The topic of Pillows and their importance to a good night’s sleep has not been a topic of discussion in quite a while. We all know that the selection of the right mattress is extremely important for a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is not likely to be complete unless it has the assistance of a great pillow that matches the physical characteristics of the sleeper, firmness of the mattress and the position of the sleeper. Spinal alignment, resolving neck and shoulder soreness or issues are often the job of the Pillow, and is often overlooked during the mattress purchase. There are so many pillows out there today. The unlimited supply of materials and designs, gimmicks and conventional combinations make it difficult for a sleeper, particularly one who purchases a new mattress to get comfortable with their new bed.
I could start listing materials and designs, but that would take a month to compile, organize and categorize.
What I would like to have is a general discussion from members, moderators and trusted members and our Trusted Experts Talk To The Experts - Mattress Underground the approach they take on selecting, advising and the timing of when to purchase that new pillow that is essential for a good night’s sleep. For the discussion, we can include or exclude individual physical limitations as it concerns sleep, such as degenerative conditions or things like effect of blue light, melatonin, circadian rhythms and how it relates to sleep, unless the pillow specifically has technology to address the issues.
Thanks, and look forward to everyone’s thoughts!
Choosing a pillow should not be an afterthought. The pillow in an integral part of the sleep system and a means for a healthy, restful, good night’s sleep. When choosing a pillow, you should have a sense of what type position sleeper you and your partner (if there is one) are. Are you a back sleeper, side sleeper, stomach sleeper or a combination of some or all of these types. People will find when they get a new mattress of a different firmness level from their previous mattress, that the first few nights of sleep can be a bit confusing. You tried something in a store or studied it on paper, and now your new mattress has arrived and your first few nights are uncomfortable. Certainly, some mattresses need to go through their break in period, the sleeper needs to go through their own break in period and more than likely, your pillow (even if previously new) may need to be changed due to the firmness of your new mattress system.
As a general guideline as everyone is different, side sleepers should be careful to check the height between their ear and surface of the mattress. Naturally the loft or height of the pillow will be determined by the broadness of the sleepers’ shoulders. As a side sleeper, I tend to go nearly half the thickness of the pillow higher in loft. Depending on the pillow material, you may find yourself sinking into the pillow about half way. So, to ensure your head and nose are level with the rest of your body, you may have to adjust your height accordingly. Many people simply measure the height from the mattress to the side of the head and get buy a pillow at that loft. This will cause a bending of the head when it depresses into the pillow and cause muscle strain, as it is the pillow that is supporting your head, not your shoulders. Just be certain to understand how your pillow works. It sounds funny to say that, but viscoelastic memory foam sinks and cuddles your head, latex tends to sink at first, then starts to push back against your head. Then there is the plethora of pillow fill materials, some sink, some are very firm and so on.
The back sleepers need to ensure that their pillow contours to the natural curve of your neck. Cervical pillows are nice for this, although they are super comfortable to sleep on, can keep you from snoring, feel supportive, they can sometimes be more difficult to maintain the exact sleep position throughout the night if you toss and turn a bit. Again, attention must be given to the material, as a general rule a firm or medium-firm pillow is preferred by most back sleepers.
Stomach sleepers can run into some issues if their pillow is not quite right. They want to be careful not to hyper extend their neck and strain their neck, shoulder and back muscles. Pillows that have a lower loft, medium to medium soft feel is the general consensus to allow your head to settle in without too much uplift to the head.
Of course, there are a variety of pillow shapes, sizes and contouring styles. They make the cut-out types for the side sleepers for a place for your shoulder to land. The butterfly looking cervical style to support the head and neck for back and the occasional side sleeper. There are even pillows with cutouts or holes where your ear/back of your head rests (depending on side or back sleeping). Any way you view it, the pillow is the critical component to support your head and neck while you sleep.
It is essential that some due diligence is done to understand the various materials, what they do, how they work and feel. One of the best places to start when shopping is to look at the law label. I feel like I do this all the time. You walk through Sam’s, Costco, private home store, the law label is the key to what is in the pillow. So many terms such as down alternative, poly fill, even memory foam, when printed on the box or pillow wrapping, doesn’t really tell you much. The law label will be more specific. 100% molded polyurethane foam, 100% Viscoelastic Polyurethane Foam, Latex, Natural Latex, Organic Latex, are just some names that are used and often hard to distinguish as they sometimes mean the same thing. All viscoelastic foam is polyurethane, but not all polyurethane is viscoelastic depending on the formula and the additives combined with the material. There are synthetic materials, natural materials, blends of both, synthetic versions of natural materials. Horse hair, alpaca, wool, buckwheat, solid materials, and shredded materials. Then there is equal sized cuts of the shredding, cross cut, little squares, interlocking pieces, hey wait, it’s lucky charms, . I think if a manufacture thought they could fill a pillow with aquarium sand, they would do it, and tout some benefit, as long as it was profitable. The main point is do a little research and have a sense of what you are buying, what material you are selecting, the pillow style and how it matches up with your PPP’s (I say the PPP is not just for mattress selection).
As mentioned, I could go on forever with materials, designs, fillings, and recommendations, but ultimately, it is up to the user to coordinate their mattress, pillow and materials for a comfortable, healthy, good night’s sleep.
Keep in mind too, the healthcare issues that coincide with a good night’s sleep. Various health conditions, and then there is caffeine, melatonin levels, and blue light levels given off by various electronics and natural sources, where you need to curb exposure, at least an hour before heading to sleep.