strategist investigates

Does Anyone Really Need to Sleep on a Cube-Shaped Pillow?

Photo: Retailer

There is no shortage of stuff that promises to help people get a better night’s sleep. But what is always harder to find are those noise machines, weighted blankets, mattresses, or pillows that actually work. Whether we’re talking to experts about sleep products or testing them ourselves, regular Strategist readers know how much we focus on sleep, which is why our ears always perk up whenever we hear of anything that claims to improve it — like a certain cube-shaped foam pillow some of us have seen popping up on social media. According to Vanessa Osorio, a sleep-science coach at Sleepopolis, “Cube-shaped pillows started to gain popularity over the last year.” Osorio credits this rise to the 2019 launch of the Pillow Cube, a cubed-shaped pillow that Keith Cushner of sleep-product-review website Tuck agrees is “a more recent phenomenon in the bedding space.”

While Pillow Cube may have been the first brand to recently start marketing cubed pillows, Osorio predicts it won’t be the last. “I would expect many other brands to start experimenting with the shape in the coming months and years.” Still, we often see products become super-popular even as folks continue to question their effectiveness. (Have you read our deep dive into humidifiers?) Cubed pillows, to us, seemed to straddle the line between gimmick and genuinely good, and not only because we know of at least one person who bought one and found it underwhelming. So we decided to ask a couple of chiropractors about whether or not they provide any actual benefits — and to whom.

“Compared to back and stomach sleepers, side sleepers require additional support because they have a larger gap between their head and the mattress” while lying on their side, says chiropractor Dr. Randi Jaffe. She explains that the shape of a cubed pillow better fills this gap and helps prevent side sleepers from collapsing or scrunching up their shoulder, which can result in misaligned joints and tight muscles. The shape, she says, “is designed to fit perfectly in the gap between your shoulder and your ear, supporting your neck, which reduces strain and allows the spine to remain in a neutral and aligned posture during sleep.” Chiropractor Dr. David Perna of Back and Body Medical agrees that a “cubed pillow makes sense” for side sleepers, as the shape “will allow less stress on the neck and bottom shoulder.” But Jaffe cautions that cubed-shaped pillows are really best for true side sleepers — not combination sleepers who roll onto their stomachs or backs, because its shape can actually make sleeping in those positions less comfortable.

For any side sleepers who’d like to try using a cubed-shaped pillow, the chiropractors explain the differences between Pillow Cube’s two options below. And for side sleepers who occasionally move around, Cushner suggests a couple more traditionally shaped pillows that he says are still supportive enough for people who prefer to spend all night on their side, thanks to their added loft (or height when lying flat on a bed).

The standard all-foam Pillow Cube comes in both five- and six-inch heights. As Jaffe stresses, “The height of the pillow is crucial in order for it to provide the proper support it touts,” which is why chiropractor Dr. Rudy Gehrman, the founder of New York City–based wellness center Physio Logic, suggests closely following the brand’s measurement guidelines before ordering one.

While Jaffe stresses that cubed pillows are really best for true side sleepers, if you’re one who rolls from one side to the other throughout the night, she says the 24-inch-wide Pillow Cube Pro might be a better option because it has double the surface area of the 12-inch-wide original. The (also all-foam) Pro can be purchased in a four-inch height, in addition to five- and six-inch options.

Bear Pillow
From $100

While Bear’s all-foam pillow lacks a cube shape, it comes in both five-inch-tall (standard) and 5.5-inch-tall (king) versions that Cushner says have loft enough to “offer a very similar experience to the Pillow Cube.”

GhostPillow
$64

At a more affordable price point, the six-inch-tall, all-foam GhostPillow is another traditionally shaped option Cushner says would provide support similar to that of a cube-shaped pillow.

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Does Anyone Really Need to Sleep on a Cube-Shaped Pillow?