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The wrong type of pillow can ruin your sleep. Here’s how to avoid buying an unsuitable one.
Getting a good night’s sleep depends on how many variables line up. In addition to a good mattress and comfortable sheets, things like climate control, lighting, and mental distractions all play a role in the quality of your rest.
So is your pillow. Where you lay your head at night affects not only how well you sleep, but also how rested you feel when you wake up. Here’s what to consider when shopping for your next pillow.
Good sleeping posture means aligning your body with good support. Head, neck, spine, hips, even knees and ankles should be supported and aligned so you don’t wake up with aches and pains.
The first step in choosing the right pillow is to determine which position you sleep in most often. How you sleep tells you what level of support your body needs on a pillow.
If you sleep on your stomach most of the time, try a very thin pillow or no pillow at all. Because sleeping on your stomach puts a significant amount of stress on your lower back, the National Sleep Foundation recommends sleeping on your side instead of a body pillow for comfort.
If you’re a side sleeper, invest in a firm pillow with extra-wide gussets (rectangular panels that increase the thickness around the pillow). This added thickness helps fill the distance between your shoulder and ear, providing support for your head and neck.
You can also try adding a pillow between your knees for better spinal alignment.
If you like to sleep on your back, consider a thinner pillow. Holding the thin side of the pillow ensures that your neck does not lean forward too much.
Try a pillow with an extra loft in the lower third (that weird bump on modern memory foam pillows you’ve always wondered about). This bump supports your neck while allowing your head to rest in a normal alignment. Memory foam is a good bet here because it will take the shape of your neck and head.
Looking for more support? Add a pillow under your knees to reduce lower back pressure.
What your pillow is filled with can make a big difference, especially if you’re allergic or sensitive to certain materials.
If real feathers aren’t an option for you, consider down alternatives. Most polyurethane or polyester fiber pillows are hypoallergenic and should not irritate sensitive sleepers. The same is true for some buckwheat hull and memory foam models. Be sure to check the packaging and remember that every filler feels different.
Don’t be afraid to try it in the store to get an idea of how soft, firm, lumpy or firm the pillow is.
Are you sleeping warm? Some pillows contain a cooling gel with memory foam or a breathable polyester to keep you comfortable.
If you’re really serious about keeping a cool pillow, consider high-performance pillows or pillowcases made from moisture-wicking fabric. Like athletic apparel fabric, these are designed to keep heat and moisture away.
When should you change your pillow?
Experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend replacing your pillow every 18 months. Pillows can be filled with mold, dead skin cells and dust mites.
Totally gross? Try adding a pillow protector to extend the healthy life of your pillow. To determine if it’s really time to buy a new pillow, test it by folding it in half and seeing if it’s flat again. If not, it’s time to find a new place to rest your head.
While there are dozens of factors that affect how well you sleep, having a pillow that supports your preferences and sleeping style goes a long way. With the right pillow and maybe a smart screen to detect your sleep, you’ll be in dreamland in no time.