We all love and need a good night’s sleep - you can do all the exercising you want and eat as healthily as you like, but the fact of the matter is that exercise and a healthy diet will be rendered completely ineffective if you do not get enough hours of quality sleep each night. Without sufficient sleep, your body and mind will not be able to function properly.
To add to this, continuous sleep deficiency has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease and diabetes. There are many things that can disrupt your quality of sleep, which include illnesses, stress, anxiety, depression, medication, alcohol, drugs, tobacco, caffeine, a traumatic accident, shift work and jet lag. However, one offender that no-one really thinks about is their pillow. That’s right - your pillow might be reducing your quality of sleep and having a negative impact on your life.
This article will give you advice on when it’s time to change your pillow, whether you are using the right sized pillow, what the best-sized pillow for your sleeping position is and what to think about when buying a new pillow.
A Few Common Signs That Your Pillow Isn’t Good for You and Needs Replacing
The majority of people rarely think about changing their pillows; however, it is important that you change your pillow every 12-18 months. Failure to do so can result in a pillow that is detrimental to your well-being. If you are waking up with severe neck pain, back pain, a stiff neck or headaches, then it might just be time to go out and buy yourself a new pillow.
To add to this, an old pillow can contain thousands of skin cells and dust mites (and their feces) which can cause severe problems for those who suffer from asthma, other lung-related conditions and dust mite allergies.
In fact, it is estimated that around a third of an old pillow’s weight is made up of the aforementioned matter. It is the protein present in the feces which causes the reactions and, since this protein isn’t airborne, if your symptoms are stronger first thing in the morning, it could be a tell-tale sign that you need to change your pillow.
A good test to do to see if your pillow is due a change is to fold it in half and then let go after a second or two. If it pops back to its normal shape it is still good to go, but if it doesn’t, it is time to change it.
Are You Using the Right Sized Pillow?
The aim of using a pillow is to keep your head in a position of neutral alignment. This basically means that when you are asleep your head will be sitting squarely on your shoulders without being bent too far forward or back. Our necks curve forward slightly (to help sustain the weight of our heads when standing upright), and it is equally important to maintain this curve when in a resting position. Therefore, the size of your pillow is absolutely vital.
If your pillow is too high, it will cause the muscles in your neck to stretch and your spine will curve at the top. This means that your neck will be very stiff and sore when you wake up. This stiffness and soreness may also be accompanied by a headache. Furthermore, this type of positioning can also narrow your air pipe which will result in obstructed breathing and, ultimately, snoring (which cannot only disrupt your sleep, but also the sleep of others in the same room).
Your Sleeping Position is Very Important when It Comes down to Your Pillow
If your pillow is too low, it will cause the muscles in your neck to sag and your spine will curve downwards at the top. Once again, this will cause neck pain, stiffness and headaches. However, as we shall now see, whether your pillow is too high or too low depends entirely on your sleeping position.
- If you sleep on your side (the most common sleeping position), you should make sure you have a high pillow which is able to fill the area between your ear which is on the pillow and your shoulder on the mattress.
- If you sleep on your back, you should make sure that you have a low pillow which mainly supports your neck. This also ensures that your neck is not being thrown too far forward.
- If you sleep on your front, the first thing you should try to do is change your sleeping position. Sleeping on your stomach bends your neck backwards into an unnatural position. If you do not think that you will be able to change your position, then your pillow should be as flat as possible.
- Whether you decide on a pillow with feathers or a pillow with fiber filling is entirely down to your personal taste. However, if you are somebody who likes to sleep on your side one night and then on your back the next, it is a good idea to buy a pillow with feathers or down as this enables you to move the filling around to adjust the height of your pillow.
What to Think About when Buying a Brand New Pillow
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when buying a new pillow:
- Consider more than just the cost – Just because a pillow is expensive does not make it a great pillow or the right pillow for you. What matters most is how the pillow feels to you. You do not have to break the bank to find a decent pillow.
- Try it out before you buy it – If you are in a store and there is the option to lie down on a bed with a pillow that you are thinking of purchasing then do so. If the store does not allow this, then stand next to the wall in your sleeping position and place the pillow against it as if it were a vertical mattress. Lean your head against the pillow and ask anyone present to tell you if your neck is in line with your spine. If it is, then the pillow will be good for you.
Nowadays there is the option of buying pillows which address specific needs. A selection of these can be seen below:
Memory foam pillows – Memory foam is a sponge-like and dense material which molds to the shape of your head and neck. This provides you with ergonomic support for a good night’s rest. This is a great pillow for those who have spine or neck problems.
Cool pillows - These pillows contain tiny beads that absorb and take away the heat from your head. This means that the part of the pillow that your head touches will always be cool. Therefore, you will always have a cool part of the pillow to rest your head on.
Water pillows – These pillows are favored by chiropractors and physiotherapists. The top half looks like a regular foam pillow, but then you fill it with water to create your water pillow. When you place your head on this pillow, it displaces the water underneath and fills the curvature of your neck perfectly. This pillow enables you to create your own level of support.
Tempur-pedic pillows – These are made from memory foam and are available in many different styles to suit your needs. They are filled with micro cushions which makes them softer than the traditional pillow.
Sources: webmd, physioworks and lifehack
Pictures taken from: pixabay and depositphotos