosing a pillow, pillow loft is just as — if not more — important to consider than other characteristics. You can have a pillow with the perfect size, material, and comfort, but if it’s too high or too low, you’ll be uncomfortable. Pillow loft impacts your sleep based on what type of sleeper you are. If you get the wrong pillow loft, you can impact your body’s alignment.
Low-loft pillows are thinner and therefore ideal for stomach sleepers. If you sleep on your stomach and have a high-loft pillow, your neck will be angled upward while you sleep. Side-sleepers and back-sleepers will do well with medium-loft pillows or high-loft pillows because they will support your neck by cushioning and cradling it. Combination sleepers will do well with a medium-loft or a pillow with an adjustable fill.
Speaking of pillow loft, different fill materials that can be used to make a pillow.
Down is a material used in pillows that comes from animals. It’s typically a combination of goose and duck plumage that comes from underneath their feathers on their backs, wings, and chests. Down pillows are usually combined with other materials, like feathers.
- Down pillows tend to be more comfortable, lightweight, and “scrunchable.”
- They usually last longer and are easy to re-case.
- A con is the use of animals.
- Feather pillows usually come from duck or geese feathers but are usually made with other materials like down.
- Feather pillows tend to provide great insulation but can sometimes be too warm. (If you need a colder pillow, check out these cooling pillows.)
- They’re usually mixed with down, so it can be hard to find a 100% feather pillow.
- For some, a downside is that they’re made using animals.
If you don’t want a pillow made using animals, you can go for a synthetic pillow of polyester.
- Polyester pillows tend to be soft, cuddly, and mold easily with the ability to customize fill.
- They can be lumpy and not as comfortable or breathable as down.
- These are often made with chemicals which might be a con for some.
These days, pillows will usually have some combination of these fill materials but will have the majority of one material over another. There are also pillows made with other types of fill, like cotton or memory foam, but keep in mind the latter is made from polyurethane.
How Do I Know What Size Pillow to Buy?
When it comes to pillow sizes and pillows in general, it’s very common that no two people will like or need the same pillow, which means that if you have a partner sharing the bed, you might be better off buying what fits your needs best. Whether you’re sharing your bed or not, here is how you can decide what size pillow to buy.
Figure out What Type of Sleeper You Are
The first step in getting the right-sized pillow is knowing what type of sleeper you are. Since different sleepers need different size pillows to accommodate their needs, this is the natural first step. While size shouldn’t be the only criteria you consider, knowing your sleep style can help you do more than just finding the right pillow — it will help you find the best mattress, too.
The most common sleep types are:
- Side sleeper
- Back sleeper
- Stomach sleeper
- Combination sleeper
Know What Size and Loft Is Ideal
Once you know what type of sleeper you are, check the information in this article to understand what size pillow and pillow loft are ideal for you. Even if a certain pillow type seems comfortable or is on the clearance rack at the store, it doesn’t mean it’s the right pillow for you.
You can then eliminate or prioritize some options by looking at the pros and cons and seeing which size would be a good fit for your bed, too. After all, it’s a lot easier and more affordable to replace a pillow than a whole bed!
Research Well-Known Brands
Once you’ve narrowed down what size and loft you need, it’s time to start researching well-known brands to choose a pillow. Some places just make better pillows than others, and researching along with asking for recommendations can help you make the best choice from the get-go.
Some popular brands are Purple and Casper.
Pillows That 5-Star Hotels Use
Ever go on vacation, stay in a hotel, and love the pillow? It may seem that sleeping on cloud nine is just for hotel rooms, but the truth is, the hotels have to buy their pillows from somewhere, too. Here’s a little secret — they’re not getting them from exclusive stores, either. You can find out where hotels are getting their pillows in this Forbes article.
When we buy pillows, we often just touch them or lay our head on them for a second to see if it’s comfortable. We generally know what type of comfort we like — a soft pillow, a firm pillow, a tall pillow, a long pillow — but we rarely think about the pillow size, pillow dimensions, and pillow loft, which are instrumental in choosing a pillow. After all, pillows play a significant role in your sleep quality and how your body will feel in the short and long term. So, before you go pillow shopping, make sure you know what size you need.