Sleep plays an important role in our daily lives, but there are many individual factors that contribute to our sleep quality each and every night. A stressful day may affect your rest, or it may be how you've chosen to set up your bedroom -- your base, your mattress, and your sleep accessories.
One of the crucial players is your pillow — they’re not just for decoration! These sleep accessories work in tandem with your mattress to create a complete sleep system that supports each individual’s restful sleep. Let’s dive into the importance of making high quality choices and how to pick the right pillow.
How Important is a Good Pillow?
You might be thinking that if you’re not sleeping on a good pillow, you’d know it. You’d wake up in the morning with stiff joints, or a sore neck. But even if that’s not the case, you might want to take the time to reassess your pillow set up.
The purpose of your pillow is to keep your head and neck in alignment while you sleep. Maintaining this full-body alignment while you sleep can help make sure that you’re sleeping well and you’re waking up feeling rested, rather than uncomfortable or sore.
Your pillow also contributes to your temperature regulation at night, and even more so with some of the advancements in the manufacturing of bed accessories. Everyone knows how good it feels to switch to the cool side of the pillow, and now there are pillows available that stay cool, eliminating the need to flip your pillow throughout the night.
How to Find the Right Pillow
People spend plenty of time picking out the right mattress, but sometimes our pillow selection doesn’t receive the same amount of attention. You should approach your pillow selection the same way you shopped for your mattress: with a personalized eye, and keeping your specific needs in mind. Below are the things to consider that can help you pick the right pillow.
How to Pick a Pillow: Your Sleeping Position
No matter what position you sleep in, the pillow that you pick should provide support for your head and neck without forcing you into any unnatural or uncomfortable positions. The most restful and painless sleep comes from keeping your head, neck, and spine in alignment, and it’s important to find the right pillow to support you from head to toe.
Pillows for Back Sleepers
For back sleepers, pillows should be on the thinner side, or they can edge closer to medium-thick. Your pillow should also be relatively firm to keep your head from sinking too far back and maintaining alignment between your head, neck, and spine. If it's too firm, however, you might find it puts your neck at an uncomfortable angle, so it's important to find a happy medium.
Memory foam is a good option because it conforms to your head and gives you the level of firmness you need. For this reason, you might consider checking out the bedGEAR Back Sleeper Performance Pillow.
Pillows for Side Sleepers
When sleeping on your side, you’ve created a gap between your neck and shoulders, impacting the proper alignment of your spine. You’ll want a medium to firm pillow that’s on the thicker side to provide support for your head and neck to keep your spine in proper alignment. Similar to back sleepers, side sleepers can also benefit from memory foam pillows.
A pillow that is too soft can impact breathing, as your head is turned on its side and sinks down further into your pillow. For a supportive pillow option, check out the bedGEAR Side Sleeper Performance Pillow.
Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Pillows that are soft and thin are ideal for stomach sleepers since this position is notorious for causing neck and back pain. A pillow that's too thick might exacerbate these problems. Take the time to find the right pillow that can help cushion and alleviate pressure points, allowing you to continue sleeping in your most comfortable position.
If you’re looking for a pillow to support sleeping on your stomach, check out the bedGEAR Stomach Sleeper Performance Pillow.
Your Body Temperature at Night
Overheating at night is very common. If you’re a hot sleeper, look into pillows with cotton casings, or cotton pillowcases. Cotton is one of the most breathable fabrics and can help increase airflow to keep you cooler at night.
You’ll also want to look into the construction of your pillow itself to find one that allows air to pass through its different layers, and doesn’t trap heat.
Your Sleeping Patterns
As our bodies change over time, the way we take care of them may need to change, too. That might mean trying out a new mattress or investing in a new pillow choice.
Changes in age, weight, or aches and pains can cause us to adjust our sleep position, thus requiring us to change our entire sleep system.
Shape and Size
It’s important to consider your sleep needs, such as sleeping position, body temperature, and sleeping patterns. But the way a pillow is made, the fabrics used, and the features a pillow offers may also impact your decision. Sometimes, it all depends on your preferences.
When it comes to shape, the typical pillow is rectangular, but you can also find cervical, neck, and full body pillows that can provide additional support to specific areas of your body.
In terms of pillow size, you should consider both dimensions and height. Pillows are usually categorized as standard (20 x 26 inches), super standard (20 x 28 inches), queen (20 x 30 inches), or king (20 x 36 inches). There are also body pillows, which measure 20 x 54 inches.
Height is a crucial component of pillow comfort to consider. In fact, most people buy pillows that are the wrong height without realizing that they’ve made the wrong choice. Then, they unknowingly mash them down in their sleep until they’ve reached the right comfort level for them. But wouldn’t it be better just to buy the right pillow from the start?
Choosing the right sleeping accessories often depends on your sleeping position, and choosing the right height for your pillow is no different. For back sleepers, your pillow should be between 4-6 inches. For side sleepers, 5-7 inches, and for stomach sleepers, closer to 4 inches. These heights can make sure you’re sleeping on your pillow the right way for optimal comfort.
Additionally, you’ll find that those with larger body types may find more comfort with thicker or higher pillows since they can offer more long-term support.
Materials — for both the inner fill and the outer fabric — can also play a big role in your pillow decision. Different materials can impact how well a pillow is able to help regulate your body temperature and keep you comfortable.
Down pillows, for example, are soft and may flatten quickly, so they tend to offer less support and need to be fluffed more often. Memory foam pillows, on the other hand, are denser, made from a solid piece of foam, and can provide more consistent support. But they’re not always as breathable as some other options.
The fill material for your pillow is also a crucial consideration for anyone who has allergies. If allergies are your biggest concern, consider hypoallergenic pillow fill options such as polyester or polyurethane. If you’re still struggling with allergens in the bedroom, consider investing in a pillow protector to shield your pillow against common allergens like dust mites.
How to Sleep on a Pillow
Now that you know how to pick the right pillow for you and your sleeping habits, did you know that there’s actually a right way and a wrong way to sleep on a pillow?
Like we mentioned before, sleeping positions have a big impact on the type of pillow you need to make sure you’re the most comfortable. But once you’re settling in for a good night’s sleep, it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind.
Your pillow should sit underneath your head in a way that supports the natural curve of your neck and spine and does not cause any muscle strain. It shouldn’t be so low that it’s underneath your shoulders. The idea is that you should be keeping your neck parallel to the mattress as best you can, since this serves to keep your spine in alignment.
How to Know It’s Time for a New Pillow
Sooner or later, it will be time to buy a new pillow. Like most things we invest in, pillows will have a certain lifespan. As they get older, pillows can start to hold on to a variety of bacteria, dust mites, allergens, and bodily fluids. Dirt, oil, and dead skin cells that become trapped in your pillow can contribute to asthma symptoms and may even cause acne.
Being diligent about washing your pillowcases and your pillow itself (making sure to follow the instructions on the care tag), and investing in a pillow protector can certainly extend its lifespan, but no pillow lasts forever.
It’s not uncommon for people to get new pillows when they get a new mattress — or when the internal material bunches and clumps so bad it’s no longer usable. Here are a few guidelines that can determine when it’s time to get a new pillow:
- If it needs fluffing to provide any kind of support. You shouldn’t have to constantly fluff or rearrange your pillow to be comfortable.
- If it doesn’t bounce back right away when you fold it in half and squeeze all the air out.
- If your pillow still has lumps and bumps even after fluffing.
- If it’s been several years since you’ve last replaced it. Most experts recommend replacing your pillows every two years.
- It’s showing signs of aging: stains, odors, physical wear and tear, etc.
Find the Right Pillow, Build a Better Sleep System
Learning how to pick the right pillow, and dedicating the time to finding the right mattress is a major step toward improving your sleep. At any Mattress Warehouse location, our store associates can help you find the right pillow for you.
If your sleep system isn’t performing well and you think it might need an overhaul, explore the bedMATCHⓇ process at Mattress Warehouse or come into one of our stores today. Our store associates are here to help with any of your questions.