The Right Way to Use Pillows on Your Bed

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Heather Jones
Heather Jones
I'm Heather, an author passionate about home improvements. My writing is your guide to making homes better. Let's explore easy ways to enhance your living spaces, from small fixes to exciting projects. Join me on a journey of making your house a cozy and stylish haven.

If your sleep partner perennially complains about just how many pillows you keep on your bed, you might not be using your pillows properly.

Pillows are functional elements of your bedding; they are essential for supporting the head and keeping the spine in line, especially for those who sleep on their side. However, an overabundance of pillows interferes with sleep and can negatively impact the design of your sleeping space.

An uncomfortable, distracting bedroom precludes the body and mind from properly resting and recharging. Thus, you need to make conscious choices about your bed pillows — and here’s a straightforward guide for that.

Picking the Perfect Pillow

Though decorative pillows tend to demand more time and attention, the most important pillow on your bed is the pillow that goes beneath your head. Many sleepers don’t give a second thought to the pillows they sleep with, but because these pillows contribute directly to quality of sleep, it is important to consider the options for sleeping pillows and make an informed selection based on your unique sleep style and preferences.

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One of the most important qualities of a pillow is its shape. Pillows come in different shapes and sizes to provide different kinds of support to different kinds of sleepers. For example:

  • Side sleepers need tall, firm pillows
  • Front sleepers need thin, wide pillows
  • Back sleepers need medium-height, medium-support pillows

The materials used in pillow construction can also impact how the pillow contributes to restful sleep. Like mattresses, pillows can be made of many different materials, from polyurethane foam to feathers and down to plastic beads to various types of filling fibers. Different materials shift and support in different ways, so you might experiment with different types of pillows to find one that helps you sleep best. Generally, sleep experts advocate using an organic pillow, which doesn’t produce toxic gases or exacerbate allergies.

Ultimately, what you want from your sleeping pillow is a tool that will help keep your head and neck in alignment with your spine. Some sleepers need to sleep with more than one pillow, tucking additional pillows between or underneath their knees to better align the body and spine. It might take a few months of trial and error, but your perfect pillow should reduce tossing and turning and allow you to quickly sink into relaxing, restful sleep.

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Decorating With Extra Pillows

Once you have your sleeping pillow sorted, you can focus your attention on the pillows you use to decorate your bed. Throw pillows are effective tools for boosting the sumptuousness of a bed, helping to make the bed more inviting to sleepers. Throw pillows can also integrate textures and colors into the bed’s aesthetic design.

The pillow arrangement on your bed should be composed of three types of pillows: your sleep pillows, large decorative pillows and smaller accent pillows. Many people hide their sleep pillows beneath or behind other pillows, but you can integrate them into your bed’s design with an attractive cover if you so desire.

Often, the large decorative pillows are called Euro-style pillows; they tend to be 26-by-26 inches square, which is what some Europeans use as sleeping pillows. Small beds may need only one Euro pillow, but queens and kings need two or three to look balanced and full. If you aren’t partial to the square shape of Euro pillows, you can opt for American-style decorative pillows, which typically come in sets to suit your bed size. Though these decorative pillows are primarily used to add height, they are also functional as they can be used as back support while sitting upright in bed.

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Accent pillows are much less scientific. Unlike sleep and large decorative pillows, accent or throw pillows have no practical use whatsoever; they exist only to improve the aesthetics of your bedroom. As such, you can have as many or as few accent pillows as pleases you and your sleep partner. A more classical bedroom design often has more accent pillows, while a minimalist design might have only one or two. Regardless, it is important that you take the time to arrange your pillows attractively on your bed, or else having all those extra pillows is unnecessary and wasteful.


If you are more concerned with buying decorative pillows than investing in a high-quality sleep pillow, you need to restructure your priorities. Your bed and pillows should first and foremost contribute to restful sleep — and only after you have found the perfect sleep pillow should you move onto filling the rest of your bed with decorative elements. Fortunately, selecting pillows can be a fun and fulfilling process, as long as you remain focused on improving your sleep. 

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