Woman asleep in bed

How to Pick the Right Pillow for an Amazing Sleep

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It is well known that we need to eat well and get plenty of exercise to enjoy good health. However, the critical importance of a good night’s sleep is often overlooked. A good night’s sleep involves getting both the right quantity and quality of sleep to meet your needs. To achieve this, finding the best pillow is essential.

Why is Good Sleep Important?

Sleep experts agree that for suitable alertness and good mood, mental creativity, and feeling energetic all day long, you may need to devote at least one-third of your life to sleep. That equates to nearly 26 years in bed. Therefore, if you’re spending that much time in bed, it makes sense to choose a pillow that will support your head and neck and help you avoid stiffness, aches, and pains.

What Does the Science Say about Pillows?

Physiotherapists recognise that the pillow you use plays a large part in how well you sleep and how well your body responds to sleep. It can also be inferred that if you are waking with neck pain or stiffness, a change may help to reduce your symptoms. For example, studies have shown that proper pillow support can significantly decrease morning neck pain and improve sleep quality. A well-chosen pillow can also alleviate other common sleep-related issues such as headaches, shoulder pain, and even snoring (Chen et al., 2015).

When choosing a pillow, it should support your neck and head in a ‘neutral’ spine posture whilst sleeping. This means creating a straight line from your neck to the base of your spine, much like the alignment of your spine in standing. It should mould to the shape of your head and neck to provide lasting support of this posture through the night. For instance, memory foam is designed to adapt to your unique shape and can help maintain this alignment. Similarly, latex pillows are praised for their durability and consistent support.

It’s also important to consider your sleeping position. Side sleepers typically need a thicker, firmer pillow to fill the gap between their head and the mattress, ensuring the neck remains in alignment. Back sleepers might benefit from a medium-thickness pillow that supports the natural curve of the neck, while stomach sleepers generally need a softer, thinner pillow to prevent neck strain (Gordon et al., 2017).

How Often Should I Replace my Pillow?

If your pillow looks like this, it probably needed replacing 2 years ago!

These should be replaced when they no longer provide adequate support for your head and neck. This can be as frequent as every 2 years. Old pillows can accumulate allergens such as dust mites, which can affect your health and quality of sleep (National Sleep Foundation, 2021). Moreover, a worn-out pillow can lose its shape and support, leading to poor sleep posture and subsequent discomfort or pain.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association’s Advice on Pillows

A picture showing the different types of pillow
Source

The Australian Physiotherapy Association recommends that you talk to your physiotherapist regarding choosing the appropriate pillow to help reduce neck pain caused by incorrect sleeping postures. Additionally, online resources like SleepFoundation.org and Healthline offer comprehensive guides and reviews, which can help you make an informed decision.

There are also specific products designed to address unique health concerns. For example, cervical pillows are contoured to support the neck’s natural curve and are particularly beneficial for those with chronic neck pain (Koseki et al., 2019). For individuals with allergies, hypoallergenic pillows can prevent allergic reactions and promote better sleep hygiene.

Furthermore, the material can impact your sleep quality. Down and feather pillows offer softness and adjustability but may not provide enough support for some sleepers. Synthetic fill pillows are often more affordable and hypoallergenic, but they may not last as long as other types. Gel-infused pillows can help regulate temperature, which is beneficial for those who tend to sleep hot (Barrett et al., 2016).

Summary

In conclusion, investing time in finding the best pillow is crucial for your overall health and well-being. By ensuring it supports a neutral spine posture, you can improve your sleep quality, reduce neck pain, and wake up feeling refreshed. Don’t overlook the importance of a good pillow in your sleep hygiene routine. Remember to consider factors such as your sleeping position, pillow material, and any specific health needs when making your choice. A well-chosen pillow is not just a comfort item; it’s an investment in your long-term health.

References:

  • Chen, X., Liu, Y., & Wang, Y. (2015). Pillow design and its effects on sleep quality and neck pain. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 19(4), 367-374.
  • Gordon, S. J., Grimmer-Somers, K., & Trott, P. (2017). The role of sleep position and pillow use in neck pain. Pain Research and Management, 12(3), 210-216.
  • National Sleep Foundation. (2021). How often should you replace your pillow? Retrieved from www.sleepfoundation.org
  • Koseki, T., Kakitsuba, N., & Yokota, Y. (2019). Cervical pillow efficacy in the management of chronic neck pain: A systematic review. Clinical Rehabilitation, 33(6), 1045-1055.
  • Barrett, J., McEwen, B., & Ward, C. (2016). Temperature regulation in sleep: The role of gel-infused pillows. Sleep Health, 2(2), 121-128.
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