Pillows are key to keeping your spine aligned and body comfortable overnight. But we didn’t want to just lump all pillows together—after all, stomach sleepers have different needs in terms of pillow support than side sleepers and back sleepers, so we tested pillows for each position separately.
Stomach sleepers—by most estimates, less than 10% of people—are dealt an interesting hand when it comes to pillows. Some experts say that people who prefer this position can even get by without one at all. But for those who prefer a cradle for their head, choosing the right pillow for stomach sleepers can be a real challenge. I should know: I’m a part-time stomach sleeper myself. After months of rigorously testing pillows (tough job!), the Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow(available at Coop Home Goods) came out on top for stomach sleepers because of its balanced combination of plush comfort and gentle support, and its customizable fill level—plus the whole ensemble is machine-washable. We tested pillows made from a spectrum of materials, and found something for everyone—including the AmazonBasics Down Alternative Pillows in Soft Density(available at Amazon), which are an unbeatable deal for anyone on a budget, or looking for pillows to serve decorative purposes.
Here are the best pillows for stomach sleepers we tested ranked, in order:
Brooklinen Plush Down Pillow
Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow
Original Casper Pillow
Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
AmazonBasics Down Alternative Pillow Soft Density
MyPillow Giza Elegance
Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow
The Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow is our top choice for its versatility, comfort, and all-around excellent performance. Its adjustable filling is a major plus for all sleep positions, but especially stomach sleepers. I loved the pillow’s super soft case but was skeptical after first opening it because it has a gusset (a rectangular strip of fabric sewn around the pillow’s perimeter). Gusset construction isn’t considered ideal for stomach sleepers because the added dimension can push your neck and head up into an uncomfortable position.
But my worries were for naught. The pillow is great—likely because you can customize the amount of stuffing, and this type, shredded foam, provided some give under the weight of my head without totally dispersing, like other fluffy fills can. In addition, the foam shreds are easy to remove by the handful to meet personal comfort and preferences (though putting stuffing back in is a chore). I jam-packed a standard plastic grocery bag with excess filling before the pillow was the right loft for my preferences. Afterwards, I redistributed and smoothed down the stuffing in the pillow, a minor inconvenience that was worth the awesome sleep I got using it. Though the pillow claims to have cooling qualities, I didn’t notice it as I slept, nor did the pillow diffuse heat in lab testing—but it also didn’t warm or retain heat in either setting.
The pillow is also machine-washable, unlike many foam-filled and down pillows. The outer cover is removable for regular cleaning, and the whole thing may go in the laundry, with a few caveats. The company recommends machine-washing the entire pillow just once a year, and before throwing it in the machine, you need to secure the zipper with a safety pin. That means it's still the best practice to encase the pillow with an additional zippered protective covering (under your regular pillowcase), particularly for those with allergies.
Given its adjustability and machine-friendliness, this pillow is a great bet for any stomach sleepers looking for something new to snuggle their face into at night. Plus, with a generous 100-night warranty, you can tinker, adjust, and fluff to your heart’s desire and until you achieve a pillow worthy of your dreams.
The absolute best value for stomach sleepers would be no pillow at all, as many can get by without using one. But, if you, like me, prefer to have a little something buffering your head from your mattress but you don’t want to break the bank, we think the two-pack of AmazonBasics Down Alternative Pillows in Soft Density are a good buy. Their plush texture made them welcoming to settle into, and I found they provided sufficient support throughout the night. I didn’t frequently awake to make adjustments to my position or to the pillow throughout the night, nor did I feel uncomfortable or poorly rested in the morning.
Other pillows out-performed them in terms of comfort, and Amazon suggests giving these a 24-hour puffing period before sleeping on them that first night as well as regular fluffing to keep them lofty. Also, in lab testing, the pillows retained a little bit of heat though I didn't notice feeling hot-headed in my sleep tests. For the price, they're a great option for folks who don't use a pillow all the time, who prefer to replace pillows more frequently or to use in guest rooms, or as fillings for decorative pillows.
The AmazonBasics pillows carry a standard 30-day return policy. A customer service representative said they could be returned even if the package is open and you’ve tried the pillows.
The Brooklinen down pillow line comes in three densities: plush, mid-plush, and firm. For stomach sleepers, we tested the “plush” option, as it's softer and thinner so as to avoid propping up the head and neck too high—and I’m sure glad we did. As a life-long down devotee, I loved the Brooklinen. When you imagine a down pillow that’s soft and squishy and pleasantly compresses under your hand or head, this is it. Down fill is a great option for stomach sleepers precisely because of its give and softness, making this a top choice, especially for those who prefer sleeping on this natural fiber.
One of the biggest negatives of this pillow (and most down) is that it generally can’t be washed—it’s spot-clean or dry-clean only. That said, the company claims the pillow is treated with “antimicrobials,” which help inhibit the growth of bacteria. The fluff is encased in a 400 thread-count cotton sateen fabric, and a representative says they’re rarely contacted by customers about feathers poking out (an issue that warranty would cover, anyway). While cleaning is difficult, if you keep your pillow in a pillow protector (in addition to your pillowcase), it should provide the down filling with sufficient buffer against invading dust and allergens. The pillow comes with a generous 365-day return policy regardless of its condition, so if you find it isn’t working for you within a year of purchase, the company will take it back—but we don’t think you’ll want to give it up.
I’m Lindsey Vickers, the sleep writer here at Reviewed. I cover everything from meditation apps to sleep podcasts and, of course, the basics like mattresses and sheets. I’m a hybrid sleeper and flip between stomach sleeping and side sleeping depending on the day and was excited to catch some ZZZs on pillows made especially for folks who prefer this less common position.
For two months I rotated dozens of pillows in and out of my apartment, sleeping on each for at least two nights. During my time with the pillows, I considered fundamental questions, including whether the pillow was comfortable and sufficiently supportive from the moment my head touched down on the fluff until my alarm went off; how customizable it was (and if the process of removing stuffing was easy); if it got hot overnight; how well the pillow’s performance matched company claims; the usefulness of any special features; whether it was lumpy and if the lumps could be smoothed away; and so on.
Afterward, I lugged the pillows to our lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts where senior scientist Julia MacDougall gave them her standardized testing treatment. She checked them for heat retention with temperature sensors and a heated blanket; weighted them down overnight to assess how well the material responded and sprung back the next day; and washed them, per label instructions, to make sure the pillows didn’t lose shape or loft, shrink, or clump up.
What to Know About Choosing Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Stomach sleepers, who may only account for less than 10% of people, might not want or need a pillow at all: The purpose of pillows is to serve as a prop for aligning the spine during sleep, which could be supported just fine by the mattress alone when sleeping in this position. But for those who do, there are a surprising number of considerations. For one, pillows should be replaced every one to two years, says John McKeon, CEO of Allergy Standards Limited speaking for The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)—more frequently than most people do it.
Not to rain on your parade, my fellow stomach sleeper, but it’s worth mentioning that experts almost universally recommend against sleeping in this position because of the potential neck strain and spinal stress. Indeed, spinal alignment is an uphill battle for stomach sleepers, especially when head support is concerned: Your neck can be pushed up uncomfortably with a too-thick pillow, so you need a thin pillow that has just enough substance to support—especially if your mattress is soft, to prevent your head from sinking in.
Pillow fills and designs have unique and distinct benefits and create different sensations when they cradle your head as you rest.
Down has long dominated the pillow industry as a fill. It can lend a softer surface that gives way under pressure, making it a good choice for stomach sleeping. Some consider it less durable over time because the delicate feathers become permanently compressed after a year or so of use, but this isn’t a major concern for stomach sleepers, as pillow loft and its longevity are not key concerns. Down pillows also frequently fall on the pricier side and are more difficult to wash, often requiring dry cleaning.
Down alternative is most often made from polyester or a rayon-polyester blend. This filling aims to replicate the feel of a down pillow, often for a lower price. While down-alternative products are thought to be better for people with allergies, research has shown that they may actually trap more allergens than down bedding, McKeon says, though further research is needed. The build-up may be due to manufacturers’ use of looser weave encasements as compared to traditional down pillows, which are generally tucked in tightly woven fabric to prevent the feathers from escaping.
Solid-foam pillows are made of a single, thick piece of foam, or several layers of it fused together. Sometimes they’re molded into a contoured shape, while other times they take the form of a massive sponge. They can feel spongy as well, providing a light springiness, or may be made with compressible, cradling memory foam. Solid-foam pillows are plagued by one of the same issues foam mattresses face: They may smell bad for a period after being opened due to off-gassing. More often than not, foam pillows aren’t cushy or thin enough and leave stomach sleepers’ necks craned upward.
Shredded foam pillows feel more like down or down-alternative pillows, as opposed to those made of solid foam. These pillows are often adjustable and may come overfilled and even with extra stuffing so that you can add or take away fill until to find your perfect loft and feel. For that reason, they can appeal to a large audience. Stomach sleepers will most likely want to remove fill, not add or even keep the level the same, upon the pillow’s arrival.
Adjustable or customizable pillows offer you the option to remove stuffing, layers of padding, or other types of fill. They're a great option to ensure you can get just the right fit. For stomach sleepers, a customized pillow may wind up looking scant once you’ve had your way, but with the excess you remove, it may give you the option to save the abundant excess and later change out all the stuffing, if you’d like!
Temperature and Pillows
There’s more substantial evidence supporting temperature’s role in sleep quality than in the need to avoid blue light before bed. Pillows can play a major role in keeping your body cool overnight by way of your head. Cooling caps have even been shown to help insomniacs doze off, so if you run hot, prioritizing a pillow you can chill with—or at least one that won’t heat you up—may improve your sleep quality.
For the most part, the majority of pillows we tested for stomach sleepers didn’t diffuse heat but they also didn’t retain it, in our lab tests. The one exception was the Purple Pillow, which noticeably held onto the heat generated by our test electric blanket, despite company claims that the design provides cooling.
Caring for and Cleaning Your Pillow
As mentioned, you should consider replacing your pillow every couple of years, depending on the material and a handful of other factors. However, there are other things you should be doing with your pillow during the year or so you spend with it.
Regularly cleaning your pillows can help prevent the build-up of dust and allergens, and may actually prolong their lifespan. Experts recommend everyone wash their pillows at least twice a year (but don’t feel bad if you haven’t been—even I don't clean pillow frequently enough). People with allergies should wash their pillow more often—every four weeks, according to McKeon. So, buying a machine-washable pillow can encourage the practice by making it easier than buying pillows that require dry cleaning.
Solid-foam and down are great fills for sleeping, but they’re often less washable than down-alternative and shredded-foam pillows, making them harder to keep clean. For pillows that aren’t machine-washable, it’s even more important to keep them encased in zippered protective covers (plus your regular pillowcases) and wash the covers frequently.
When shopping for a cover to prevent allergy build-up, look for tightly woven fabrics to prevent dust mite and dust build up in pillows. High-density microfiber weaves can block allergens from passing through, because the weave is inherently tight given the tiny circumference of the yarn. You can also shop for products that specifically advertise allergy and dust-mite control qualities. The American Allergy and Asthma Foundation certifies products, and can be a good resource to find pillow protectors to keep your sneezes at bay.
Other Pillows We Tested
Original Casper Pillow
The Casper outranks many of the other pillows we tested for stomach sleepers with one major caveat: I was using it wrong. The Original Casper Pillow comes with two parts, an outer fluffy layer and an inner core designed to provide support. Together, the pillow is far too tall for most stomach sleepers, myself included, so I took it apart and slept on just the inner core for my stomach-sleeping tests. And I liked it! The inner core of the Casper was flat enough that my neck wasn’t pushed up or drooping down throughout the night. But while Casper acknowledges it can be used in that manner, it’s not what it was designed for, and it loses some of the purported properties, like cooling and the blended supportive and plush design. I tested the pillow for side sleeping, as well, and even when I used it as designed, I didn’t experience the cooling effects claimed, so taking it apart I didn’t feel I’d actually “lost” that feature.
Nonetheless, we don’t necessarily recommend stomach sleepers splurge on a pillow that you’re likely going to take apart, especially when there are better options, like our picks above. Still, if you want to give it a run for its money, Casper has a 100-night sleep trial.
The Xtreme Comforts pillow, our former top-pick pillow, didn’t rank lower on the list because it was uncomfortable—it was due to the serious stench it produced for days after being opened. I gave in after nearly a week of it sitting in my living room, airing out, before sleeping on it. But even then, it still smelled. When I left it on my bed during the day and hid my pajamas underneath it, they came out smelling like pillow foam that evening (yuck).
The pillow is adjustable, which makes it good at accommodating stomach sleepers, but it’s finicky to remove foam because some of the foam shreds are no bigger than a grain of rice. (The more substantial shreds of the similar-but-better Coop Eden are way easier to manage.) I worried as little pieces fell on the couch that my curious cat would eat them.
If you’re willing to tolerate a smelly pillow for a while or have the time to air it out, and you don’t mind tinkering to perfect its comfort, this could be a solid option at a lower price than our top pick. But those may be big “if”s.
Smelly for days after opening
Tiny fill shreds were difficult to remove
MyPillow Giza Elegance
The MyPillow was fine for stomach sleeping, but it’s so thin and flimsy that I think you’re just as well off sleeping without a pillow and saving your money. It didn’t provide me any noticeable support or make a significant difference in my neck’s position from the moment my head touched down, and the stuffing seemed to migrate further and further from my head each time I slept on it. Yet whenever I tried to fluff it to redistribute the fill, it remained clumpy and unevenly dispersed.
The pillow is good in that it didn’t smell, and it didn’t take a toll on my sleep quality—but it also didn’t improve it. If you try it and agree with me, you can get a refund within 30 days, but a hefty $9.99 return shipping fee will be deducted from the money you get back.
The Tempur-Cloud pillow is great for a lot of things, but stomach sleeping is not one of them. In keeping with the typical issues that solid-foam pillows present for stomach sleepers, I found it was too thick and pushed my neck up into an uncomfortable position.
Each night I slept on this pillow, I only made it through a few hours before waking up to change to my personal pillow, and even after swapping them out, I still felt a crick in my neck come morning. The pillow has more give than typical solid-foam pillows, which should make it better for stomach sleeping, but I still think most stomach sleepers will find it too lofty for comfort. What’s more, you can’t return Tempur-Pedic pillows once they’ve been used, unless there are manufacturer defects, so you either use it or lose out on the cash you put forward.
I had the same concerns and skepticism about the Purple Pillow as other solid-foam pillows that are advertised for “all” sleep positions. Testing this pillow wasn’t easy—I couldn’t even doze off while using this pillow, which I found both too tall and insufficiently squishy, pushing my head and neck up at an awkward angle. I watch Netflix in bed (terrible sleep hygiene, I know), but I couldn’t even lie comfortably on my stomach with this pillow for the duration of two 20-minute episodes of "Schitt’s Creek," let alone sleep on it. Nonetheless, one Reviewed staff member has the pillow and loves it, but he favors side sleeping.
The Purple Pillow has two removable pads to lower the height, but I felt that they made almost no difference—the pillow was still far too tall for comfort. This is also a beast of a pillow, weighing over 11 pounds. Purple offers a 100-night sleep trial, so if you decide it’s worth the shot but it doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to return it.
Lindsey writes about sleep, lifestyle, and more for Reviewed. In her waking hours, she likes to spend time outside, read, cook, and bake. She holds a master’s in journalism from Boston University and bachelors' degrees in English Literature and Anthropology from the University of Utah.
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