Bedding

Bed Pillow Sizes Guide

By Carl Johnsen, January 22, 2021

While many people opt for a standard-size pillow as a universal solution, there are other pillow sizes available to accommodate different needs and mattresses. With that, pillow shopping involves more than merely selecting something that feels soft and comfy beneath your head—you also have to consider pillow sizes and how they’ll mesh with your mattress.

The thing is, most of us are not well-versed in pillow sizes, so we tend to just choose something we’re used to (such as a good ol’ standard-size pillow). To help you find a pillow that’s truly suited to your sleep needs, we’ve put together this guide with all of the details on the different pillow sizes available and who we recommend them for.

Pillow SizeDimensions (IN)Dimensions (CM)
Standard20 inches by 26 inches50.8 cm by 66 cm
Super Standard20 inches by 28 inches50.8 cm by 71 cm
Queen20 inches by 30 inches50.8 cm by 76.2 cm
King20 inches by 36 inches50.8 cm by 91.4 cm
Body20 inches by 54 inches50.8 cm by 137.2 cm

Standard

Standard pillows, the most common pillow size, measure 20 by 26 inches. They suit most sleeping positions; though, if you’re a combination sleeper and constantly shifting around in bed, a standard pillow may feel too small.

Standard pillows are available in a slightly longer variation—the super standard pillow—to accommodate those who toss and turn at night. Super standard pillows are 20 by 28 inches; this extra length makes it easier to change positions in bed without rolling off your pillow.

One standard pillow fits a single, twin, or twin XL bed, while two standard pillows fit a full bed. You can use two standard pillows on a queen bed, though this may leave a bit of space between the pillows. On a king or California king bed, use three standard pillows to ensure there’s no gap.

Both standard and super standard pillows fit in standard pillowcases, which are 20 to 30 inches.

Queen

Queen pillows are 20 by 30 inches, 4 inches longer than your standard pillow, and are for larger beds and restless sleepers. Queen pillows have extra width compared to a standard pillow to ensure your head does not slip off them while shifting in bed.

One queen pillow works on a twin or twin XL mattress. Two queen pillows fit across a queen well but are snugger on a full or double bed. You can use queen pillows on a king or California king bed, though there’ll be some space left between your pillows.

Queen pillowcases are uncommon, though queen pillows generally fit into standard size pillowcases perfectly fine. However, if your queen pillow has a high loft, a king size pillowcase will suit it better.

King

King pillows are 20 by 36 inches, making them 6 inches longer than queen pillows and 10 inches longer than standard pillows. The pillows fit into a king pillowcase, which measures 20 by 36 inches.

Due to their width, king pillows work well for sleepers who often move in bed. Alternatively, you can use king pillows as small body pillows or place them under your lower back while sitting upright in bed.

Two king pillows fit on a king, California king, or even a queen bed without leaving any space between the pillows. One king pillow fits a twin or twin XL bed with no open space.

Body

Body pillows are oversized pillows measuring 20 by 54 inches. Since they’re so big, they need special covers, and other large pillowcases, such as king pillowcases, won’t fit a body pillow.

You can rest across a body pillow vertically when side sleeping, tucking the top half under your head and the bottom half between your knees. Or, you can use a body pillow horizontally to support your lower back when you’re sitting upright in bed.

For side sleepers, using a body pillow between your knees relieves hip and spine pressure and prevents sore muscles. If you’re pregnant, you might enjoy using a body pillow as it’ll support the weight of your belly and can relieve any pain to your back and spine. Also, body pillows lift your head up slightly, improving blood flow and minimizing acid reflux symptoms, issues pregnant women commonly face.

When using body pillows vertically, they fit any standard size mattress. When used horizontally, they work on full beds and larger.

Pillow Loft

Pillow loft refers to the height of a pillow when it’s lying flat. A pillow’s fill power affects its height—more fill power equals a higher loft. Having the proper pillow loft is vital to receiving the appropriate head and neck support; incorrect loft size can cause discomfort and may lead to snoring.

Choose a pillow loft based on the position you sleep in:

  • Side sleepers: Choose a high loft pillow (5 to 7 inches) to fill the space between your head and the mattress. This way, your head and neck stay in line with your spine while you’re asleep. To minimize potential pain from your hips, shoulders, and spine, try also using a medium to thin loft pillow between your knees.
  • Back sleepers: Medium loft (4 to 5 inches) pillows provide balanced support for back sleepers. If you’re struggling with back pain, you might benefit from placing a second medium loft pillow under your knees to reduce tension in your back and hips.
  • Stomach sleepers: A thin loft (less than 3 inches) pillow works best for stomach sleeping. You may try placing a medium loft pillow under your stomach as well to relieve pressure from your lower back.
  • Combination sleepers: Pillow loft for combo sleepers is a little tricky as it depends on your primary sleeping position. If you mainly switch between back and side sleeping, consider using a higher loft pillow (5 inches), while if you switch between side and stomach sleeping, you may use a lower loft pillow (4 inches).

Pillow Fillings

A pillow’s filling affects its firmness and feel, as well as how long it lasts. The various fillings come with their advantages and disadvantages, such as high prices or heat retention.

Down

Down is a super-soft filling made using the feathers from duck or goose bellies. This filling is very breathable, durable, and fluffy. When shopping for a down pillow, look for ones filled with at least 75 percent down for the best temperature regulation. However, the more down filling a pillow has, the more expensive it’ll be.

Down Alternative

Down alternative is a hypoallergenic and affordable alternative to down. It typically has synthetic fills such as rayon, polyester, and cotton. Down alternative pillows are easier than down to maintain, though they’re less breathable and lose their shape sooner.

Memory Foam

Memory foam is a dense and moldable material made to contour around your head and provide excellent pressure relief for your neck and spine. Memory foam is available in two forms: as a foam block, for a more firm and uniform foundation, or shredded foam, a more malleable and adjustable surface.

Microbead

Microbeads, or uniform polymer particles, are small plastic balls used to fill a pillow. They’re solid, yet malleable, and provide good airflow so you won’t sleep hot. However, microbeads are quick to lose volume and are harmful to the environment and marine life.

Polyester

Polyester pillows are inexpensive, machine washable, and hypoallergenic. However, they’re rather poor quality and do not last long compared to other fillings. Since polyester pillows are quick to become flat and lumpy, your head and neck won’t be well-supported and this can cause your spine to fall out of alignment. While the pillows are fairly lightweight, they’re not breathable and retain body heat, so you might sleep hot.

Types of Specialty Pillows

Specialty pillows cater to specific needs or uses, whether you’re looking to improve any sleep disorders or add a decorative flair to your bedroom.

Orthopedic

Orthopedic pillows help relieve issues such as neck or back stiffness, sleep apnea, and joint pain. They come in different shapes based on your specific problem so your body is adequately supported. Several types of orthopedic pillows include wedge pillows, lumbar pillows, cervical pillows, and knee pillows.

European

European pillows are 25 by 25 inches and are mainly for decoration in your bedroom or living room. They use a pillow sham as opposed to a pillowcase, because the shams are decorative and used for style as opposed to comfort and practicality. European pillows also work as a prop when you’re reading a book or using a laptop.

Travel

Travel pillows are 11 inches by 16 inches, and as you might imagine, well-suited for traveling; that said, they also work well as regular pillows for small children. These pillows fit easily on carry-ons and are comfortable to use in the car. Plus, they’re a comfier alternative to neck pillows, especially when you’re traveling long distances or if you prefer to use your own pillow at a hotel.

FAQs

How many pillows are too many?

While lots of people feel like they need to sleep with multiple pillows for better comfort, you really only need one pillow under your head; and that one pillow is supposed to keep your head and neck in line with your spine. Any extra pillows under your head can throw your body out of alignment, straining your neck, shoulders, and spine.

You may sleep with two pillows as a side sleeper: one pillow under your head and one pillow between your knees. Back sleepers can also sleep with two pillows: one under the head and one under the knees.

Stomach sleeping isn’t advised, but those who prefer snoozing flat on their bellies can enjoy better spinal alignment by sliding a pillow beneath their torso. Stomach sleepers are the only ones who can get away with sleeping without a pillow under their head, though.

If your pillows are so thin to the point where you need to layer multiple pillows for your neck to stay in line with your spine, it may be time for a new pillow.

Should your shoulders be on your pillow when sleeping?

No, regardless of your sleeping position, your pillow should be right above your shoulders when you sleep. Your head and neck should be at the bottom edge of your pillow to receive proper support and stay in line with your shoulders and spine.

Is it healthy to sleep without a pillow?

Sleeping without a pillow is only comfortable if you sleep on your stomach, though using a thin pillow is also comfortable if you’re a stomach sleeper. However, side and back sleeping without a pillow will merely lead to issues such as muscle stiffness or neck pain. Pillows help keep your spine neutral, so without one, you may be overextending your neck and spine while you sleep.

How often should I replace my pillows?

As a general rule of thumb, replace your pillows every 1 to 2 years. Old pillows are less hygienic and unsupportive, leading to cramping and pain in your neck and shoulders. Some signs you need a new pillow include:

  • Your pillow has gone flat or lumpy.
  • Your pillow has yellow stains (due to body sweat and oils).
  • You wake up with headaches or achy muscles.
  • You can easily fold your pillow in half.
  • You experience allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itchy throat and eyes, and runny nose.

Washing your pillows every 4 to 6 months maintains them and keeps them clean, though all pillows eventually wear out.

Why do my pillowcases fall off?

You may find your pillowcases constantly sliding around or slipping off if you’re a restless sleeper and constantly moving in bed. Pillowcases without closures, such as an inner flap, zipper, buttons, or ties, are the most likely to come off while you’re asleep. You can purchase enclosed pillowcases or sew buttons or Velcro strips onto your current pillowcase to keep your pillows in place.

Conclusion

When deciding on your pillow size and loft, choose it based on your bed’s size and the position you sleep in rather than just reaching for a generic pillow. This way, you can sleep more comfortably and have a pillow fitted for your mattress. Remember, your pillow should have enough filling for your sleeping position to ensure your head and neck stay in line with your spine.

If you’re a restless sleeper, try using larger pillows to prevent yourself from rolling off your pillows while sleeping. When looking to relieve particular needs or issues, you might need to choose an orthopedic pillow such as a wedge or lumbar pillow.

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