Numerous options exist at every price point, but what’s the difference in pillows? Keep reading for a breakdown of sizes, shapes, and materials and how they affect your sleep quality.
Why does a pillow matter?
Believe it or not, your pillow can benefit your health and enhance your quality of life, not just improve your sleep. The wrong pillow will aggravate existing back and neck problems as well as impair your ability to get comfortable at night. If you are prone to headaches or arm numbness, your pillow can also make these conditions worse. So, yes, the right pillow can impact your health.
What type of sleeper are you?
Brands customize different pillows based on how you sleep. Regardless, a good pillow won’t need constant fluffing: It should retain its shape, even if you move around during the night. Your ideal pillow keeps your head, neck, and spine in the correct position, aligned as if you were standing with perfect posture.
What thickness/firmness should I look for?
Stomach sleepers should buy the thinnest possible pillow, and back sleepers should also look for a relatively thin one. However, back sleepers might consider a pillow with a thicker bottom third to help support the neck. Side sleepers benefit from a firmer pillow that helps maintain the distance between ear and shoulder and prevent neck/shoulder pain.
What size or shape should I buy?
Pillows come in a variety of sizes, correlating to the size of your bed. To avoid strain, look for a shape that allows your head and neck to keep the same curve and alignment while lying down as standing up. Try your pillow out in the store before buying, if possible.
What’s the best material?
For those with allergies, look for hypoallergenic filler materials such as polyurethane foam or polyester fibers. Buckwheat hull and memory foam also make good options. The foam will provide firmer support than other materials. Feel the pillow to ensure you like the softness or firmness.
So, what about memory foam pillows?
“Memory foam” pillows (or mattresses) are made from viscoelastic material to conform to your shape. Some brands even use eco-friendly shredded bamboo along with the foam for a greener approach. These pillows boast of never needing fluffing and never going flat. Manufacturers of combo-filled pillows assert they work for all types of sleepers and are lighter, fluffier, and more breathable than solid foam. Expect the foam to give a slight off-smell initially, and check the brand’s return and exchange policies.
How often should I replace my pillow?
Because they gather allergens as well as dead skin cells, mold, and dust mites, old pillows should be tossed. To extend a pillow’s life and keep it cleaner, purchase a removable pillow protector. Replace memory foam pillows yearly because they sag with use; the same goes for down pillows, which clump. Bamboo-filled models can last as long as 18 months and latex pillows as long as 24.
Are pillows really washable?
Some brands encourage washing, saying it makes the pillow softer and fluffier. Always check and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the best results. The pillow itself should be washed at least every three months. If you have a cover, wash it every three weeks, as dirty pillows can aggravate acne and allergies.