Although many people focus on choosing the right mattress, pillow choice is arguably just as important. The right pillow can help support your head and neck to maintain neutral spinal alignment during sleep. Pillows can also be used to take pressure off of other body parts.
One of the first steps when purchasing a pillow is deciding what size you want. While pillow names may appear to correspond to mattress sizes, pillow sizes are actually quite flexible and can be a matter of personal preference.
We’ll go over the dimensions and benefits of the most common pillow sizes. We’ll also take a look at specialty pillows and discuss how to choose a pillow size that fits your needs.
Pillow Dimensions at a Glance
Pillow Dimensions (W x L)
20″ x 26″
20″ x 30″
20″ x 36″
26″ x 26″
- Standard: The standard pillow size has the same width as most other sizes, but it is not as long. This lightweight and compact size is convenient for people who sleep on a narrower bed, such as a twin or full. People who prefer to have space on each side of the pillow may also be interested in a standard pillow.
- Queen: Two queen size pillows can be used on queen or king size beds, while twin, twin XL, and full mattresses can accommodate this size for a single sleeper. The balanced proportions of the queen pillow size make these suitable for most sleeper types. Back sleepers in particular may appreciate having ample room for their shoulders.
- King: At 36 inches in length, king size pillows are designed to fit king or California king size beds. As they occupy virtually the entire width of each sleeper’s half, king pillow sizes are ideal for people who toss and turn. They are too long for couples sharing a smaller bed, although they may be used by a single person in a twin, twin XL, full, or queen bed. They can also be repurposed as a body pillow.
- Euro: Euro pillows are less commonly seen in North America, although their square shape offers certain advantages. Besides their decorative appeal, propping the pillow against the headboard allows for a comfortable backrest that comes up higher than a typical rectangular pillow. If you’re interested in a Euro pillow, bear in mind that they are 6 inches wider than standard pillows and will take up more room on the bed.
How to Choose a Pillow Size
The right pillow size can contribute to restful sleep by enabling you to find a comfortable position. Factors to consider when choosing a pillow size include the size of your mattress, your typical sleep position, your budget, your bedroom aesthetic, and how you intend to use your pillow.
What Size Is Your Mattress?
Your mattress size dictates the maximum size of your pillow, since you probably don’t want a pillow that hangs off the edge of the bed. Most pillows measure 20 inches wide and are designed for the sleeper to rest their head a short distance from the headboard while still leaving enough room on the rest of the mattress. That means the most important variable to keep in mind is the pillow length, which generally ranges from 20 to 36 inches.
If you sleep with a partner, divide the width of the mattress by 2 to calculate the maximum possible pillow length. For example, a queen size mattress that is 60 inches wide can fit two 20-by-30 queen pillows.
What’s Your Sleeping Position?
Sleeping position affects the way you use your pillow. Longer king size pillows allow more room for the head and shoulders, which may be attractive for back sleepers. By contrast, shorter standard or queen pillows allow side sleepers to sleep right up to the edges of the pillow.
Pillows can also help relieve tension when used in different areas. A standard or Euro size pillow can be tucked under the legs or the lower back when sleeping on your back. Similarly, a small pillow can support your knees if you sleep on your side, and a thin pillow under the midsection can ease discomfort for stomach sleepers.
What’s Your Budget?
Standard pillows tend to be the most affordable, followed by queen and then king pillows. Euro size pillows may be more difficult to find, and they may be more expensive.
Keep in mind that larger pillows also require larger pillowcases, which can add to the overall cost. Standard and queen size pillows can often use the same pillowcases, although using a standard pillowcase for a queen size pillow may increase its firmness and loft.
Many people prefer standard or queen size pillows, as they work with most mattresses and are more practical for traveling. On the other hand, larger sizes such as a king may double as a body pillow, and they make a more comfortable backrest when sitting up in bed. Consider all the possible positions for your pillow before settling on a size.
What Look Do You Like?
In addition to forming a crucial part of your sleep setup, pillows also add a decorative element to the bedroom. Your bedroom may benefit from an artful pile of standard pillows or a thoughtfully placed square Euro pillow. Those who prefer a minimalist look may opt for the neat lines of queen or king size pillows.
Specialty pillow sizes include designs intended for specific body parts or unique needs.
Body pillows are extra long, usually measuring 20 by 54 inches. They are meant to be used for support in different areas of the body. For example, side sleepers can hug a body pillow between the legs to help keep the hips in line. Pregnant people can also use body pillows to prop up the midsection and ease back pain.
Most knee pillows are smaller than regular pillows and are designed with a thinner center and flared ends. The middle section can be tucked under the knees when back sleeping or between the knees when side sleeping, while the flared ends help the pillow stay in place. Because the middle is thinner than most regular pillows, knee pillows provide just the right amount of support for spinal alignment without overextending the knees.
Neck & Travel Pillows
Several types of pillows feature special designs to support the natural curvature of the neck. Cervical pillows are higher under the neck and lower under the head area. U-shaped travel pillows adapt this concept for upright sleeping, with an open space for the head and a wraparound design that helps support the neck.
Pregnancy pillows come in many styles, but they typically feature some variation of a large U-shape or C-shape. They are designed to wrap around the body and support a baby bump to take pressure off the back and hips when you’re lying on your side.
Ask the Sleep Doctor
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