Extra Wide Wedge Pillow vs Standard Wedge Pillow - Which One is Right for You?

Shopping for a wedge pillow might seem like an easy task. After all, there’s just not a lot to a standard wedge and its basic design. But when you start taking a closer look at all the different wedge pillow options out there, a few key differences stand out. These are worth paying attention to as they can have a real impact on your overall quality of sleep, the one thing we all need to feel rested and rejuvenated, especially if we’re healing from an illness or recent surgery.

For starters, wedge pillows come in different sizes, including variations in width and height. Shoppers looking for a wedge pillow might be honing in on the height or slope of the wedge. The higher the slope of the wedge and the easier it is to read in bed, as just one example. But one surprising variable that greatly affects sleep comfort is not the height of the wedge but its width, and we’ll explain why.

What is a Standard Wedge Pillow?

The standard pillow wedge on the market today is 24 inches wide. When it comes to wedges, the “standard” is the most narrow of the two main options for pillow width. What should buyers consider when looking at standard wedge pillows? We break down the pros and cons.

When you compare the width of a standard wedge to the average shoulder width for men and women, 16.2 inches and 14.4 inches, respectively, it might seem like the extra 3-ish inches on each side is an adequate pillow buffer. But here’s where it all comes down to how the shoulder is actually measured (spoiler alert - it’s not how you think).

For starters, that average shoulder width we mentioned is only from shoulder blade to shoulder blade, basically if you stretch the tape between the boniest parts of your upper back. It pretty much ignores the arms altogether. And unless you sleep with your arms completely flanked to your sides like you’re standing at attention (not likely), there’s just not that much room for spreading out.

This is especially important for those who sleep on their backs (either naturally or as the result of surgery), which is usually what makes sleepers consider a pillow wedge, to begin with. When sleeping on your back, your shoulders spread out a bit, and your hands naturally rest somewhere along your midsection, usually between your belly and your hips. Your arms bend gently at the elbows and are then splayed out slightly to the sides.

As there’s this natural drift of your elbows and arms to the side, you want a wedge pillow that’s wide enough to accommodate this.

This is also where your body type starts to play a greater role. If you’re someone who has slightly bigger arms or wider shoulders, your arms will most likely overlap the edges of a standard wedge. This is not what you want. You want to be supported by the firmness of the wedge from underneath the entire breadth of your shoulders, not have your arms hanging off the sides. This is especially important for shoulder surgery patients who are recovering from rotator cuff surgery or other injuries. A wedge that’s too narrow might not provide the support you need to heal.

Another important thing to consider is what size bed you have. A standard or “full” size bed is typically 54’’ wide and 74’’ in length. If you own a full-size bed, a 24-inch standard pillow wedge would indeed be a good fit for the bed itself as it takes up just slightly half of the bed’s entire width. This might be an important consideration if you share a standard bed with someone else.

Standard Pillow Wedge Specs & Pros/Cons

Standard Wedge Dimensions - The width of a standard pillow wedge is 24” wide, yet some are even more narrow at 20” wide, and their length and height vary considerably between manufacturers.

Pros - Standard pillow wedges might be a good fit for someone sharing a standard or full-size bed with another person as the narrow width would take up half of the space of the entire width of the bed.

Cons - A standard pillow wedge might be too narrow for those with a medium build, broad shoulders, or anyone simply wanting more space to accommodate the natural spread of the shoulders and arms while sleeping. Standard wedges are also potentially less supportive for those recovering from surgery.

Wedge Pillow Systems

For greater sleep variety and maximum comfort, there are now some unique wedge pillow systems on the market that incorporate multiple pillows for premium rest.

Extra Wide Wedge Pillow System - An extra wide wedge pillow system utilizes two 30” wide wedges, two body pillows, and a neck support pillow to help provide ultimate comfort and safety while sleeping. This pillow system is especially helpful for those with sleep apnea, and patients recovering from surgery who are required to sleep in an elevated position. This pillow is the safest option for those with shoulder pain or recovering from shoulder surgery as it’s the only body pillow that doesn’t involve sleeping on the side.

Adjustable Pillow Wedges - Adjustable pillow wedges allow sleepers to control the slope or height of their sleep angle. Some systems utilize removable wedge inserts to vary the options, while others incorporate two extra wide wedges that can be stacked on top of one another.