Even most people today have such hectic schedules that sleeping a full eight hours seems like an impossible luxury, getting a good night’s rest has an overwhelming number of healthy benefits. According to a number of studies, receiving seven to eight hours of sleep a night can improve a person’s mood, health, weight, and even their sex life.
Of course enjoying a full night’s rest is a lot easier if you have the right pillow lying beneath your head. A pillow not only affects the quality of sleep you get each night, it also determines how restful and recharging our sleep becomes.
Sleeping on the wrong pillow, however, can cause a variety of problems, including neck pain, headaches, general discomfort, shoulder and arm numbness, wheezing, and sneezing. Depending on how old your pillow, it may also be filled with mold, mildew, skin cells, pet dander, dust mites, and fungus, all of which can exacerbate any preexisting allergies you may suffer from. In fact, half the weight of an old pillow can be attributed to the weight of these extraneous items.
So when is it time to buy a new pillow? Most experts agree the optimal time to replace your old pillow is around every 12 to 18 months. If you’ve had a pillow for longer than two years, the time has definitely come to say goodbye and make a new nighttime friend.
Pillow Shopping 101
The first thing to consider when purchasing a new pillow is your own preferred sleep position. The goal of any pillow you purchase should be to keep your head in what sleep experts refer to as a “neutral alignment.” This means your head rests firmly on your shoulders without bending too far forward or backward. Depending on your preferred sleep position, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Back Sleepers: People who sleep on their backs need thinner pillows, so their heads are not thrust too far forward. You should also look for a pillow that provides extra loft in the bottom portion of the pillow, so it can cradle your neck as you sleep.
- Side Sleepers: Individuals who sleep on their side need a firm pillow that successfully fills in the space between the ear and the outside shoulder. If you’re used to sleeping on a soft pillow, consider testing out a few extra firm pillows in the store prior to settling on a softer, less firm variety to see if you can notice a difference in comfort.
- Stomach Sleepers: While not the ideal position for your body to sleep in because of how it twists your neck, stomach sleepers need a very thin, almost flat pillow. Some side sleepers may even be able to do without a pillow, but should consider tucking one underneath their stomach to avoid any lower back pain from developing.
With an enormous number of options at your disposal, you’re certain to find a pillow stuffing that’s right for you. In today’s market place, the most common types of pillow stuffing include foam, down-feather, and polyester fiberfill. Individuals looking for a little extra support may choose to go with memory foam or latex pillows that adhere to the contours of your head and neck. When picking out a pillow stuffing, keep these tips in mind:
- Foam: How soft or firm a foam pillow depends on its density. The higher the foam density, the less give the pillow will have and the more support it will provide.
- Memory Foam: A popular choice among people who suffer from chronic neck pain, memory foam constantly adjusts to the contours of your body as you move throughout the night. Memory foam pillows also come in a variety of shapes, including contoured S-shapes that provide extra support to the neck. However, memory foam does have a tendency to emit a slight chemical aroma and is known to make sleepers hot.
- Latex: The firmest type of pillow on the market, latex resists the inset of dust mites and mold, and can also help improve your neck and back alignment as you sleep.
- Cotton/Wool: Hypoallergenic and also resistant to dust mites and mold, wool and cotton pillows tend toward being firm, so if you like a softer pillow, these may not be right for you.
- Down Feather: One of the most highly recommended pillows by sleep experts, down pillows allow you to easily move the interior stuffing around so you can provide support to the areas of your head and neck that most need it during the night.
Timothy Lemke writes about health and beauty issues for Dr. Howard Jarvis, a dentist in Portland OR at Southwest Portland Dental.