On average, people spend one-third of their lives sleeping. That is a long time. If you are having troubles falling asleep or you spend your nights tossing and turning, that can have an adverse impact on your daily functioning and overall health.
Many factors are influencing the quality of your sleep, including the room temperature, the choice of mattress, and the sleeping environment. One of the crucial ones, which is often neglected, is the pillow type.
If your pillow is worn-out or it doesn’t fulfill your needs regarding support, this guide will help you get a new and better one.
When is it time to get a new pillow?
Before I move on to the details of finding an adequate pillow, it is essential to know when it is time to replace your old one. Depending on the filling, pillows can last up to three years. Memory foam pillows have the longest lifespan, while some more traditional options can be used for about eighteen months.
You will notice that your pillow is no longer suitable for use if it has lost its shape and it no longer provides you neck support.
What do you need to know about selecting a pillow?
Let’s say that you are buying two pillows: one for you and one for your partner. Will you buy the same for both of you? In most cases, this is not a good idea. Choosing a pillow is an individual process because we all have individual criteria regarding the shape, size, and stuffing.
While this decision is based on rational factors, you should also include your instinct about what feels the most comfortable to you. With the last part, I can’t help you, but I’ll get you through the objective indicators.
The filling material
There is a wide array of stuffing options for pillows. Each of them has its advantages and drawbacks. It all depends on your preferences, needs, and sleeping habits. Here are some of the most common types you should know about:
- Down pillows are made of a layer of fine feathers found under the exterior feathers of duck or goose. They are known for incredible softness and lightness. Some people can experience allergic reactions to this material, but this is usually the case with low-quality down which hasn’t been properly cleaned. If you have concerns about that, you can opt for a hypoallergenic down pillow.
- Polyester filled pillows are among the most affordable ones. They are less soft than down, but still can be medium to soft. Since they flatten and lose shape quickly, they need to be replaced more frequently than other types.
- Wool is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites and mold. Pillows stuffed with wool are effective in regulating your body temperature while you are sleeping, which means they keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They last long and are pretty firm. The most quality option is alpaca wool.
- Latex pillows are very comfortable. On the scale of firmness, they are slightly above down. The best thing about latex is that it can be squashed into the position you like. They hold their shape and are resistant to dust mites and mold. If you are looking for a contoured pillow which delivers extra neck support, you will find that most of them are made of latex.
- Cotton is naturally hypoallergenic and mold-resistant, so it is often a smart choice for people with chemical sensitivities and allergies. Cotton-stuffed pillows are often flat and firm.
- Memory foam is tremendously popular lately. This is mostly because this material conforms to the lines of your head, neck, and shoulders. It distributes the weight evenly, and it is a perfect choice for people with pain in the neck and back. However, memory foam has a few issues, including retaining heat and giving off chemical smells.
- Gel pillows are designed for sleepers who would give up the soft sink-in feel of most of the cushions in replace for a cool supportive sleep surface. This type of filling is also hypoallergenic and pressure-relieving.
- Some other types of pillows that are slowly but steadily gaining a follower base are buckwheat, kapok fiber, and water.
Fill power and weight considerations
With fill power, it is always the higher the number, the better the quality. Still, it is vital to note that a fill power of 600 is perfectly sufficient for a high-quality pillow and that you don’t have to go with the high-end pillows with 800 fill power.
Unlike the fill power, the weight is a matter of personal preference. Some of the most lightweight choices are synthetic and down, while latex and memory foam belong to the more massive category.
The quality of fill
This is not the case of choosing between memory foam and down. It is about selecting the filling that works for you and finding the best quality of the material in question.
Going with the cheapest option is never the right decision, but you don’t have to go over budget either. Establish a budget that allows you to buy the pillow from a quality and trustworthy manufacturer and read pillow reviews.
What are specialty pillows?
Certain sleeping habits and issues can mean that a standard pillow isn’t what you are looking for, which is why some manufacturers have lines of specialty pillows intended to address these problems and improve sleep quality, even when that is challenging. Here are some highly demanded specialty pillows:
- Anti-snore pillows are designed to position the head so that the chin is lifted away from the chest, which keeps the airways open.
- A positional pillow is believed to be helpful for patients with sleep apnea. It is a lower case N-shaped pillow.
- Cool pillows include heat-absorbing fillings (e.g., gel and water), and they are often chosen by those experiencing hot flashes.
- Cervical pillows enhance the neck support with a firm lower part. This is done to reduce the neck tension and help with headaches.
- Oxygen pillows promote the air circulation which helps with easier and deeper breathing. There are some indicators that this technology relieves pain, but there is no research to back that up.
It is vital to mention that while many users claim these pillows have been helpful for them, there is no scientific research supporting these claims. Also, these specialty pillows can be very expensive, so if you decide on one of them make sure you try it out before you invest.
Your sleeping position should affect your choice
Finding a pillow that matches your sleeping position is not at all simple, because almost all of us switch positions throughout the night. You can sleep on the side most of the night, but spend some time on the back too. The same goes for stomach sleepers who sometimes shift to one side.
Still, there are some basic guidelines you can use when you choose the pillow according to your dominant sleeping position:
- Back sleepers require a flatter pillow so that your head and neck are kept in alignment. If you prefer softer pillows, but like sleeping on your back, look for the one that combines support with softness.
- Side sleepers need a firm and thick pillow. Determine the necessary thickness guided by the distance between your ear and outside shoulder.
- Stomach sleepers can get by without a pillow or with an extremely soft pillow. However, if you are experiencing back pain, you might find it useful to have a cushion under your stomach and pelvis.
Deciding on the size of the pillow
The size is also a relevant factor when choosing a pillow. Most people will want a standard-size pillow, and for most people that is the best choice. However, if you like to sleep on a larger pillow a queen or a king pillow, but you still make sure your head and neck get the support they need.
Side sleepers can choose a body pillow. This size is convenient for people with joint pain and expecting mothers. According to some claims, body-size pillows can also help with physical pain associated with restless leg syndrome, PMS, or medical disorders.
Chemicals used in the production
Synthetic materials such as polyester and memory foam are produced with chemical processes, and some other fills are put through antimicrobial treatments.
Consider your allergies and chemical sensitivities when choosing a filling type. Not all chemistries used are necessarily wrong, so learn about the one used for your selected pillow before you purchase it.
The role of the mattress in your choice
Your mattress should also affect your pillow choice since the two of them are the main factors in your sleep quality. If your mattress is already soft, your pillow should be firm, to keep your head and neck properly aligned.
If you have a firm mattress, you need to choose a soft pillow because it lies on a firm surface, and needs to adapt the pressure from your head weight to provide you with proper support.
Try it out
Before you rush into a purchase based only on theoretical knowledge about what’s good for you, you should try out the pillow. Most of the stores that sell pillows sell mattresses too, so you can ask whether you can take the pillow and lie down with it for a couple of minutes, just to be sure.
If this is not an option, you can try standing next to a wall in your usual sleeping position. If the pillow is adequate, your neck will be aligned with your spine. You can bring a friend to help you determine that.
Sleeping is essential for your day-to-day functioning and your health. When you are sleep deprived, or you have irregular sleeping patterns, your ability to focus will be lower than usual; your eye-hand coordination will weaken, you won’t be able to memorize well, etc.
One of the most decisive factors contributing to sleep quality is your choice of a pillow. Hopefully, this article has taught you how to choose a pillow that will be equally comfortable and supportive.
Remember that besides the broad guidelines, you should also follow your intuition when purchasing this item, and that, while the budget is important, money shouldn’t be the reason to make compromises. After all, you will spend approximately eight hours a day sleeping on the pillow you select.