A good night’s rest is only as good as the products you use to support your sleep comfort. Although everyone’s comfort is as unique as they are, your sleep position and posture are highly influential upon how well you rest. Interrupted or restless sleep is often associated with discomfort, and discomfort often begins with poor sleep product choices.
Mattresses are not the only comfort surface that influences how well you sleep. Often overlooked is how important your pillow is to your sleep position.
Since it cradles and supports your head and neck, care with both its shape and loft should be taken to ensure you are keeping your spine in alignment while you sleep.
Thin pillows are often the preferred choice of back and stomach sleepers, and The Sleep Judge has purchased some of the top rated thin pillows in the current sleep industry. Our honest opinion of The Pancake Pillow is found below, along with a review of all it has to offer.
Breakdown of The Pancake Pillow
The Pancake Pillow was created to meet the needs of varied sleep positions without having to invest in a variety of different pillow types. Since many people buy what they believe to be comforting, only to discover it wasn’t what they were looking for- the company felt that creating a product you couldn’t throw your money away on might be popular with consumers.
The Pancake Pillow is series of soft layers that you can stack to adjust your own loft and levels of comfort. And so far this idea has been rather popular since the pillow is adjustable to varying levels of height from thin and soft to extra lofty and firm. This helps create a customizable experience for all combinations of sleep positions.
It is also considered a 5 star, hotel quality pillow due to its overall construction and material choices. This innovative, stackable idea is certainly unique to meet the needs of unique body preferences.
The pillow comes nicely packaged in its own durable plastic carrying case. Slight offgassing due to packaging perhaps. This case is very helpful in storing the layers of the pillow if, or when, you remove any.
Features & Benefits
Back and stomach sleepers need a thinner pillow choice to help keep their spine in alignment through the night and avoid causing extra stress or strain upon the back. Finding a true thin pillow can often be difficult, which is why we have reviewed a variety of top picks.
Although this pillow is an excellent choice for all sleep positions preferences, due to its construction you also can create one of the thinnest, polyfill layers available on the current market. Taking the time to review and understand what makes this pillow stand up to company claims is well worth the effort in order to get the best product possible for your specific needs.
We’ve provided a run-down of the features and benefits of this particular pillow to give you an honest opinion all in one spot. Below are the details and reasons why we choose this particular pillow to share with you.
The Pancake Pillow comes in two sizes: a standard/queen and a king size pillow. The first measures 18×26 inches, with the king coming in at 18×34 inches. Which is only slightly smaller than the industry standard of 20×30 and 20×36 inches respectively. I noticed no difference in my trial run with the standard/queen size than my other pillows, and it seemed plenty big to accommodate any nocturnal movement.
What I did notice was once you have about 4 layers in use, it does become a bit lofty and will fit more snugly in a queen size pillow case. There is no way I would have been able to fit the pillow in one with more than 4 layers, which makes me think a king size pillowcase would be needed for the pillow if all 6 layers are in use. I’m not sure what you would use for a king size pillow in this situation as it may be too big to really fit in a pillowcase.
Stackable ‘Pancake’ Layers For Adjustable Loft
The term loft is used to describe how high a pillow measures when placed upon a flat surface. This pillow has a fully adjustable loft and can be as thin as 2 inches in height, or as tall as 9 inches. What makes this pillow stand out from other adjustable pillows is that the adjustability is determined by a series of 6 separate, 2 inch loft thin pillows that you can stack to create your ideal height and firmness. Understandably, the higher you stack, the higher the loft, and the more firm the surface due to compression of the material.
This is much different than other adjustable pillows is that it is much easier, and much, much less messy to get to your desired comfort. Most adjustable pillows, although comfortable, use shredded memory foam that you can remove, or add to, to get the feel you want. This foam needs to be stored after removal (since you may not want to toss it if you ever need to add some back), and can be slightly difficult to contain.
I had no problems removing or adding layers, although I found that you had to be careful zipping the casing back up because it was easy to catch the pillow side in it. It reminded me a little bit like zipping up a sleeping bag where we had to make sure that the the zipper is well lined up.
I was curious to know exactly what heights and comfort levels each ‘stack’ would be, so I decided to measure them out. Of course, as I stacked the measurements reflected the compression of one atop another:
1 Layer: ~2” height, soft
2 Layers: 3.5” height, soft
3 Layers: 4.5” height, medium soft
4 Layers: 6” height, medium plush
5 Layers: 7.5” height, medium firm
6 Layers: ~8.5” height, firm
100% Cotton, 300 Thread-Count Cover
Cotton is amongst the most breathable of all fibers that can be used within a fabric to allow for moisture wicking and air flow properties. What your pillow is encased in is especially important to avoid the creation of heat sinks due to the proximity of your body against another surface. Breathable fabrics help keep these type of heat retention problems from occurring, especially if they are woven with a cooler night’s sleep in mind.
The weave of this case is also only a 300 thread-count, which ensures the free flow of air through the material. Contrary to popular belief, a higher thread count does not always equal a higher quality. A high thread count only describes how closely together the threads are woven, which often creates a heavier feel to the fabric- but it also creates less space for air to flow through it.
This case also has a three-sided zipper in order to better access the layers of pillows, and make it easy to add, or remove, layers as needed. The seams are also double stitched to keep the pillow durable through its use and are sewn to create a pocket for the zipper to lie in. This keeps it protected, lying flat, and helps it from snagging on anything.
3.5 inch Gusseted Sidewalls
The 3.5 inch gusseted sidewalls are excellent additions to help accommodate the height of the pillow due to how the pillow layers stack one upon the other. This gusset plays another important role, however. Side sleepers often need this type of pillow construction to provide proper distribution of pillow fill. As they lay their head down upon the side, a supportive pillow will also fill in the area between the head and shoulder to cradle and allow the neck to rest. A sidewalls helps ensure this space is evenly filled it and contoured to avoid stress being placed upon soft tissues, and causing a misalignment of the cervical spine.
Ultra Soft, Gel-Fiber Down Alternative Fill
The fill of each pillow is made of a soft down alternative microfiber polyester. These thin threads of synthetic poly-fill are strong, to withstand pressure and regular compression; soft, to allow for plumping and a comfortable feel against your skin; and naturally hypoallergenic and microbial resistant, to keep you free from allergen symptoms and sleeping through the night.
What’s more, this fill is also a gel infused poly, which is a synthetic material that is able to help draw heat from your skin surface to provide a cooling sensation. This cooler sleep is possible through the science of heat conduction, a process that allows for heat to transfer from one warmer object, to a cooler one when they are in contact with one another. Gel is able to do so and then store the heat away to dissipate into a cooler atmosphere.
This filling also enables you to adjust your comfort level. A layer or two creates a very soft surface, with each added layer creating a more firm surface as shown above. It did take me a bit of playing around over the course of a few nights to really find what was comfortable for me. It was a bit annoying to me as I usually like most things done right the first time, but was well worth the effort it took to find exactly what worked best and in what sleep position.
Another major selling point is the machine washability of the pillow itself! If your pillow layers become dirty, or simply need refreshing, you can wash them gently in cool water and then tumble dry without any worry of pillow lumpiness. To test this out I went ahead and laundered one of the layers without any problems. It washed well and dried on an air dry tumble. When done it felt like it had before washing.
The entire case is machine wash and dryable. It serves two purposes: to protect the pillow inside, as well as to help keep the layers well shaped and held in place. The pillow is expected to get much use, and the added use for adjustability creates even more opportunity to get dirty. Therefor it is important be able to wash the casing as needed for hygienic purposes.
I really like the soft, smooth feel of the casings as they were cool to the touch and allowed my own personal pillow case to slide easily over so as not to lose the overall fabric experience.
This pillow has been around for a few years now and seems to be a pretty well known, and liked, product. The unique style and adjustability is what has people paying attention, and as many consumer reviews have mentioned, if you take the time to find what works for you- you probably will like it too. Those who like the pillow love how versatile it is, and how you can easily make a soft, thin pillow for a stomach or back sleeper, or a more plush pillow for side sleepers.
The only major downfall mentioned in reviews that if you are looking for a firm, thin pillow, or a soft, thick pillow- this isn’t going to work out for you. This is how most adjustable pillows end up working out however, and the filling is a soft alternative to other product types. The slight offgassing I noticed was also noticed by other consumers, but it does seem to be the packaging as it dissipates almost immediately after opening.
30 Day Return of Unused Product
The pillow is returnable within 30 days. But depending on who you purchase your pillow from determines if it needs to be turned in an unused state, or for any reason whatsoever. Be sure to closely read any return policies to make sure you know which category you fall under as one is basically run as a risk-free sleep trial with a money back guarantee, and the other not so much.
I will point out here that consumers rave about how awesome the customer service of the company actually is, so perhaps in may not matter much in the long run if you are willing to speak directly with the returns department.
My Trial Experiences
I am a stomach sleeper and so was pretty excited to try out this pillow since finding a true thin pillow is a bit difficult unless you are searching online. The first thing I had to do when I unpacked the pillow was take it apart and feel how the different layers worked for various sleep positions, and to determine how many layers I wanted to use for my trials.
This is what I ended up going with, although everyone’s preference will be different from one another due to personal comfort needs:
Stomach sleeping: 2 layers
Back sleeping: 3 layers
Side sleeping: 4 layers
One thing I did notice, which really wasn’t a big deal since most pillows are placed in a personal pillow case anyway, but the more layers you remove, the more extra material is left from the pillow cover. It actually was a bit annoying to me at first and I spent some time wondering if this would create a shifting of the layers within, but once I placed it within a pillow case my worries dissapeared as it felt no different than any other pillow of similar shape and size. It also didn’t shift at all.
Since the pillow makes a few cooling claims due to the cotton and gel material combinations, I also paid close attention to any heat retention that could be occurring. Quite honestly I found the pillow to feel cool to the touch and comfortable no matter how many layers were being used.
I don’t normally sleep warm, even in warm environment, but The Pancake Pillow did provide a noticeably cool, smooth, and comforting sleep surface.I did make sure to also use a 100% cotton, low thread-count pillowcase as well so as not to interrupt the breathability or gel conduction factor.
I will state here that I do like a more firm, thin pillow personally for stomach sleeping, and so the softness of the 2 layers I used was a little too soft for me. I felt that I was basically resting my head on the mattress, which is how I often sleep- so in my mind I might as well toss the pillow and just sleep directly on the mattress. But when I added the 3rd layer, it was too lofty and the fill came up around my more than I prefer.
Many people feel just the opposite however, and of you are one who needs the feel of a pillow, but the level feel of your mattress surface- this pillow may be your perfect match. My experiences are due to personal preference, as the pillow DOES provide proper head and neck placement for overall spinal support. Sleeping with your head on the mattress is often the best recommendation made to those who who are most comfortable in this position, so a pillow that provides this type of support really is a good thing.
Back sleepers are also in need of a thin pillow to help caradle their head in alignment with their spine, and also have the support needed to hold the natural curve of their neck. I used 3 layers, as mentioned above, as it kept my head from falling too far back, but also allowed the fill to redistribute nicely in the space between my head and shoulders to support my neck. What’s especially nice is that back sleepers of all shapes and sizes can easily incorporate this pillow in their sleep comfort with the addition of more layers if need.
This was a very comforting back sleeping pillow, and I found that I actually preferred the feel of this layer combination the best, and even used it as sort of a body pillow when sleeping on my stomach.
Since this is a pretty versatile pillow, I also wanted to see how well it slept as a side sleeping option. For this I chose to use 4 layers, because even though 3 might have been just fine, I did like the little bit of extra firmness under my neck. This is a great choice as well- making it a true versatile pillow as all three positions were properly supported and fairly comfortable depending on personal preferences.
Pillows make excellent posture support systems when you know how to use them for this purpose. When sleeping on your back or stomach you place additional strain upon your lower back no matter how firm your mattress is. You can help alleviate this through the use of a pillow under your hips (stomach sleepers) or your knees (back sleepers). Obviously, with the adjustability of this particular pillow, this is easy to do, and easy to find the exact height that provides the best relief.
Side sleepers can also take advantage of pillows to provide joint pressure relief by using a folded thin pillow, or loftier pillow between their knees. This also supports posture by keeping one legs from pulling the lower back muscles downwards through the night.
Because of how many options this pillow provides, I was curious to see what the take of a second opinion might be. The second trial was run by a larger back sleeper who also sleeps hot. After taking a little bit of time to find their layer preference, they settled on 4 layers for both back and side comfort as they could shape the pillow to their personal comfort due to the soft filling.
Trial two also tried out 2 layers as a stomach comfort, and had to add one more layer for their size and position preference. This was a comfortable support for them although the position itself wasn’t ideal for all night sleeping. The back position provided great support and all night comfort with only slight lift of the loft around the head. They also like using it as a side position sleeper the most.
We really liked the concept of The Pancake Pillow here at The Sleep Judge due to how many people can take advantage of its comfort, no matter what your sleep position or personal preferences are. The layers really do create a unique experience, and even though it may take a little bit of time to find the best way to use it, that time seems to be well worth it according to both our experiences, and the many others available online.
The gel-fiber fill and cotton casing combo that helps create a cool sleep surface, ease of adjustability, machine washability are all excellent reasons to consider this pillow. Of course, you can only adjust the firmness level based on the loft of the pillow, so if you are looking for a firm thin choice, this isn’t going to be it as the thinner the pillow gets, the softer it becomes. This may be a drawback for some people, hence our loss of a half star.
But if you are looking for a thin choice in general, especially in a poly-fill option, this may be a winner for you as it pretty much occupies that space on the current market. Plus, it really does create many comfort sleep options for any type of sleeper. It really is simple, and quite fun, to play with and find a comforting surface specific to what you want. I also saw how efficient this pillow really can be when I took a few of my extra layers and stuffed them into a pillowcase to create a few more ‘pillows’ to use for hip and knee support depending on my comfort for the night.
If you’ve been it the market for a thin pillow choice, especially one that uses a fiber filling, then you should definitely take a closer look at The Pancake Pillow. Not only does it provide variable sleep comfort options, but you can take advantage of the multiple layers to put them to good use for additional posture support.
Thin pillows in general aren’t found too often in stores, so be sure to read up on the return policies before purchase to see if you can at least try the pillow out and if the guarantee is offered. This is entirely dependent on the vendor the pillow is being sold through as a 30 day return policy is standard, but the details are not. We’ve provided the link that does include this detail if you are so inclined to take a closer look!