High Loft vs. Low Loft Pillows

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Woman resting on top of fluffy pillow
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Though it's tempting to purchase the biggest, fluffiest pillow you can find, this isn't always the smartest move. Choosing the right pillow can have a positive effect on your sleep. Consider your personal preferences as well as your sleeping style when deciding between a high- or low-loft pillow for your bed.

Highs and Lows

Pillows laying flat on hotel bed
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A pillow's "loft" refers to its height as it lays flat on the bed. A pillow with a low loft will be thin, while a pillow with a high loft is thick. There is no exact measurement that marks the difference between a high- and low-loft pillow. Depending on the material used to make the pillow, it can lose some of its loft over time.

Material Loftiness

Fancy pillows on hotel bed
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Though you can purchase high- and low-loft pillows made from a variety of materials, some materials are more likely to maintain their loft than others. For example, goose down is a soft material and works well with low-loft pillows, as it shifts to the sides. Cotton pillows are soft, but generally maintain their shape with occasional fluffing. Buckwheat husk pillows are firm, and you can count on them maintaining their loft for long periods of time.

Sleep Style

Woman sleeping on her side
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The way that you prefer to sleep should determine the pillow you choose. If you sleep on your back or stomach, choose a pillow with a low loft. Doing this properly aligns the head with the spine, which minimizes back and neck pain. If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow with a high enough loft to fill the space created by your shoulder.

Mattress Style

Large, flat bed in master bedroom
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Your mattress style also plays a role in determining the right pillow for you. On a soft mattress, your body will sink down, which will naturally raise your head. This usually means that a pillow with a low loft will work better for you. On a firm mattress, though, you may need a pillow with a high loft to properly align your head.

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Maggie McCormick

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.