The back sleeper, as the name suggests, is one who sleeps with the spine flat against the mattress and the back of the head in partial or total contact with the pillow. Man is the only animal capable of sleeping for long periods on his back and given the human anatomy, the position provides a number of benefits such as a balanced body posture, neutral spine position, adequate support for the head and little or no pressure on the limbs.Not surprisingly, this has been the most popular position for sleeping among adults across ages. It is therefore assumed by many folks that ordinary pillows are often made with the needs of back sleepers in mind. The truth though, is that the majority of pillows aren’t made with nothing but profit in mind, and to compound matters, the actual “needs” are too poorly understood for most people to decide correctly anyway. In this article therefore, we’ve first outlined the major needs of back sleepers and then analysed the best pillows for back sleepers.
What does a back sleeper need to enjoy deep sleep ?
While the needs of the back sleeper of course vary depending on preferences of the individual, there are a few points that are applicable for most individuals who like to sleep on their back –
- Neutral spine position – As mentioned above, one of the benefits of being a back sleeper is that the spine rests in a neutral position. To this end, one has to ensure that the spine is neither curved into a U-position nor does it assume an excessively convex position. While the mattress obviously plays a part in deciding the position of the spine, the height of the pillow must be such that the spine does not have to compensate for a neck that is at an excessively acute angle.
- Adequate support for neck and head – Unlike side sleepers, the back sleeper’s head is placed back-down onto the pillow, providing it with lesser surface area in which to spread the pressure. To this end, the head and neck must receive excellent support or the person may feel that he/she is sleeping directly on the mattress.
- Uniform support – Many back sleepers tend to move their head from side to side during sleep, and this changes the pressure points. It is important that the user receive the correct amount of support no matter where his/her head rests. However, many therapeutics these days are arguing that the middle of the pillow should be softer than the sides because if one goes too far to one side, the overall posture of the body is affected.
Now that we have seen what the conditions that the best pillows for back sleepers must fulfil, it is time to take a look at the types of pillows that meet these criteria to the greatest possible extent –
- Memory Foam Pillows – Memory foam tends to adapt to the shape of the head and neck, and so no matter where the head/neck rests, support is uniform. Further, they are known for providing a decent amount of support. However, because of the need for proper spine alignment, the memory foam pillows should be thin, at least at the centre.
- Goose Down/Synthetic Down pillows – Providing the best support along with just the right amount of height, goose down pillows are an expensive but all-natural and extremely durable option. Further, they tend to be lightweight and lofty, argues Emily Hull-Martin of Home Furnishings, which helps alleviate neck pain and aids in obtaining deep sleep. Synthetic down pillows are cheaper and are ideal for those who have allergies to goose down.
- Latex Pillows – According to sleep expert Dr. Adam Tanase, latex pillows are ideal for back sleepers because they keep the neck in a neutral position and don’t force it to flex regardless of the movement of the head on the pillow. Further, many of the pillows available in the market today are extremely thin yet quite supportive. Finally, they tend to be quite hardy and would last for a long time if used properly.
- Cervical Pillows – Referring to a specific design and not the material, these pillows come in latex and memory foam variants. The USP of these pillows is that they keep the cervix in a neutral position and so ensure that the spine also stays in a similar position. They tend to be highly supportive and quite durable. However, it should be noted that these are only meant for back sleepers and if you shift to a side sleeping position, these pillows may cause neck problems.
While it is of course important that one choose the best pillows for back sleepers using scientific criteria, it is equally important to recognize that the type of pillow one will choose should be similar to the one currently being used or the habituation period will be long, leading to many nights with little sleep. Further, one should take careful note of one’s posture to see if the sleeping position is different from the standard back sleeper’s flat posture, and if so, seek professional help to figure out how to either change the posture and/or choose the correct pillow for the posture. Keeping these in mind, we hope that you will be able to make use of the above tips for choosing the best pillows and so enjoy the deep, rejuvenating sleep that your body deserves.