Where to put pillows when sleeping on side?

Sleep is an essential component of overall well-being, and the position in which you sleep can significantly impact the quality of your rest. Among the various sleeping positions, sleeping on your side is one of the most common and comfortable choices.

To optimize your comfort and support while sleeping on your side, the strategic placement of pillows plays a crucial role. In this guide, we’ll delve into the details of how to position pillows effectively to ensure a restful and rejuvenating sleep when sleeping on your side.

Types of Side Sleepers

Side sleeping is a popular sleeping position, and there are different variations of side sleeping based on how the body is positioned and the specific preferences of the individual. Here are some common types of side sleepers:

  1. Fetal Position Sleeper:
    • This is one of the most common side sleeping positions.
    • The sleeper curls up into a fetal-like position, with their knees drawn toward their chest and their head tucked down.
    • Arms may be wrapped around the legs or positioned near the face for comfort.
    • This position can be especially comfortable for those with lower back pain, as it naturally opens up the space between the vertebrae.
  2. Log Position Sleeper:
    • In this position, the sleeper lies on their side with their legs and arms straight and aligned.
    • The arms are usually placed close to the body and the legs are extended downward.
    • This position promotes spinal alignment and is often recommended for individuals seeking a neutral sleeping posture.
  3. Yearner Position Sleeper:
    • The yearner position is characterized by sleeping on one’s side with the arms extended forward.
    • The sleeper’s legs are straight or slightly bent, and the arms may be positioned as if reaching for something.
    • People who sleep in this position often have a friendly and open personality, but this is not a strict rule.
  4. Freefall Position Sleeper:
    • In the freefall position, the sleeper lies on their side with their arms and legs spread out.
    • The head is turned to the side, and the arms are either under the pillow or around it.
    • This position is less common and may not be as conducive to maintaining a straight spine.
  5. Hugger Position Sleeper:
    • A hugger position sleeper hugs a pillow or a body pillow while sleeping on their side.
    • The pillow is held close to the chest and stomach, which can provide additional comfort and support.
  6. Thinker Position Sleeper:
    • This position is similar to the fetal position, but with one arm extended forward instead of tucked close to the chest.
    • The thinker position may resemble someone in a contemplative pose, as if deep in thought.
  7. Full Lateral Position Sleeper:
    • This position involves sleeping on the side with both arms extended down along the body.
    • The legs are usually straight or slightly bent.
    • The full lateral position is akin to the log position, but with both arms down rather than close to the body.

It’s important to note that people often switch positions throughout the night without being aware of it. The key is to find a side sleeping position that feels most comfortable and supportive for your body. Additionally, investing in the right pillows and mattress can significantly enhance your side sleeping experience and contribute to better sleep quality.

Guide: How to Position Pillows When Sleeping on Your Side

Step 1: Choose the Right Pillows: Before diving into the specifics of pillow placement, it’s important to ensure that you have the right pillows. Look for pillows that are appropriately sized, firm enough to provide support, and comfortable enough to facilitate a restful sleep. Memory foam or latex pillows are often recommended for side sleepers due to their ability to conform to your body’s contours.

Step 2: Pillow Placement for Head and Neck Support:

  1. Main Pillow: Start by placing your main pillow under your head, ensuring that it adequately supports your neck and aligns your spine with your head. The height of the pillow should be such that your head remains in a neutral position – not too high or too low.
  2. Additional Pillow: To further support your head and neck, consider placing a smaller pillow or a rolled-up towel under the curve of your neck. This helps maintain the natural curvature of your spine and minimizes strain on your neck muscles.

Step 3: Pillow Placement for Proper Spinal Alignment:

  1. Body Pillow: To prevent your upper body from collapsing onto itself, place a body pillow or a large, supportive pillow between your knees. This helps align your hips and spine, reducing pressure on your lower back and promoting a more comfortable sleep.
  2. Arm Support: To prevent numbness or discomfort in your arms, consider hugging a soft pillow against your chest. This keeps your upper arm from pressing into your ribcage and restricts blood flow.

Step 4: Adjustments for Comfort:

  1. Head Tilt: If you find that your head tilts downward or upward excessively, adjust the height of your main pillow accordingly. The goal is to maintain a neutral head and neck position.
  2. Knee Pillow Height: Experiment with the height of the pillow between your knees. Some individuals prefer a thicker pillow, while others find comfort with a thinner one. Find what suits your body’s alignment best.
  3. Pillow Placements for Pregnancy: Pregnant side sleepers can benefit from additional pillows to support their growing bellies. Placing a pillow under the abdomen and between the knees can alleviate strain.

Step 5: Consistency and Personal Comfort: It’s important to note that finding the ideal pillow setup may require some trial and error. Pay attention to how your body feels each morning and make adjustments as needed. Your comfort is paramount, so personalize your pillow placement to suit your unique preferences.

Pros and Cons of Side Sleeping

Pros of Side Sleeping:

  1. Reduced Snoring and Sleep Apnea: Side sleeping can help reduce the occurrence of snoring and sleep apnea. This position keeps the airways open and allows for smoother airflow, decreasing the likelihood of breathing disruptions during sleep.
  2. Spinal Alignment: When done correctly with proper pillow support, side sleeping can promote better spinal alignment. It can help alleviate pressure on the lower back and reduce the risk of developing chronic back pain.
  3. Digestive Comfort: Sleeping on your left side may aid digestion by allowing the stomach to hang naturally and preventing stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus, which can be beneficial for individuals with acid reflux or heartburn.
  4. Reduced Heartburn: For those who experience heartburn, sleeping on the left side can help keep the stomach’s contents away from the lower esophageal sphincter, reducing the likelihood of acid reflux.
  5. Pregnancy Comfort: Side sleeping is often recommended for pregnant individuals, particularly on the left side. This position improves blood circulation to the placenta, kidneys, and fetus, while also preventing the weight of the uterus from putting pressure on major blood vessels.
  6. Cognitive Benefits: Some research suggests that sleeping on your side, especially the left side, may promote better brain waste clearance, potentially reducing the risk of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.

Cons of Side Sleeping:

  1. Shoulder and Hip Pressure: Depending on the mattress and pillow setup, side sleeping can sometimes lead to increased pressure on the shoulders and hips, which may result in discomfort or pain if not properly supported.
  2. Facial Wrinkles: Sleeping on your side can potentially lead to the development of wrinkles on the side of your face that’s pressed against the pillow. Over time, this repeated pressure can contribute to the formation of fine lines.
  3. Potential Arm Numbness: If you sleep with your arm under your pillow or head, you might experience numbness or tingling due to reduced blood circulation. Placing your arm in this position for an extended period can lead to discomfort.
  4. Breast Discomfort: For individuals with larger breasts, side sleeping can sometimes lead to breast discomfort, as the breasts are not evenly supported and may experience gravitational pressure.
  5. Uneven Facial Blood Flow: Sleeping on one side for prolonged periods can lead to uneven blood flow to the face, potentially causing puffiness or uneven skin tone.
  6. Possible Jaw Misalignment: Side sleeping, especially if accompanied by a pillow that doesn’t provide proper head and neck support, can lead to jaw misalignment and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) issues.


Proper pillow placement is a key factor in ensuring a comfortable and restful sleep when you’re a side sleeper. By using the right pillows and positioning them strategically, you can maintain proper spinal alignment, minimize pressure points, and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Remember that everyone’s body is unique, so take the time to experiment and fine-tune your pillow setup to find what works best for you. Your sleep quality and overall well-being will thank you for the effort.

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