At Mobility Medicine, we are often asked questions related to sleep. Many patients are concerned about their mattress, pillows and sleeping positions. All of these factors influence our bodies. I have yet to see a convincing study that shows anything to be more beneficial than others.
There are many mattress and pillow choices on the market and so many different body types that it makes a study challenging to conduct accurately. That being said, I try and encourage anyone with a mattress that is over ten years old to consider getting a new mattress. Also, if symptoms improve while traveling, I tell patients to try and find a pillow or mattress that is similar to the one they used in the hotel.
Since it seems a firm mattresses work for some and soft mattresses work for others, I recommend a mattress in which you can adjust the firmness by changing the amount of air. There are also newer mattresses, like those from Tango, which have a firm and soft side so they can both be tried.
When it comes to pillow selection it is all about size and your normal sleeping position. If you tend to be a side sleeper you will want a larger/higher pillow so that your head remains in line with your neck and not tilted toward either shoulder. If you are more of a front or back sleeper then you should be using a flatter pillow. A trick for the front or back sleeper than may sometimes sleep on their side is to fold the pillow in half to get more support for the neck.
Lastly, as a musculoskeletal physician I try not to get too caught up with sleeping positions. Our goal is to get you moving better, feeling better and more equipped with the tools to make sure your body can handle your many different activities. Unless someone is going to tie you down at night, you are likely to move into all sorts of different positions!