Should I sleep with a pillow under my back?

Sleeping is one of the most vital processes of our lives, impacting everything from our mental clarity to our overall health. The way we sleep, including our choice of pillows, mattresses, and sleep positions, can either promote a restful night or contribute to various health issues.

One often debated topic is whether one should sleep with a pillow under the back. This guide will provide an in-depth look at the pros and cons of this practice, and for whom it might be most beneficial.

Should I sleep with a pillow under my back? – Direct answer

Whether or not one should sleep with a pillow under their back largely depends on individual comfort, sleep position, and any existing health conditions. For many, the primary purpose of a pillow is to ensure the neck and spine remain aligned, minimizing stress and strain.

When sleeping on your back, placing a small pillow under the lumbar region (lower back) can help maintain the spine’s natural curve, offering relief to some people, especially if they tend to experience lower back discomfort. However, a pillow under the back might not be suitable for everyone. Over-elevating the back can disrupt spinal alignment for some individuals.

Those with specific health issues, such as herniated discs or other back problems, should consult with a healthcare professional before making any significant changes to their sleeping posture.

In general, it’s essential to prioritize comfort and ensure that your sleep position doesn’t contribute to any pain or discomfort. If you’re considering sleeping with a pillow under your back, it’s best to start with a thinner pillow and pay close attention to how your body responds.

Who should consider using a pillow under the back?

Using a pillow under the back can be beneficial for various reasons, and several groups of people might find this helpful. Here are some individuals or circumstances where placing a pillow under the back can be considered:

  1. Lower Back Pain Sufferers: Those who suffer from lumbar pain might find relief by placing a small pillow or a lumbar roll in the curve of their lower back. This can provide additional support, helping to maintain the spine’s natural curvature.
  2. Pregnant Women: Many pregnant women experience back pain due to the increased weight and shift in their center of gravity. A pillow can offer added support to the back when sitting or lying down.
  3. Post-surgical Patients: After certain types of surgeries, maintaining a specific posture can be crucial for recovery. A pillow can help ensure the patient stays in the recommended position.
  4. Office Workers: Many people who sit for long periods, especially those using non-ergonomic chairs, may benefit from lumbar support to maintain an upright posture.
  5. Side Sleepers: Though it’s more common for side sleepers to put a pillow between their knees, some might also benefit from a small pillow or support behind their back to prevent them from rolling onto their back while sleeping.
  6. Drivers: Individuals who spend a lot of time driving can benefit from lumbar support pillows to reduce the strain on their lower back.
  7. Elderly Individuals: As we age, our spines can lose some of their natural curvature. A pillow can offer additional support and comfort.
  8. People with certain medical conditions: Individuals with conditions like sciatica, herniated discs, or other spinal issues might find that a pillow offers relief by providing additional support or by helping to distribute pressure more evenly.
  9. Athletes or Active Individuals: After strenuous activity, some people might find comfort in using a pillow to support their back while they rest and recover.
  10. People with Poor Posture: For those trying to correct or improve their posture, a pillow can act as a reminder to sit up straight and provide the necessary support to do so.

Before making changes to your sleeping or sitting habits, especially if you’re doing it for medical reasons, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs and situation.

5 Tips for Effective Use of pillow under your back

Certainly! If you’re considering using a pillow under your back for improved sleep quality or spinal support, here are five essential tips to ensure its effective use:

  1. Choose the Right Pillow
  • Type: It’s crucial to pick a pillow designed specifically for lumbar or back support. These pillows often have a contoured design that matches the natural curve of your spine.
  • Material: Opt for a pillow made of memory foam or other adaptive materials that can mold to the shape of your back while providing firm support. Avoid pillows that are too soft or too firm.
  1. Correct Positioning
  • Placement: For lower back support, the pillow should be positioned under the lumbar region, which is the curve in your lower back just above the hip area.
  • Orientation: Ensure the pillow aligns with the natural curve of your spine. If it feels like it’s pushing against or creating a gap from your back, adjust its position.
  1. Start Gradually

If you’re not accustomed to using a pillow under your back, start by using it for shorter periods. For example, you can begin with 20-30 minutes of rest or relaxation and gradually increase the time as you feel comfortable.

  1. Combine with Other Supportive Practices
  • Overall Bedding: Ensure that your mattress is supportive and suitable for your body type and preferred sleeping position. Sometimes, a mattress topper can also enhance comfort.
  • Pillow under Knees: If you’re a back sleeper, consider placing another pillow under your knees. This can reduce the strain on your lower back by allowing the spine to maintain a more neutral position.
  1. Regularly Assess Comfort and Pain Levels
  • Listen to Your Body: Your comfort should be the primary indicator. If you feel any discomfort or strain, adjust the pillow or consider removing it.
  • Consult Professionals: If you have chronic back pain or other health concerns, it’s always a good idea to consult with a physiotherapist or chiropractor. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific needs.


How do I choose the right pillow to place under my back?

When selecting a pillow for under your back, consider its thickness and firmness. Ideally, the pillow should support the natural curve of your spine without elevating it excessively. Memory foam pillows or contoured pillows can be particularly effective as they mold to the shape of your back, providing tailored support. Experiment with different types and consult with a healthcare professional if in doubt.

Can placing a pillow under my back help with sciatica or other back-related issues?

For some individuals, placing a pillow under the lumbar region can provide relief from symptoms associated with conditions like sciatica, as it can help in aligning the spine and reducing pressure on the sciatic nerve. However, the effectiveness of this approach varies among individuals. It’s crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or physiotherapist for personalized advice.

Can I use a regular head pillow for my back?

While it’s possible to use a standard pillow, it might not offer the specific support the lumbar region requires. Head pillows can sometimes be too thick or soft, which could lead to misalignment. If you choose to use one, ensure it’s the right thickness and provides adequate support without over-elevating the back. A specialized lumbar or orthopedic pillow might be a better choice for targeted back support.


Sleeping with a pillow under the back can provide added comfort and support for many individuals, especially those with specific back-related conditions. However, the key is to choose the right kind of pillow and position it correctly to ensure optimal spinal alignment. It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before making significant changes to one’s sleep posture to ensure health and comfort.

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