May I Recommend: Having Too Many Pillows on the Bed

I am a person who has too many pillows on my bed. I would like to encourage you to be the same!

Illustration of multiple pillows on bed with text: May I Recommend
Leo Medrano

There was a time when I had a reasonable number of pillows on my bed. That time has long since passed.

According to a 2013 National Sleep Foundation poll, the average American sleeps with 2.2 pillows. This is particularly relevant for side sleepers, who need more pillow loft to keep their spines straight while sleeping.

For many years, I fell into that average space: A lifelong side sleeper, I had two pillows for sleeping, one quite flat and one a bit softer; a third, more structured pillow wore a decorative sham and was available for when I wanted to be propped up to read, watch TV, drink a cup of coffee in the morning, and so on. Normal and average. That setup was replicated on the other side of the bed, bringing the total number of pillows on my queen-sized bed to six. Deeply normal.

Then I met someone. Or rather, I met someone who was bold enough to ask me to change the pillow structure of my bed arrangement and to be honest, I was so wowed by the bravery of that request that I acquiesced without thinking much about it.

This brings me to another group that falls on the "more pillows" end of things: anyone who sleeps with a pillow between their knees. I had never shared a bed with someone who slept with a pillow between the legs, but of course I’d heard that such people existed, so when I found myself dating such a creature, it didn’t seem outlandish to me to buy a new set of pillows. I had plenty of pillowcases, and if adding two more pillows made for a better experience in my bed, so be it. I'm vain about my bed in the way I'm vain about my feet, in that I'd like both to be admired and glowingly reviewed. By the time the relationship ended, I'd grown used to the eight-pillow lifestyle, if a bit chagrined by the loucheness of it all. There was a lot of explaining away pillows number seven and eight with, "I'm an overly indulgent and permissive girlfriend."

In April, the astrologer Susan Miller submitted to an interview with New York Magazine's shopping vertical, in which she detailed her favorite things. Among the titular things was an $830 pillow — or rather, eight of them. That's $6640 worth of pillows (I did the math).

"A bed needs tons of pillows," Miller announced breezily and with great authority. But she also offered a practical reason for her great array of pillows, "if you want to work in bed, like I do, I think you should have lots of pillows so you have enough back support." My best friend is a Taurus, and his Venusian commitment to making his bed space as luxe as possible is never not an inspiration to me; Miller's pillows, in their way, were also an inspiration. Simply put: I admired how totally unapologetic she was about announcing to the world that she sleeps on nearly seven-grand-worth of feathers.

I decided to emulate that, to stop apologizing for the choices I make vis-a-vis my bed, to live confidently as a woman who has nine pillows on her bed.

Right ... along the way a ninth pillow was added and, here, I'm tempted to offer an explanation ("It was a press sample for a story I'm working on!") which is true, but also at odds with my commitment to being the type of woman who does not apologize for her bed. Growth isn't linear, is the thing.

The tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears hinges on the seeking of comfort (well, that and also on breaking and entering), on finding that which is "just right." But it defines just right as the middle ground, in every instance. For me, however, it turns out, "just right" is "too many." I don’t just sleep on my mountain of pillows, I lounge on them, and one even pulls double duty as a lapdesk when I want to work or cruise Bravo gossip on my laptop. I could lose two, even four, of the nine pillows without sacrificing much by way of comfort. But why? I'm comfortable now, with too many pillows.