Choosing the Best Pillow for Sleep
Your pillow choice affects your sleep quality, comfort, and health. Learn more about pillows and how to choose the best one for sleep.
Pillows Make a Difference
Is back pain, neck pain, or insomnia keeping you awake at night? Or do you sleep as sweet as a baby?
Do you wake up tired and sluggish, even after a full night's sleep? Or do you feel rested and refreshed, ready to start the day?
The right sleep pillow can make all the difference.
James Mass, author of Power Sleep, says sleep disorders affect 75 percent of American adults. Sleeping on the right pillow can help. Pillows impact sleep quality, comfort and health, according to Beauty Sleep author Michael Breus.
Physical discomfort and pain keeps many people up at night. Not only do they lack focus and concentration the next day, but their sleep problems put them at risk for heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke. The solution may be as simple as choosing the right pillow to sleep on.
Finding the Right Pillow
Your head weighs about ten pounds, and it needs adequate support during sleep. While pillow choice is a personal matter, the wrong support can cause problems like pain, insomnia, stiffness, numbness, and headaches.
Good pillows provides support in all the right places. The best pillow is not too thick and offers comfortable, medium support. It keeps your head in line with your spine, just as when you are standing.
In case you are wondering, pillows do have a shelf life. Good ones may last several years, but most pillows should be replaced sooner. How do you know when it is time to replace your pillow, and how do you choose the best one?
Your sleep position (back, side, or stomach) determines the right pillow for your sleeping needs. Certain health conditions also play a role in pillow selection. Here are some tips for choosing the best pillow for sleep, and a test to determine when it is time to replace your pillow.
1. Back Sleeper Pillows
Do you sleep on your back? Sleeping with a non-supportive pillow, or no pillow at all, places undue pressure on your spine. On the other hand, too much support causes neck pain and tightness.
Medium-to-firm pillows give back sleepers the best support. Chiropractors often recommend memory foam pillows. Water-base pillows are another good option. Both types offer consistent support, even if you move or change positions during sleep.
Sleeping with a wedge or bolster pillow under your knees is also a good idea. This second pillow alleviates pressure on your lower back, so you can rest comfortably.
2. Side Sleeper Pillows
Are you a side sleeper? Feather pillows will not give you the right spine support. Sleeping on a thin pillow leads to compressed nerves, causing numbness in your arms or sciatic pain in your legs.
You need a medium-firm pillow that supports your head and neck. Sleeping with a leg-spacer pillow between your knees is also helpful. This second pillow improves spinal alignment and relieves pressure on your hips, knees, and joints.
3. Stomach Sleeper Pillows
Do you sleep on your stomach? Chiropractors do not recommend this position. Stomach sleeping causes headaches, neck pain, and lower back stress. If you choose to sleep on your stomach, use a flat pillow to reduce neck strain.
You can break your stomach sleeper habit by sleeping on your side with a body pillow in front of you. Body pillows are larger than king size pillows, and they support the front of your body while you sleep.
4. Specialty Pillows
Memory foam and water-base pillows are usually the best type of pillows for sleeping. They reduce headaches, relieve neck pain, and improve sleep quality. Certain health conditions require additional considerations.
If you have asthma or suffer from allergies, choose synthetic fiber pillows with anti-allergen pillow covers.
Feather pillows worsen asthma and allergy symptoms, while lamb's wool, silk, and down alternatives repel dust mites.
Most memory foam and water-base pillows are hypoallergenic. Anti-allergen covers guard against pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.
Anti-snoring pillows support the neck and open the airway for better breathing. If you snore at night, these pillows provide a gentle adjustment without unwanted neck pain.
If your snoring results from sleep apnea, see your doctor. Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that is often linked to serious health problems.
Many pregnant women experience back pain, especially during their last trimester.
If you are expecting a baby, try sleeping with a pillow or two under your head, one between your stomach and the bed, another between your knees,and one behind your back. These extra pillows provide support and minimize pressure.
A maternity pillow is another solution for moms-to-be. Shaped like a giant "U" or "C," maternity pillows provide good support for pregnant women.
Time for New Pillows?
While good pillows have a shelf life of five years or more, most pillows should be replaced every two or three years. How do you know when it is time for a new sleep pillow? Here are some tests.
Fold your polyester fiber pillow (or other synthetic pillow) in half. Place a book or shoe on top. Release your hold. A supportive pillow will unfold and open up, knocking the book or shoe off the pillow. If your pillow remains folded, it is time to replace it.
No book or shoe is required for this test. Fold your down or feather pillow in half. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Hold the folded pillow for a few seconds and release. If the pillow remains folded, look for new one. It no longer offers adequate support.
What kind of pillow do you use for sleep? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.
- Bouchez, Colette. (n.d.) "Snuggle Up with the Perfect Pillow." WebMD Medical Reference. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- McCarthy, Bonnie. (April 17, 2012) "What's the Best Sleeping Pillow for You?" LifeScript. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- Wooten, Virgil D. (n.d.) "How to Fall Asleep." Discovery Fit and Health. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
The information presented in this article is not intended as medical advice, nor is it a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional.
© 2012 Annette R. Smith Last updated on November 9, 2013
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