Here at The Sleep Judge we have compiled a series of top reviewed thin pillows to help you best determine which supports you, and your sleep position, the best. Over the course of a few weeks we have slept with, laid upon, and otherwise lived with these pillows to see how well they hold up to the claims they make- and a quick review of our findings are located below.
Back and Neck Alignment
Your overall health is highly influenced by the quality of sleep you receive each night. How well your back and neck are supported is an important part of your overall comfort, and when your body is poorly positioned, it can result in a restless and wakeful night. These interruptions to your sleep keep you from cycling properly through the sleep stages, which help support your mental and physical body function.
As you sleep your spinal column should be kept in alignment to avoid stress and strain both upon your vertebrae as well as the supportive soft tissues surrounding them. Since your central nervous system is a part of this, and essentially is what controls your entire body, this is an important consideration to take into account each night.
Sleep Position vs. Pillow Comfort
The sleep position you naturally fall into each night can, and should be, supported by your sleep product choices. Often overlooked, and misunderstood by most consumers, is the importance of pillow comfort and exactly how it works to keep both your head and neck supported. Many people believe that a pillow is a pillow and one size fits all, but this belief couldn’t be further from the truth.
Back Sleep Position Needs
Back sleepers should look for a thinner, firmer pillow that is able to support your neck and provide a slight cradle to your head. This position is ideal for cervical alignment and a restful sleep. Memory foam and down fillings are popular choices as they are able to conform well to the head and distribute filling to where support is needed between the head and shoulders.
Stomach Sleep Position Needs
Considered the worst natural sleep position you could fall into, if sleeping on your stomach is your unconscious comfort choice, then you need to make the most of it. The problem with stomach sleeping is that your neck will never be completely in alignment due to having to turn it to one side or the other- so making sure the rest of your back is in correct posture is important.
Sleeping without a pillow is the preferable choice, but since most people find this to be uncomfortable, choosing the right type of pillow is important. A thin, contouring pillow without too plush a loft should be looked for to keep material away from your face, but also allow for a soft cradling of your head and slight neck support.
Side Sleep Position Needs
Gusseted pillows with higher lofts are a favorite amongst slide sleepers due to how much space needs to be supported between the head and shoulders. Thick pillows that provide a plush contouring, and firm support, is what you need to look for if this is your preferred position. This is important in order to keep the soft tissues of your neck well supported and allow it to be able to rest without placing any additional strain on the spine.
Thin pillows, unless for a child, are generally not lofty enough in order to provide this type of support.
Why Would You Want a Thinner Pillow?
If you are a back sleeper then thin pillows should be a go to for your sleep comfort needs. As mentioned above they provide the proper alignment needed for these positions, as well as the neck support to allow a more restful, relaxed night.
Of course, not all thin pillows are made the same, and for back sleeping you will want one that conforms to your neck without lifting your head too high. You also will need to make sure your head doesn’t sink too far back, which will compress your vertebrae. For stomach sleeping look for one that keeps your head level with your shoulders and again, doesn’t lift your head too high to avoid stress to your upper and lower back.
Side sleepers should avoid thin pillows as it will make your head angle downwards, placing strain on your spinal column and create compression and strain upon the soft tissues of your neck.
Pillow loft refers to how high it sits when laying flat, and a thin pillow most likely won’t have much more that 2 to 3 inches of loft total depending on the type of filling is used within it. Occasionally you may find a bit of a higher loft, but generally the filling will be highly compressible and also evenly distribute when pressure is applied to provide support where needed.
Many people wrongly assume a thin pillow means it is not very supportive. But thin pillows often have great contouring and support where needed, and can be used in a variety of ways to support both your head and neck, and also be used for knee, lumbar, and hip support as well.
Pillow Size and Care
Pillow sizes are not a one size fits all, and knowing the difference between what you have, what is offered, and what you need, is part of the process of choosing what is best for you. Most pillows only have an 18 – 36 month life as well, and to tell if your pillow is expired, simply fold in half- and if it doesn’t bounce back into shape then it’s probably time for a new one.
Industry standard pillow sizes measure 20×26, -28, -30, or -36 inches for standard, super standard, queen, and king sizes respectively. Generally most pillows are sold as a standard or queen size, but varying other sizes are used for different body heights, weights, and shoulder width to provide both personal comfort preferences, as well as support.
Specialty pillows may deviate from these measurements due to what they have been constructed for. Contoured pillows, or high loft specialty pillows created for a specific purpose may have slightly different measurements nad be sold as a one size fits all choice.
What to Consider When Choosing a Thin Pillow
If you aren’t 100% sure a thin pillow is for you, or you have had trouble finding a thinner pillow to support your position in the past, we’ve outlined some of the best in the industry below- but first you should take into consideration a few things while browsing through our tops picks to determine what, exactly, is the best match for you.
What is your sleep position?
If you are a back or stomach sleeper, then a thin pillow purchase is the route you should be heading towards. But if you sleep on your side, or are a combination sleeper, you need to consider a thin pillow carefully. Thin pillows often do not offer enough support for this side sleeping position, and you may want to look into a pillow that can be adjusted to your unique needs.
Do you know the difference between a high and low loft?
Often pictures do not do a product justice, and if the loft of a pillow is being used in its description, then you should definitely know the differences between high and low lofts, as well as what is used as a fill. Low loft pillows often measure between 2 and 3 inches in height, with an average pillow height measuring in right around 5 inches. Anything higher may be considered a high loft, firmer choice.
Do you sleep warm?
Certain materials breathe better than others, and if a more dense fill is used within a pillow, it may sleep warmer than you like if you are already a warm sleeper. Memory foam is notorious for this issue, so many companies also use cooling type processes to help keep you getting a better night’s rest. When searching for your best match, take note of these types of claims and whether they stand up to the hype.
Test your pillow age every 18 months to 2 years
As mentioned, pillows don’t last forever- or at least their comfort doesn’t. Overtime filling becomes compressed and less supportive, and materials wear through consistent usage. Although you can put old pillows to good use as a second supportive pillow, or even get creative with it, checking your pillow for signs of replacement should begin after about 18 months of use. Although many can last much longer, this is a good habit to get into to watch for signs of poor support.
Our Top 5 Thin Pillow Picks
Since we purchased each one of our top picks to try out on our own, the following review overviews are based on our own trial runs. We slept with and laid on the following over the course of a few weeks to best determine how well their comfort claims held up.
As a stomach sleeper myself, it quickly became hard to determine which was my personal favorite as they are definitely some of the best choices found in the sleep industry.
1. Super Plush Sleep Restoration Gel-Fiber Pillow
- Filling– Poly Fiber-gel
- Loft– 4 inches
- Density– Medium Plush
Backed by a 30 day satisfaction guarantee, the super plush sleep restoration pillow provides a plush contour with a firm, supportive feel. Considered a decent choice for stomach sleepers, and an excellent choice for back sleepers, the fill distributes evenly when weight is applied to keep your neck well supported without lifting up the material to cover your head in any way.
The polyfill is also gel infused, making it a breathable, cooler filling that helps pull heat from your skin surface and create a cooling effect. Combined with a 100% cotton, 240 thread count casing, this helps create easy airflow through the pillow to keep you sleeping more comfortably through the night.
This is a great choice for hot sleepers looking for a good back sleep supporting pillow. It also is popular for many stomach sleepers, although body size and personal preference due to the little bit of a higher loft is important to take note of.
- Gel-fiber is cooling
- Keeps it shape
- Great combination of soft comfort and firm support
- Too soft for a side sleeper
- May be a bit plush for stomach sleepers
2. Elite Rest Ultra Slim Sleeper Memory Foam Pillow
- Filling– Memory Foam
- Loft– 2 inches
- Density– Firm
Considered one of the thinnest pillows available in the sleep industry, the Elite rest Ultra Slim Sleeper Pillow is a memory foam pillow that is dual sided with a flat, and rounded surface for personal preferences choices. Memory foam is also naturally antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and antibacterial making it a good choice for allergy sufferers.
Many thin pillows bottom out on the mattress once you lay upon them, but this pillow provides proper support without lifting your head too far forward when on your back, or too high when you use it for your stomach. Smaller bodied people may find it doesn’t work well as a stomach pillow due to the firmness of it that may lift their head more than they prefer. Some people also have had issues with the slight heat sink that occurs with many memory foam products due to the nature of the pillow construction.
This is an excellent choice for both back and stomach sleepers as the low loft and slight contour provides support and comfort. Although memory foam can sleep a bit warmer, it is not a chief complaint nor does it seem to be a problem where ambient room temperature is well controlled.
- Excellent for stomach sleeping
- Provides contouring without bottoming out
- Amongst the thinnest available
- Offgassing upon opening
- May be too firm for some preferences
- May sleep warm
3. The Pancake Pillow
- Filling– Down Alternative Microfiber
- Loft– Adjustable
- Density– Adjustable
The Pancake Pillow is a wholly unique, innovative design that creates the opportunity for you to customize your sleep experience no matter what position you sleep in. Due to how adjustable it is, it makes an excellent choice as a thin pillow favorite as each of the 6 pillows measure only 2 inches each. These pillows are easy to remove or add as needed using the zippered case that has access along 3 of the 4 sides.
Each layer is considered a soft density, which easily compresses when layered to create a more firm, or soft sleeping experience. Your loft is also completely adjustable in order to use a a side, back, or stomach sleeping choice. The hypoallergenic polyfill is a down alternative, and distributes fairly easily to keep it from lofting up around your head too much depending upon your sleep position preferences.
This is a great choice for all sleep positions, but as a thin choice is particularly nice for back sleepers as it provides excellent neck support and cool, plush comfort. Stomach sleepers may also really enjoy this pillow, although the fewer the layers used the less firm support you have.
- Fully adjustable
- Good for all sleep positions
- Sleeps cool
- Extra material
- Zipper may catch on the pillows
- Slight offgassing
4. Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Gel-Infused Pillow
- Filling– Memory Foam
- Loft– 3 inches
- Density– Firm
A popular thin pillow choice, the Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Pillow is infused with a memory foam gel that helps draw heat from your body though the process of heat conduction. This helps provide a cooling sensation, and is popular with many memory foam brands due to how easily foams can create a heat sink otherwise.
This pillow has a thin and rounded side for your comfort, and is amongst the thinnest choices available on the current market that both keeps your head and neck supported without bottoming out against the mattress. It also boasts a soft, breathable, bamboo cover that is both washable, and naturally hypoallergenic and odor resistant.
Created for back and stomach sleepers, this pillow keeps your neck supported when needed, and also provides a soft contouring for pressure relief. Perfect for anyone who sleeps warm as well, this choice is preferable for many back sleepers looking for proper spinal alignment. Many stomach sleepers also prefer it over many other choices, but for smaller bodies the pillow may raise the head just a bit too much.
- Good for back and stomach sleepers
- Good for side sleepers that prop their arm beneath their head
- Sleeps cool
- May be too firm
- Not good for combo or side sleepers
5. Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
- Filling– Shredded Memory Foam
- Loft– 5 inches
- Density– Plush
Unlike many other shredded memory foam choices, this pillow is not adjustable, and is geared specifically for back and stomach sleepers- although smaller bodies may also find it appropriate for side sleeping as well. Shredded memory foam has many advantages over memory foam in general as it is much more breathable, contouring without being too firm, and is also adjustable to overall pillow shaping.
The highly breathable, quilted bamboo cover helps ensure that you have a comfortable resting surface that allows for a free flow of air through the pillow which helps keep heat moving away from your skin. Plus, the thinner profile is excellent for head and neck support for back sleepers of almost all shapes and sizes, and is also a preferred comfort for many stomach sleepers as well.
Unlike many memory foam products, this pillow is actually machine washable due to how breathable it is. This helps keep it fluffed and working as it should without bunching up in any one area.
- Good airflow
- Holds up well
- Soft, washable cover
- Slight offgassing
- May be too lofty for some preferences
- Some people don’t like the feel of the shreds
Pillow choices are an important part of your overall health, and so making sure that you choose one that supports your spinal alignment in relation to your sleep position shouldn’t be taken lightly. Keep in mind the types of pillows made specifically for back and stomach sleepers if this is a preferred position, and then narrow down your choices to take a closer look at each.
Of course, your comfort also needs to be taken into consideration, and so choosing one best pillow for you to consider is not always advantageous due to how personal and unique this comfort is- hence why we have presented you with 5 different choices to review further. As a stomach sleeper myself, I did find all the pillows to have positive, comforting aspects as detailed in each of their respective reviews, but preferred the Bluewave Bedding Ultra Slim Pillow as a regular comfort go to.
You might also like: The Benefits of a Bamboo Pillow and Its Cons