How much consideration do you give to the pillow you sleep on every night? When last did you change your pillow? Are you constantly adjusting it and fluffing it, in order to get it positioned comfortably against your neck? Are you folding your pillow in half, or stacking multiple pillows to get the level of support and firmness that you need?
Along with reducing the quality of your sleep, the wrong pillow can lead to muscle aches and pains in your neck, shoulders, and back. Here's what you need to know about the world of pillows, so you can find the perfect pillow that's just right for you.
Are down and/or feather pillows better than synthetic?
Down and feather-filled pillows are soft, fluffy, and yielding. They offer support, but they're also extremely comfortable since they don't create overly firm pressure against your head; you can immediately feel your head sink into them when you lie down. These pillows tend to have a bit of a luxurious feel. Synthetic pillows are designed to replicate the feeling of down or feathers, but a synthetic pillow typically doesn't feel quite as luxurious. Synthetic options are offered at lower price points, meaning you'll pay less up front. The trade-off, however, is that the pillow will likely have a shorter lifespan, eventually flattening and losing support.
Should you go with a memory foam pillow?
Memory foam pillows mold and conform to your head and neck, so they do a good job of keeping your spine aligned as you sleep. They're also a good choice for anyone who prefers a firmer pillow with good support. If, on the other hand, you prefer a softer pillow with more give, you'll likely find memory foam to be too rigid and unyielding (consider going with latex foam instead: it's similar to memory foam, but softer, and more springy and yielding.) Memory foam pillows tend to be a little heavier than regular pillows, and the foam material gives off a noticeable odour at first, which takes a bit of time to fade. Note to perimenopausal women dealing with night sweats and hot flashes: memory foam retains heat, so this might not be the ideal choice for you.
How does the pillow feel to you?
Ultimately, the critical factor in pillow choice is how it feels to you. Do you immediately feel comfortable when you rest your head on it? Does it hold its shape for the entire night, so your head remains properly positioned? Does the level of softness or firmness feel appropriate to you? Don't get distracted by advertising claims; you're the one sleeping on it, so it needs to feel right for you.
Is stacking pillows okay?
If stacking and shifting pillows around is interrupting your sleep, that's definitely not a good thing. However, if your pillow set-up allows you to sleep well and wake up feeling refreshed, you might want to stick with it. Stacking pillows can also be an effective approach if you change your sleep position in the middle of the night. For example, if you start off sleeping on your side, you might use two pillows for adequate support. Later in the night when you switch to sleeping on your back, one pillow might be enough to provide all the support you need.
Is a more expensive pillow worth it?
Should you splurge and buy the most expensive pillow you can find? Again, the key is finding the pillow that's right for you, so price isn't the only consideration. If you sleep on your back, you can probably get away with a cheaper pillow, since you won't require the same pillow height or support as someone who sleeps on their side. Having said that, price generally does make a difference in terms of quality and longevity.
When shopping for a pillow, check out a variety of pillows at a wide range of price points. You'll start to see and feel the difference between the cheapest pillows available vs. the more expensive ones. And if you're hesitating to spend the money for the pillow you think is best, remember: quality sleep is essential for optimal physical and mental health. A pillow that helps you sleep better is ultimately an investment in your health.
Lastly, don't forget to use a waterproof pillow protector underneath your pillowcase. This will help to prolong your pillow's lifespan, protecting it from sweat, dust mites, dust, and other allergens.
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