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  • Writer's pictureWeightyThings

Best Pillows for Larger People (updated February 2024)

As I get older, I seem to be collecting more and more pillows. I’m a dedicated side sleeper and basically surround myself with pillows. I currently have 4 pillows, but I prefer 6, which means I need more. I have found the world of pillows to be overwhelming at this point. There are so many new types and styles. They are all trying to solve different issues and appeal to different sleeping styles.

As my weight has changed, my pillow needs have also changed. As a side sleeper, if my lower arm isn't in the right position, it will go numb while I sleep. If my head isn’t in the right place on the pillow, I’ll wake up with my ear in excruciating pain (that was a new one).

This is my current setup:

Very firm, 100% organic cotton pillow and a soft poly-filled pillow under my head. I hug another soft poly-fill pillow, and the other firm cotton one gets wedged between my back and the bed. Sometimes, if my hip is unhappy, the back pillow gets moved beneath my top leg, which I stick out in front of me. At some point in the night I will need to flip over and the back and hugging pillow switch. I like it between when I have 6 because then I have each type of pillow on both sides, so readjusting is faster and easier.

When it comes to pillows, I think everyone probably needs a different setup based on what and where they need support. Play around with different configurations, but there are a lot of common suggestions I’ve seen.

Most of the sites that talk about the best pillow seem to focus just on what's under your head. And yes, what is under your head is vital, but so is what's at your side and around you, especially for us side sleepers. Those of us with larger bodies may also need extra support because our proportions can be different. For example, bigger stomachs can leave your arms with nowhere to go, or bigger chests can crowd your neck and throat. Extra pillows and props can help ease a lot of issues.

Generally speaking, these are the things to consider based on your sleep position:

Side Sleepers need enough height and firmness to keep their head in line with the spine. Many also need support for the top arm, room for the bottom arm, support for the belly and back, and maybe even for your top leg. Some folks also love a knee pillow. I know a lot of side sleepers essentially have nests around them, made up of various types and sizes of pillows, rolled-up blankets or towels, and even stuffed animals. Squishmallows seem to be particularly popular. These keep all your various limbs and body parts supported and comfortable.

Stomach sleepers need a very thin pillow so their spine stays in alignment. Larger stomach sleeps may also want some pillows to prop up their arms and keep them more in alignment with their shoulders.

Back sleepers need a pillow somewhere in the middle. I know some back sleepers essentially just use support under their neck, with nothing under their head. There are also pillows with a divot in the center to provide head support, but most support is focused on the neck.

Best Overall Pillow:

When I first started researching, I did not expect to find a consistent top choice, but I was wrong. While it’s not everyone’s favorite, this is the most enthusiastically recommended pillow I found for all sleepers. These pillows are soft and firm - which is a feat in and of itself - but the key here is that the pillow is adjustable. You can add or remove stuffing to meet your needs! Which is why this pillow is great for all types of sleepers. Side sleepers can fill it up, stomach sleepers can remove what they don’t need, etc. It’s machine washable, and it bounces right back to shape after a wash. It has glowing reviews on Amazon and is relatively affordable compared to a lot of other pillows on the market. If you run hot and want a cooling pillow, their Eden pillow has cooling gel-infused filler.

Best Hugging Pillow

If you need a squishy pillow to hug and support your upper arm but are not looking to add a stuffed animal to your bed, this is a great choice. It’s soft and squishy but doesn't take up too much room. It has a lot of fun colors and works great as a travel pillow. Many folks complain of a smell when they first get it, so you may want to leave it in a well-ventilated room for a few days to let it air out.

Best Affordable for Spinal Alignment:

There are a lot of fancy pillows out there for proper spinal alignment. But this is a very popular version for much less money. It has good neck support for back sleepers, it has a firm area with more height for side sleepers. Flip the pillow over, and the firmness levels change. It has three different sizes, so make sure you get the correct one. Some folks say it is less effective after a year, but they like this pillow so much they happily replace it.

Best Wedge

Wedge pillows can provide relief for a number of different issues. Primarily reflux, post-nasal drip, sleep apnea, and back pain. It can also help with arm positioning if your arm or shoulder tends to crowd your neck. There are a lot out there with different slopes. Finding the right slope for you can take some trial and error, which is why I like this adjustable option. Alternatively, if you want a gentle full-body slope, the Avana Mattress Elevator could be a good option.

Best Value Pillow

Offering two for half the price of one, Coop pillow are hard to beat. Filled with a polyester down alternative, they are soft and fluffy, ideal for back or stomach sleepers. Side sleepers would need more height and firmness, so may want to pair it with another pillow. These would also be great nesting pillows around a side sleepers body. The down alternative is also good for folks with allergies.

Best Body Pillow

If a million pillows and props on your bed are not your thing, but you want a lot of support around your body, a good pregnancy body pillow may do the trick. The shape offers something to hug and support behind your back, under your belly, and between your knees.

Best Cooling Pillow

A lot of us fats can get rather hot when we sleep. Living in LA, I sleep with just a top sheet most of the year. (I know it has become very trendy to go without a top sheet, but I love my top sheet!) In the summer, I find myself flipping the pillow my head is on multiple times during the night because my head is just too hot. I know a lot of cooling pillows do not really live up to their claims. But this one gets very high reviews. It has the gel, but it also has ventilation holes throughout the pillow to allow air flow.

Best Pillow System

This is not just a pillow; it is a complete system that can help with a few different issues. It has a wedge to raise your torso to help prevent reflux. This is its primary stated purpose. It has a spot for the lower arm for side sleepers to prevent a dead arm. It has a body pillow to provide back support, something to hug, and something to go between your knees. People love it, but it is very pricey. Because it helps with some medical issues, it is something that may be available under your health savings plan. The main issue I have heard, besides the price, is that the wedge is too steep for some people, and they slide off. There are three different sizes, so make sure you get the right one.

What's your favorite pillow? Let me know here.

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