Which pillow size is best for each sleep type?

Which pillow size is best for each sleep type?

A good pillow, along with the right mattress and duvet, should be part of everyone’s basic bedroom kit. The purpose of a pillow is to support your neck area while you sleep in order to prevent issues such as neck pain or headaches from arising. With the right pillow, you shouldn’t have any hollow space between the mattress and your neck or shoulder area.

However, finding the right pillow can actually be harder than one might initially expect, as pillows now come in every conceivable shape, size, and filling type. For this reason, we’ll give you the answers to such frequently asked questions as, "Which pillow size is the best?" or "What pillow sizes are there?"


What pillow sizes are there?

In Germany, the standard 80x80 cm size is still one of the most common. Austrians prefer pillows sized 70x90 cm or 60x80 cm. Switzerland offers the greatest variety of pillow sizes, as sizes vary according to which of the country’s three linguistic regions the users hail from. In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, pillows with a size of 65x65 cm up to 65x100 cm are preferred, while dimensions such as 60x90 cm or 50x90 cm are the most popular in other parts of Switzerland. The standard size in Europe is generally considered to be 50x70 cm.

When choosing a new pillow, you should take not only not only its shape and filling into account, but also its size and height. The right size and height of a pillow for you in turn depend on which sleeping position you favour.

The most common pillow sizes include:

Pillow 80x80cm:

The standard size. As stated above, the standard size for pillows in Germany is 80x80 cm. These pillows are big enough to offer a lot of comfort and provide the necessary support required to read something in bed in the evening, for example.

European Duck Down PillowsHowever, the fact that this size is standard doesn't necessarily mean that it’s a great fit for everyone. From the point of view of physiotherapy, the standard size is a little too big for most sleeping positions, as the square shape allows the head and shoulders to sink too deeply into the pillow and the spine to sag. When buying this size, you should therefore make sure that you find one with the correct height and filling for you.

Pillow 40x80 cm:

The comfort pillow 40x80 cm pillows are not yet as widespread in Germany as the standard size, though they are becoming increasingly popular. This sized pillow is just right to provide optimum support for the head and neck without having the pillow slip too far under the shoulders. This is the reason that this size is so often recommended by physiotherapists and orthopedists.

Pillows nowadays come with various fillings such as down, foam, feather, synthetic materials or viscose. When choosing which pillow filling is right for you, it can be helpful to bring a friend with you to the store who can check whether you’re lying straight on the pillow or not. You can adjust the height of many pillows nowadays by removing or adding the pillow’s filling material.

Neck support pillows are a special type of 40x80 cm sized pillows. These pillows support the body’s natural ergonomic position and relieve pressure from the spine. This size is ideal for those who often wake up with neck or back pain in the morning.

Pillow 15x40 cm: The neck roll

Bolsters, bolster pillows or neck rolls are still fairly uncommon, but they offer a number of advantages. They’re obviously much smaller than most other pillows and thus don’t support the entire head, but rather only the neck area. Their compactness also makes them ideal as travel pillows.

A bolster can provide relief to those who often wake up from the discomfort of a stiff neck. If you need additional support to lie down more comfortably, you can use another pillow in addition to the bolster. This typically depends on your sleeping position.

Another advantage of bolsters is the fact that they can be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can put them under your knees to relieve the spine. Side sleepers can place them between the legs to prevent tension from forming in the upper body.


What is the size of a regular pillowcase?

Most bedding sets come with pillows in the standard 80x80 cm size. This can be frustrating for people who prefer a 40x80 cm pillow, as they often have to buy a separate pillowcase.

However, the 80x80 cm pillowcase doesn't have to be thrown out, as you can adjust them to your desired size with a simple trick. After placing the pillowcase on the pillow, you can slip the excess fabric inside the case, towards the corners on the other side. This creates a kind of pocket, which shouldn’t interfere with your sleep.


What pillow size for what sleep position?

To find the right pillow and improve your quality of sleep, you first need to know what position you sleep in. Do you prefer to sleep on your side or do you often turn onto your back at night? Of course, we typically don’t stay in one and the same position all night, but rather change it several times while we sleep. However, everyone has a favorite position in which they tend to spend the most time.

Pillows for side sleepers

Since the majority of people sleep on their side, there’s a wide selection of pillows for side sleepers on the market. In order to wake up feeling fresh the next morning, you should make sure that your spine always forms a straight line while you sleep.

Your shoulders shouldn't rest on the pillow, but should rather be able to sink into the mattress. For this reason, an 80x80 cm pillow is not well suited for side sleepers, who should rather buy a narrower pillow. If you prefer a soft mattress, then the pillow should be rather flat, because the mattress’s softness means that your shoulders will sink further into the mattress.

Pillow for back sleepers

If you sleep on your back, obviously the space between your neck and the mattress is not as great as with side sleepers. As such, a flat pillow made for back sleepers is sufficient to support the spine’s natural S-shape. When it comes to size, it's crucial that only the head and neck rest on the pillow, not the shoulders.

Pillow for stomach sleepers

It’s generally not recommended to sleep on your stomach, as it causes the neck vertebrae to bend unnaturally. If you absolutely can't do without the prone position, however, you should use a very flat pillow or none at all.


Measure pillow size

If you want to measure the optimal size for your pillow, you can easily do it from the comfort of your own home. To do this, you should stand with your shoulder against a wall, mimicking a side sleeper, and measure the distance between your head and the wall. You can then subtract one centimeter from this measurement, as the body sinks slightly into the mattress.

Back sleepers should stand with their back against a wall; the distance between the back of your head and the wall will tell you how tall your pillow should be.


Pillows at Zizzz

At Zizzz, we offer pillows in different sizes and with different fillings. Our down pillows contain ethically-sourced European duck down and are DownPass certified, which means that no force-feeding or live-plucking have been practised.

All of our pillows are covered with GOTS-certified organic cotton.



Although the 80x80 cm pillow size is considered the standard size in Germany, that doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. Pillows should be selected to fit your specific needs and adjusted to your preferred sleeping position. When buying a new pillow, make sure that it doesn’t make your spine sag while you sleep; the spine should form a straight line to avoid pain in the morning.

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