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Pillow Reviews > Choosing the Right Bed Pillow

Pillow Loft Guide and Loft Calculators

 

Having proper pillow loft (or height / thickness) is crucial to achieving comfort and support. Using a pillow with loft that is too thick or too thin will likely result in poor neck alignment as well as uneven pressure placed on the head or face. Discomfort, pain, and breathing difficulties – including snoring – are often the consequence.

To select a pillow with proper loft, several factors must be considered. These include sleep position, head size / weight, overall body size / weight, shoulder width (side sleep), pillow placement, and mattress firmness.

Use the appropriate pillow loft calculator below (based on sleep position) to find which loft may best suit you – low, medium, or high.


Pillow Loft Calculator: SIDE SLEEP

Learn about the following factors.

HEAD SIZE: Rate your head size on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being small, 5 being medium, and 10 being large.

BODY SIZE: Rate your body size / weight on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being large (260+ lbs), 5 being average sized (180 lbs), and 10 being small (under 100 lbs).

SHOULDER WIDTH: Rate your shoulder width (broadness) on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being narrow, 5 being average, and 10 being wide.

MATTRESS FIRMNESS: Rate your mattress firmness on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being soft, 5 being medium firmness, and 10 being firm.




KEY
4-15:
low pillow loft (under 3 inches thick)
16-27: medium pillow loft (3-5 inches thick)
28-40: high pillow loft (6+ inches thick)


Pillow Loft Calculator: BACK SLEEP

Learn about the following factors.

HEAD SIZE: Rate your head size on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being small, 5 being medium, and 10 being large.

BODY SIZE: Rate your body size / weight on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being large (260+ lbs), 5 being average sized (180 lbs), and 10 being small (under 100 lbs).

PILLOW PLACEMENT: On a scale of 1-10, enter a number with 1 being that you place a pillow mostly behind the top of your head, 5 being you place a pillow directly behind your head, and 10 being that you place a pillow mostly behind your neck.

MATTRESS FIRMNESS: Rate your mattress firmness on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being soft, 5 being medium firmness, and 10 being firm.




KEY
4-15:
low pillow loft (under 3 inches thick)
16-27: medium pillow loft (3-5 inches thick)
28-40: high pillow loft (6+ inches thick)


Pillow Loft Calculator: STOMACH SLEEP

Learn about the following factors.

HEAD SIZE: Rate your head size on a scale of 1 to 10 with one being small, 5 being medium, and 10 being large.

BODY SIZE: Rate your body size / weight on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being large (260+ lbs), 5 being average sized (180 lbs), and 10 being small (under 100 lbs).

PILLOW PLACEMENT: On a scale of 1-10, enter a number with 1 being that you place a pillow under your head / face only, 5 being you place a pillow under mainly your head / face but also under your chest to some extent, and 10 that you place a pillow about equally under both your head / face and chest.

MATTRESS FIRMNESS: Rate your mattress firmness on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 being soft, 5 being medium firmness, and 10 being firm.




KEY
4-15:
low pillow loft (under 3 inches thick)
16-27: medium pillow loft (3-5 inches thick)
28-40: high pillow loft (6+ inches thick)


Factors Affecting Pillow Loft Needs

Sleep Position

To maintain a neutral and comfortable neck position, avoid a pillow that is too high or too low for your sleep position.

Back sleepers on average prefer a pillow with about medium loft. Side sleepers on average prefer a pillow of medium to high loft as they need to fill the area between the end of their shoulder and the side of their head. Stomach sleepers on average prefer a low to medium loft pillow (or in some cases no pillow at all).

If you sleep in different positions such as on your back and your side, it may be a good idea to have two pillows of different loft or one moldable / scrunchable pillow to accommodate the different positions.

Head Size

A person with a large, heavy head will often require a pillow with significant loft to support their head weight. By contrast, a person with a smaller, lighter head will require a pillow with only modest loft to support their head weight.

Overall Body Size

A heavy person exerts considerable pressure on a mattress and consequently sleeps low in it due to sinking into the mattress to a significant degree. Sleeping low in the mattress means that a person requires a less lofty pillow because the mattress is in effect closer to their head. By contrast, a light person does not exert considerable pressure on a mattress and as a result sleeps higher on the mattress. Such a person requires a loftier pillow because the mattress is in effect further away from their head.

Mattress Firmness

A soft mattress allows a person to sink into it considerably and as a result sleep low on the mattress. Sleeping low means that a person requires a less lofty pillow because the mattress is in effect closer to their head. By contrast, a firm mattress tends to prevent a person from sinking in considerably and as a result the person sleeps high on the mattress. Sleeping high means that a person requires a loftier pillow because the mattress is in effect further away from their head.

Shoulder Width

For side sleepers, shoulder width (broadness) is an important factor. Broad shoulders will cause a person's head to be higher away from the mattress, thereby requiring a loftier pillow to fill the gap. By contrast, narrow shoulders will cause a person's head to be closer to the mattress, thereby requiring a less lofty pillow.

Pillow Placement

Where a person places their pillow in relation to the head can affect pillow loft needs. Placing a pillow only partially under one's head can require greater loft, while placing it fully under one's head can require less loft.


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