Do you sleep on your back?
You’ve come to the right place.
What’s In This Guide?
Table of Contents
In this back sleepers guide, we discuss the most common problems back sleepers encounter and the best solutions.
We then recommend and review the best products that solve these issues including mattresses, mattress toppers, and pillows.
Most Common Problems Back Sleepers Experience
Here are the most common issues you are likely to experience if you mostly sleep on your back. Check out the next section for a list of top rated products that will help with these problems.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common problems reported by back sleepers. The problem is usually caused by the mattress.
A mattress that’s too hard will cause pressure on the lower back and affect spinal alignment. This results in lower back pain or a sore back.
A mattress that’s too soft has inadequate support and messes up with alignment. Your midsection sinks too deep into the mattress, causing the spine to curve unnaturally and leading to back pain.
Sleeping on the wrong pillow (too thick, too firm, too soft, or too low) can worsen the pain.
And for the pillow, our top pick for back sleepers is the Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow.
We also recommend using a knee pillow like the ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow. It reduces pressure on your lower back.
Hip Pain/Sore Hips
After back pain, the next most common issue for back sleepers is hip pain.
Note that sometimes, lower back pain can spread to the hips. In that case, try to resolve the back pain and the hip pain will likely go away as well.
In some cases, hip pain can occur on its own when you sleep on your back. As with lower back pain, the culprit is usually the mattress or the pillow you are sleeping on.
A too-firm mattress will cause pressure on your hips, causing hip pain or soreness. A too-soft mattress will cause misalignment, which exerts pressure on the hips and lower back.
A pillow that doesn't align your head, neck and spine can also lead to back and hip pain.
You can also try using a knee support pillow that takes pressure off the hips and lower back. Our top pick is the ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow.
If you have severe hip pain or you are recovering from hip or knee surgery, a leg elevation pillow is even better. The best one we found is the Kӧlbs Flat Top Bed Wedge Pillow.
Neck and Shoulder Pain
Neck and shoulder pain in back sleepers typically occurs when you sleep on a pillow that affects the alignment between your head, neck, and spine.
If your pillow has too much loft (meaning it’s too thick), it forces your neck to bend upwards. At first, you may just wake up with a stiff neck and sore shoulders.
But after a few nights, the soreness can worsen into serious neck pain that continues even during the day.
A pillow that’s too low can also cause the same alignment problem.
Your pillow can be the perfect height, but it’s too firm. You might wake up with a sore neck and shoulders from the pressure of the unyielding pillow.
One of the downsides of sleeping on your back is that you are more likely to snore.
This happens because your airways become more restricted when you lie on your back compared to sleeping on your side or stomach.
The increased restriction causes noise in your throat, mouth or nose – what we call snoring – as you breathe.
Health experts recommend sleeping on your side to reduce snoring. But if you prefer sleeping on your back, you’ll need to find an anti-snoring solution that works (even if you don't mind the snoring, it probably drives your partner crazy).
The best one we found is nasal strips. Specifically, Breathe Right nasal strips.
Increased Acid Reflux
Sleeping on your side can reduce acid reflux and symptoms associated with GERD. If you prefer to sleep on your back, elevate your upper body to prevent stomach acid from flowing back up the esophagus.
The best way to elevate your upper body is using a wedge pillow. Our most favorite one is the InteVision Foam Bed Wedge pillow.
Increased Nasal Congestion
Nasal congestion can also worsen when you sleep on your back. That’s because it’s harder for your body to drain away mucus, so it builds up in the nasal passageways.
Nasal congestion can occur when you are sick with flu or a sinus infection. It can also happen if you have an allergic reaction to something you are sensitive to like dust mites or pet hair.
As you figure out and deal with what’s causing the congestion, improving your sleeping position can help reduce the stuffiness and help you sleep better.
As with snoring, the trick is to raise your upper body using a wedge pillow like the InteVision Foam Bed Wedge pillow.
Tip: If you have an adjustable base, you don't need a wedge pillow. Simply adjust the bed to elevate your upper body. It’ll help with both snoring and nasal congestion.
You can also reduce congestion using nasal strips like the Breathe Right nasal strips.
Breathing Difficulties For People With Sleep Apnea
If you have sleep apnea, you really should try to change your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side or stomach is the best position for this potentially serious condition.
Sleeping on your back causes your airways to naturally constrict because of gravity. This increases snoring and apnea events.
If you have to sleep on your back, elevate your upper body using a wedge pillow to help keep airways open. Our top recommendation is the InteVision Foam Bed Wedge pillow.
Discomfort During Pregnancy
Another situation where we recommend changing your sleep position is if you are pregnant. You’ll be able to sleep on your back in the beginning.
But by the fifth month when the fetus has grown big and heavy, sleeping on your back puts a lot of pressure on your back and can cause back pain.
During the first months, a knee support pillow like the ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow can help reduce strain on your back, pelvis and hips.
As you approach the third trimester, we recommend switching to a pregnancy pillow. Our top recommendation is the INSEN 62in Pregnancy Pillow.
It’ll help you sleep on your back more comfortably, and it’s also great for side sleeping.
Top 10 Products For Back Sleepers
Sleep Solutions For People Who Sleep On Their Back
A Comfortable Mattress
Many back sleepers suffering from back pain probably just need a new mattress. Even if you have a fairly new mattress, it may not be the right one for you.
And if you have an old mattress, then it’s probably time for a replacement.
When shopping for a back sleeping mattress, the most important consideration is firmness. How firm a mattress is determines how much support and pressure relief it offers.
Back sleepers generally need a medium-firm to firm mattress.
A medium-firm mattress is ideal for light and average weight back sleepers. It offers deeper contouring with plenty of support.
Heavier sleepers will find a firm mattress to be more comfortable. It doesn't bottom out and offers extra support to keep your body in neutral alignment.
A Supportive Pillow
A good mattress goes hand in hand with a good pillow. Both need to be perfect for your sleeping position and body size.
Generally, memory pillows are the best for back sleepers and especially shredded memory foam pillows like our top pick, the Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow.
Memory foam relieves pressure on your head, neck, and shoulders while also providing support.
We recommend a loft-adjustable pillow so that you can dial in the pillow’s height to perfectly suit you.
If the pillow is not adjustable, then get a medium-loft pillow that’s neither too high nor too low.
As for firmness, a medium-firm feel pillow is the best for back sleepers.
Cervical Pillow For Neck Support
Cervical or orthopedic pillows are designed to provide targeted support to your neck. A cervical pillow can help if you experience neck pain even when using a supportive pillow.
Our most favorite cervical pillow is the ZAMAT Contour memory foam pillow. It’s contoured to support the neck while holding your head at the right height.
Wedge Pillow to Elevate The Head
A wedge pillow helps with a variety of issues including acid reflux, GERD, snoring, nasal congestion and sleep apnea.
It works by elevating your upper body, which opens up your airways and makes it easier to breathe.
The wedge pillow we like most is the InteVision Foam Bed Wedge pillow. It even comes with a smaller headrest pillow for added comfort and relief.
Usually, an extra pillow under your knees works fine to support your knees and reduce pressure on your back and hips.
A specially designed knee support pillow can be a bit more comfortable and supportive. It’s usually shaped like a half moon which corresponds to the curve of your raised knees.
Our top pick is the ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow.
Leg Elevation Pillow
Sometimes, a knee pillow is not enough to relieve hip and back pain. In that case, we recommend a leg elevation pillow that supports your knees as well as your legs.
A leg elevation pillow looks like a wedge pillow but for your legs.
It takes even more pressure off your hips and back, reduces swelling in your feet, and improves blood circulation.
The best leg elevation pillow we found is the Kӧlbs Flat Top Bed Wedge Pillow.
A pregnancy pillow makes it easier to sleep comfortably with a growing belly. C-shaped full body pillows are especially great for supporting various parts of your body from your head and neck to your hips and knees.
The INSEN 62in Pregnancy Pillow, our favorite pregnancy pillow, cradles and supports your body whether you are sleeping on your back or side.
There are plenty of anti-snoring solutions in the market. The two most effective ones are a wedge pillow and nasal strips.
A wedge pillow keeps your airways from collapsing, which reduces or even stops snoring. Our favorite wedge pillow is the InteVision Foam Bed Wedge pillow.
Nasal strips work by widening your nasal passageways, allowing air to pass through more easily without creating a snoring noise. Breathe Right nasal strips are some of the highest rated nasal strips online.
By the way, both a wedge pillow and nasal strips are also effective at relieving a congested nose or sinuses.
Note: Chin straps do work for some people to reduce snoring but they are not an effective solution for most snorers. In fact, they can worsen snoring. Also, health experts recommend against using a chin strap to treat snoring or sleep apnea.
Top 10 Products For People Who Sleep On Their Back: Product Reviews
Each layer of the Saatva Classic mattress is designed to provide enhanced back support and spinal alignment. The mattress uses what Saatva calls Lumbar Zone technology.
At the top of the mattress is a 3” plush Euro pillow top with Lumbar Zone quilting that adds more support at the center of the mattress.
The pillow top is encased in a cool and breathable organic cotton cover.
The second layer consists of Lumbar Zone Active Spinal Wire to improve spinal alignment and memory foam for deep pressure relief.
The third layer has pocket coils. Again, there’s a focus on the center of the mattress (Lumbar Zone). It’s firmer to keep your midsection from sinking in, ensuring your body stays aligned.
The fourth and final layer also contains coils (Saatva’s famous coil-on-coil construction) to provide robust overall support and guarantee durability.
Around the sides of the Saatva Classic Mattress are high-density foam rails that keep the edges from sagging when you sit or sleep on the edge of the mattress.
The Saatva Classic Mattress is available in three firmness levels: plush soft, luxury firm, and firm.
Most back sleepers will find the luxury firm to be the most comfortable choice. The firm is ideal for heavier back sleepers.
You can also choose between an 11.5” or 14.5” mattress profile (with no price change).
Both are comfortable but heavy sleepers (230lbs and above) and couples will appreciate the deeper compression support of the thicker mattress.
The Saatva Classic Mattress comes with free shipping and in-home delivery & setup, a 365-night home trial period, and a lifetime warranty.
Issues & Limitations
The most unique feature of the Casper Wave Hybrid are the gel pods set in the middle foam layer of the mattress.
The gel pods are located under your waist and lower back to provide targeted pressure & pain relief, as well as ensure proper spinal alignment.
Above the gel pods are three layers of foams including poly foam, natural latex, and memory foam. They contour to your body and take away pressure on your aching back.
Under the gel pods is a base consisting of springs. It adds responsive support to the mattress and ensures heavier back sleepers don't bottom out.
The Casper Wave Hybrid mattress sleeps extra-cool thanks to the perforated foam layers and the use of phase change material in the top layer of the mattress.
The cover is also highly breathable.
The Casper Wave Hybrid mattress ships free within the contiguous US and Canada. It comes with a 100-night trial period and a 10-year warranty.
Issues & Limitations
The Casper Wave Hybrid is available in just one comfort option. There are no firmness levels to choose from.
That said, the medium-firm feel of the Casper Wave Hybrid is comfortable for most back sleepers.
If your current mattress is causing pains and aches but you are not ready to buy a new mattress right away, a mattress topper is a cheaper alternative.
We recommend a medium-firm to firm topper that provides additional support and keeps your spine aligned. Our top pick is the PlushBeds natural latex topper.
The most common mattress issue for back sleepers is that it’s too soft and doesn't provide adequate support.
A latex topper is the best way to add more support to a soft or sagging mattress. Latex has the ability to relieve pressure while also keeping you supported.
The PlushBeds topper is made with 100% natural latex topper with Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and GREENGUARD Gold certifications.
It is available in five comfort options ranging from soft to extra firm. For back sleepers, we recommend picking the medium firm option.
It firms up your soft mattress without making it too hard.
However, if your problem is that your mattress is too firm and leaves with a sore back and hips, go with the medium. It softens your mattress without making you sink too deep.
You can also choose between a 2 inch and 3 inch topper. The 2 inch one is ideal for most back sleepers. The thinner size makes it firmer and more supportive.
For heavier back sleepers however, the 3 inch PlushBeds latex topper will provide better pressure relief.
Issues & Limitations
The PlushBeds natural latex topper is healthy and eco-friendly. The only downside is the price tag.
It’s still cheaper than springing for a new mattress that’s better for back sleeping, but it costs more than a standard memory foam topper.
But we think the added comfort and improved sleep quality are worth it.
Shredded memory foam has better contouring ability compared to solid memory foam.
That’s why the Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow is able to mold to the curves of your head and neck, providing perfect support and pressure relief.
If you find the pillow’s height to be too high or too low, you can change that. Unzip the interior cover and remove or add more shredded foam.
The pillow comes with a bag of extra filling if you need to make it thicker than it is. But most back sleepers will find the pillow to be comfortable as it is or with a bit of filling removed.
The Coop Home Goods Original Loft Pillow comes with a removable and washable outer cover. You can also wash the pillow itself with just the inner cover on.
Issues & Limitations
While shredded memory foam is a tad cooler than solid memory foam, the Coop Home Goods pillow still traps a fair amount of heat.
Hot sleepers may find the pillow too hot. We recommend the Saatva latex pillow instead. It’s filled with shredded natural latex.
Another issue with the Coop Home Goods pillow is that you need to fluff it daily. Otherwise, the shredded memory foam cakes together into a lump.
If you have neck or shoulder pain/soreness, the ZAMAT contour pillow might help.
Unlike a traditional pillow with a smooth surface, the ZAMAT pillow has dips and curves on its surface. These contours cradle your neck and head, providing much better support and pressure relief compared to a traditional pillow.
It also reduces pressure on your shoulders, which helps with soreness or pain.
If the pillow feels too high, you can remove the memory foam insert inside the pillow to lower the loft.
Note that the pillow is available in two Queen options: firm and soft. If you prefer a pillow that you sink softly into, go with the soft option.
If you have a bigger body frame, the firm option will provide more support.
Tip: The ZAMAT contour pillow can also be used in other sleeping positions. Check the included instructions for tips on how to use it in each position.
As for cleaning, the ZAMAT pillow comes with a removable and washable outer cover. The core is solid memory foam, so you can’t wash the entire pillow.
Issues & Limitations
The unique shape of the ZAMAT contour pillow makes it a bit hard to get used to. This is especially so if you are used to tossing and turning at night.
The other issue is that the memory foam can feel a bit hot if you are a hot sleeper. We recommend getting a bamboo or some other cooling pillow case to help you sleep cooler.
The InteVision wedge pillow helps with a variety of problems. It reduces symptoms associated with sleep apnea and GERD (like heartburn and acid reflux).
It also reduces or stops snoring.
The InteVision wedge pillow consists of a polyurethane base with a 2” memory foam layer on top. The memory foam layer relieves pressure off your shoulders and back.
The wedge pillow also comes with a smaller memory foam pillow that you place under your head for extra support.
The headrest pillow has an insert you can remove to make it thinner.
The InteVision wedge pillow measures 26″ x 25″ x 7.5″. It’s high enough to support your entire back, and it’s wide enough that you can place your arms on it while sleeping on your back.
The extra width also ensures you don't roll off the pillow.
The InteVision pillow sleeps surprisingly cool despite containing memory foam. That’s because the manufacturer has added a couple of features to reduce heat trapped in the pillow.
One, the memory foam top layer contains cooling gel to absorb body heat. Two, there are airflow channels under the memory foam top to help with heat dissipation.
The breathable bamboo cover of the wedge pillow also helps with cooling.
Issues & Limitations
The main complaint from customers is that it takes time to get used to sleeping on the InteVision wedge pillow.
It feels weird at first to sleep with your upper body elevated, but you’ll get used to it in no time.
The other issue is that the InteVision wedge pillow, or any wedge pillow for that matter, is not suitable for those who switch sleeping positions during sleep.
A wedge pillow is designed for back sleeping only.
The ComfiLife Orthopedic Knee Pillow is made with high-density memory foam, so it doesn't collapse when you put it under your knees.
It also doesn't get flat over time.
The half moon design contours perfectly to the underside of your knees, and feels much more comfortable compared to using a regular pillow or a rolled up towel.
In addition to knee support, there are other ways you can use the ComfiLife Orthopedic pillow. You can slide it further down and prop up your legs on it to reduce swelling and improve circulation.
You can also place it under your neck for better neck support, put it between your knees or ankles when sleeping on your side, or put it behind your lower back when sitting to improve lumbar support.
The soft cover on the ComfiLife pillow is removable and machine washable.
Issues & Limitations
Several customers say they found the ComfiLife knee pillow a bit too small for their large body frame. It measures 17.3 inches long, which may not be long enough for people with wider legs.
If you want a longer knee pillow that will fit comfortably under both knees, try the Cushy Form Bolster Pillow. It is 22.1 inches long.
The Kӧlbs flat top pillow is a wedge pillow for your knees and legs. The inclined surface supports your thighs while the flat top holds your feet and legs.
This sleeping position helps with a host of problems including varicose veins, restless leg syndrome, swelling, poor circulation, back pain and hip pain.
It's also great if your doctor has instructed you to elevate your legs after surgery or injury.
The Kӧlbs wedge pillow is 21 inches wide, giving you plenty of space for your legs. It has a high-density poly foam core and a pressure-relieving memory foam layer on top.
The pillow comes with a cover that you can remove and wash.
Issues & Limitations
The INSEN pregnancy pillow is the only pillow you’ll need. The full body C-shaped design allows it to do the work of multiple pillows.
It goes under your head and neck like a regular pillow, supports both your back and belly, and goes between your knees to reduce pressure on your back and hips.
The pillow is filled with plush cotton fiber so it feels really cuddly and comfortable. The removable and washable cover is 95% cotton (5% spandex), so it doesn't get too hot.
The INSEN pregnancy pillow measures 62 inches long, so it’s ideal for most women, including taller sleepers.
You can use the pillow to sleep comfortably on your back or side. It’s also great for reclining or sitting up in bed. It’s flexible, so you can mold it however you want to support different areas of your body.
Issues & Limitations
Like other pregnancy full body pillows, the INSEN pillow takes up a lot of room on the bed. This can be an issue if you share a bed with your partner.
But I’m sure they’ll understand, and it’s only for a few months anyway.
There are plenty of anti-snoring products sold in stores. Nasal strips are, by far, the most effective solution.
And Breathe Right sells the best nasal strips. The strip sticks to either side of your nose using strong adhesive. A spring-like band widens your nasal passageway, making it easier to breathe.
The reduced breathing and wider nose effort helps with several issues including sleep apnea, snoring, deviated septum, nasal congestion, allergies and flu.
The adhesive is extra strong so the strips don't come off at night. Just make sure you wash your face and don't apply any cream or moisturizer on your face before putting the strip on your nose.
This pack of Breathe Right nasal strips contains 26 strips. Note that the strips are not reusable. Use one for each night.
Issues & Limitations
The most common complaint is how difficult, and sometimes painful, it is to remove the strip because of the strong adhesive.
It sometimes leaves red patches on pale skin. Breathe Right has clear strips that are easier to remove, but they also come off more easily at night.
Another issue to note is that there’s no guarantee that Breathe Right strips will stop snoring. Depending on what’s causing your snoring and whether you have an underlying medical problem, they may or may not work.
Fortunately, they work for a majority of snorers. Even if they don't always stop snoring, they significantly reduce how much and how loud you snore.
We recommend pairing these strips with a wedge pillow for best results.
Frequently Asked Questions About Back Sleeping
Is it good to sleep on your back?
As long as you have a comfortable mattress and pillow, you should be fine sleeping on your back. It’s good for your spine, back and knees as there’s less pressure on these areas.
That said, there are some health conditions that can make back sleeping a problem. If you have sleep apnea, GERD, or you snore, these conditions can worsen when you sleep on your back.
What’s the best sleeping position?
Sleeping on your back is the healthiest sleeping position for most people. It presents the least risk for back and hip pain.
But if you snore or have acid reflux, try sleeping on your side.
How can I sleep more comfortably on my back?
Get a medium-firm mattress that offers better lumbar support plus a low or medium-loft pillow that aligns your head, neck and spine.
You can also try placing a pillow under your knees to reduce pressure on your back.
How do I reduce back pain when sleeping on my back?
Get a knee pillow and put it under your knees. It’ll relieve back pain. Also check whether you need to get a new mattress and/or pillow.
If your mattress is too soft or sags in the middle, get a new one.
How can I stop snoring when I sleep on my back?
Switch to sleeping on a wedge pillow to raise your upper body. This will keep your airways open and reduce snoring.
You can also try nasal strips. They widen your nasal passageways, which reduces snoring.
Is it okay for a pregnant woman to sleep on her back?
It’s safe for a pregnant woman to sleep on her back during the first and second trimesters. In the third trimester, it can be uncomfortable to sleep on your back because of the extra weight and pressure.
Sleeping on your side is more comfortable.
There isn’t any strong evidence that back sleeping increases the risk of a stillbirth. A couple hours on your back will likely have no effect. You’ll usually find yourself shifting to your side to get more comfortable.
Which is the best pillow for back sleeping?
A low to medium loft pillow is the best for back sleeping depending on your body size. Look for a medium-firm pillow that supports your head and neck and relieves pressure.
Shredded memory foam pillows are particularly great for back sleepers thanks to their contouring ability.
How to stop neck pain when sleeping on your back?
If you are experiencing neck pain, it’s likely that you are sleeping on the wrong pillow. Switch to a more supportive pillow.
You can also try a cervical/orthopedic pillow that provides better support and pressure relief for your neck.
Which is the best mattress for back sleeping?
A medium-firm mattress is the best choice for most back sleepers. It offers the right balance between firm support to keep your spine aligned and soft contouring for pressure relief.
Heavier back sleepers should try a firm mattress to get better support.
As a degreed engineer, I love new technology as much as you do (perhaps more). I also understand how to sort the best products from the rest. My team and I spend dozens of hours each week reviewing the best & latest products for your bedroom. Many are tested in-house, and others we break down based on our technical understanding. Whether you need a bed-cooling system, an adjustable bed, or a new CPAP machine – we've got you covered.