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How To Choose Your Ideal Pillow Height in 4 Steps

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    Last Updated
    January 16, 2024
    min read

    The ideal pillow height for most sleepers is between 4 and 7 inches tall, which classifies most closely to a mid loft pillow. However, feel preferences, as well as sleeping position, body type, and other factors play a major role in what pillow height is most suitable for you.

    The perfect pillow can make or break how well you sleep. When your sleeping environment interrupts your comfort, you’ll wake up more frequently, toss and turn, or have trouble falling asleep. So whether it’s time to improve your sleep quality or replace your pillow, you need to consider your pillow’s height. 

    The ideal pillow height for most sleepers measures between 4 and 7 inches depending on several factors, from sleeping position and body type to pillow fill and materials. 

    Follow along as we guide you on how to pick the best pillow based on your ideal pillow height and comfort preferences. 

    What Is Pillow Height (Loft)?

    Pillow height, otherwise known as loft, is a pillow’s thickness before any weight rests upon it. While you could measure the height with a ruler, there’s no need. Pillow lofts come in three standard sizes.

    • Low: 5.5 inches or less
    • Mid: 5.5 to 6.5 inches 
    • High: 6.5 to 7.5 inches

    Purple’s ​​Harmony™ Pillow, for example, offers low, medium, and tall pillow heights to accommodate all sleep styles and preferences, from stomach and back sleepers to side and combination sleepers.

    Purple Pillows

    Pillows for every type of sleeper. Choose from distinct feels and features, all with the latest technology.

    How High Should Your Pillow Be?

    There’s no straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer for ideal pillow height. That’s because, at the end of the day, pillow loft is subjective and based on individual comfort preferences. The best way to find your perfect pillow height is to choose what feels most comfortable to you.

    Research shows that the appropriate pillow height allows neutral spinal curvature during sleep and provides optimal support for the head and neck. For most adults, this equates to a pillow height between 4 and 7 inches. However, there are several factors beyond preference to also consider, such as sleeping position, body type, and the material composition of the pillow.

    Different types of materials compress in different ways. For example, an 8-inch pillow may compress to just a few inches when in use. It’s also important to note that pillow height is often measured in “resting head height,” which is the height of the pillow when a head is resting on it, not the actual height of the pillow. 

    Is Your Pillow Too High or Too Low?

    Neck pain is one of the biggest indicators of inadequate pillow height. As you sleep, your neck should be in neutral alignment with no strain, cramping, or overextension. Here are a few signs that your pillow’s height is not ideal for you.

    Side Sleepers:

    • If the top of your head sinks closer to the mattress, your pillow is likely too low.
    • If the top of your head angles upward, your pillow is likely too high. 

    Back Sleepers:

    • If your chin points down, your pillow is likely too high.
    • If your head tilts back, your pillow is likely too low. 
    • If you can see your feet, your pillow is likely too high.

    While correct pillow height is important for all sleeping positions, back sleepers should pay especially close attention. The chin-to-chest position that occurs when back sleepers use a too-tall pillow can make mouth-breathing difficult.

    Considerations for Choosing the Ideal Pillow Height

    When you sleep better, you feel better. Finding your ideal pillow height allows you to sleep more soundly throughout the night and wake up feeling like your best self. But how do you decide what pillow loft is right for you? You can begin by considering factors such as whether you prefer a tall or low pillow or sleeping on your stomach. Let’s dig in deeper!

    1. Analyze Your Sleeping Position

    Your sleeping position (sometimes called sleep posture) strongly influences which pillow loft will be most comfortable for you. 

    • Side sleepers: Typically, the best pillows for side sleepers are medium and high loft pillows. This height supports the head, neck, and shoulders so the spine stays properly aligned. Filling the triangular gap also aids in pressure relief, particularly for the shoulder.
    • Back and combination sleepers: These sleepers tend to sleep best with mid to low loft pillows. The mid loft allows adequate support for those who flip between positions while asleep.
    • Stomach sleepers: These sleepers often prefer low loft pillows or no pillow at all.

    The table below details the average adult’s ideal pillow height for each sleeping position. 

    Sleeping Position 
    Ideal Pillow Loft

    Side sleepers

    High or mid

    Back sleepers


    Combination sleepers


    Stomach sleepers


    These general guidelines will help narrow your search for your perfect pillow, but remember that the average pillow height for your sleeping position might not be what feels most comfortable to you.

    2. Factor in Your Body Type

    The recommendations for pillow lofts are based on the average adult and don’t consider body type differences. Your unique attributes, such as height, weight, and head circumference, may impact whether you need a lower pillow loft.

    For example, heavier individuals feel more supported with a higher loft (or firmer) pillow, whereas petite individuals (and children) may prefer a low loft. Or, if you have broad shoulders, you’ll require a high loft pillow because the space between your head and the mattress is greater.

    3. Adjust as Needed

    Some pillows allow you to unzip their covers to add or remove stuffing to adjust the height and firmness. Adjustable pillows often feature cores made of loose, shredded materials like memory foam and latex or inserts made from memory foam, down, down alternative, and feathers. Generally speaking, the more fill a pillow has, the firmer it will feel.

    At Purple, we offer four adjustable pillows:

    • Purple Freeform™ Pillow: Its luxuriously moldable core can be shaped and adjusted to your preference, giving you the ability to fine-tune the fill level to achieve your ideal height and firmness. The Freeform also includes neck chambers, offering you the choice of targeted neck support.
    • TwinCloud™ Pillow:  An innovative design of two down alternative chambers that can be zipped in two different ways to offer soft and firm settings in one pillow.
    • Purple DreamLayer™ Pillow: Our multi-layer approach provides plush, conforming comfort that your head melts into. Beneath the cooling grid layer, MicroAir™ Foam offers gentle, embracing comfort. Additionally, the DreamLayer™ Pillow is height adjustable with two booster layers that can be added or removed to achieve high, medium, or low height preferences.
    • Purple Pillow®: The original GelFlex® Grid pillow comes with two Purple Pillow Boosters® for you to add or remove to help you find your ideal pillow height.

    5. Try Out Different Pillow Shapes

    Bed pillows aren’t always rectangular. You can find ergonomically shaped pillows with cutouts and contouring to support proper alignment. 

    Pillows with U-shaped cutouts or curves alongside the edge cozy up to the neck and shoulder to fill the gap and provide support. These pillows can work well for side sleepers. 

    Pillows with top-side contouring curves so that the highest point fills the space between the neck and bed. This supports the neck to maintain proper alignment when sleeping on your back or side. 

    Which Purple Pillow Is Best For Your Ideal Pillow Height?

    Here at Purple, we’ve integrated the latest pillow technology into a dynamic assortment of distinct feels and features that ensure rejuvenating, ache-free sleep for all sleepers. Our most customizable option is the Purple Freeform™ Pillow which allows you to make micro-adjustments to premium, shapeable foam so that you can achieve a height exactly to your liking.

    If you’re looking for an adjustable foam pillow with conforming comfort, the Purple DreamLayer™ Pillow will keep you cool and supported, with three height options. For a springy, cradling feel, our bestselling Purple Harmony™ cooling pillow combines luxurious Talalay latex with a soft, honeycomb variation of our GelFlex® Grid for cooling, weightless comfort available in three pillow lofts.

    Not sure which Purple pillow is right for you? Check out our Purple pillow comparison guide for a detailed look into our pillows.

    When you buy a pillow from Purple, you can rest easy knowing Purple’s 100-night sleep trial allows you to ensure you’ve found your ideal pillow height.


    Pillow Height FAQ

    Yes, your pillow can be too high for your sleeping habits and preferences. Waking up with a stiff neck may indicate that your pillow is too high (or too low). For example, if you sleep on your right side and wake up with left-sided neck pain, your pillow may be too high and cause the left side of your neck to cramp.

    Whether you can fix your pillow’s height depends on if your pillow is adjustable. If it is, you can add or remove its filling to alter the height and feel to your liking. If not, you can try to flatten your pillow by laying something heavy on it — like several heavy books — for a few days. However, this trick doesn’t work on all pillow types.

    The common denominator between pillow height and standing posture is spinal alignment. Pillow height impacts whether or not your spine is correctly aligned while you sleep. Over time, sleeping in an improper position can affect your spinal alignment while awake and standing. Misalignment is what can lead to poor posture.

    Your sleeping position strongly dictates your ideal pillow height, which, if matched perfectly, can help remedy neck pain. However, a 6-inch pillow loft is often a good middle ground for most combination sleepers.

    If you're a side sleeper like most people in the U.S., try a mid to higher loft pillow. If you sleep on your back, opt for a medium or low loft pillow. Remember that what works for you might not be what works for most other sleepers experiencing neck pain

    Side sleepers typically sleep best with medium or high loft pillows. Side sleepers need a pillow that offers proper support by filling the triangular gap between the head, neck, and shoulders. Taller pillows do this best, but it still depends on your personal preference.

    About the authors

    April Seifert

    April has nearly a decade of writing experience, with 3+ years specializing in sleep content. Her work has been covered by sites like BuzzFeed, Entrepreneur, and Money Under 30. She has an M.A. in Magazine, Newspaper, and Online Journalism from Syracuse University and a B.A. in Communication Studies. As a self-proclaimed expert in all things cozy, she sleeps better at night, knowing her writing helps others sleep in comfort, too.

    Claire Harless
    Associate Product Manager

    Claire Harless is an Associate Product Manager who specializes in the pillow category. She has over two years of experience in the pillow industry. Claire understands’ consumers needs and is committed to providing innovative pillow products to improve sleep and comfort.