The problem for almost half of the American population is that we’re not getting enough sleep.
And one of the culprits could be our pillows.
We spoke with New York chiropractor Dr. Jan Lefkovitz of Body in Balance Chiropractic as well as Bloomingdale’s fashion director of Home Furnishings Emily Hull-Martin about how to find the right pillow for you.
“My patients make constant mistakes in their sleeping positions and it definitely affects their neck and back,” Dr. Lefkovitz explained to Business Insider. “The main idea is you have to keep your spine parallel and neutral.”
As for materials, Hull-Martin says there are three major categories: natural down feathers, synthetic down alternatives and memory foam.
“If you don’t have allergy concerns, down filled pillows are your best bet,” she told Business Insider. “They are lightweight, cuddly, and lofty. Synthetic pillows aim to mimic down, but use polyester fibres to create allergy free loft. Memory foam is a dense spongy material which continuously adjusts and molds to the shape of your body.”
And though memory foam has become popular in recent years, Dr. Lefkovitz warns to test out the pillows in the store to make sure it’s right for you. “I never recommend memory foam because some people love it and some people hate it,” he said. “For someone who gets hot at night, they’re not going to like it because it gets very warm and you sink into it.”
Keep reading to see the top expert-recommended pillows for every kind of sleeper.
“If you’re on your side, you want just enough pillow to fill the space between your shoulder and neck, no more and no less,” Dr. Lefkovitz said. “The corner of the pillow needs to be tucked in right in that little nook, where your shoulder hits your neck, the point needs to be right there.”
For this, Hull-Martin said that firm pillows are best. “These are great for side sleepers since they offer the most support, filling the space between your shoulder and neck,” she explained.
Dr. Lefkovitz also recommended that side sleepers with lower back pain try sleeping with a pillow between their legs as well. “Put one end between your knees from your ankle to your knee, that whole space and that keeps your pelvis aligned so it’s not rotating,” he advised.
For people who sleep on their back, Hull-Martin recommends medium-firm pillows.
“Medium pillows are your best bet — these offer moderate support keeping the head and spine aligned,” she said.
Lefkovitz adds that if you have back pain, elevate your lower legs with a pillow or rolled blanket underneath your knees. This will alleviate pressure in the lower spine and help with alignment.
Sorry, stomach sleepers, but Dr. Lefkovitz says you should never be sleeping in this position.
“It creates rotation in your spine,” he explained. “If you’re on your stomach, it means your head is rotated all the way to one side.”
If you’re a stomach sleeper who’s looking to transition, Dr. Lefkovitz advises to try sleeping on your side first by using a body pillow. “It will block you from going on your stomach,” he said. “Put one end between your knees from your ankle to your knee and the rest of the pillow should go to the front of your body and you can rest your top arm on it.”
If you’re an unapologetic stomach sleeper, Hull-Martin says to look for a soft pillow. “Stomach sleepers should go for soft pillows which cradle the head, promoting a healthy sleeping posture,” she told us.
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