How to Choose the Right Pillow

There are so many pillows to choose from: down pillows, feather pillows foam and memory foam pillows, synthetic pillows and much more. Selling pillows is a big business, but how do you know which one is right for you?

A lot of people also wonder which is healthier, one pillow or two? The truth is, that's not important. It's not how many pillows you choose to sleep on. What really matters is the size and thickness of the pillows. There are a number of factors that need to be accounted for when you really want to know if you're sleeping on the right number and type of pillow or pillows.


We spend so many hours sleeping in our bed that if the height of your pillow isn't right for you then sooner or later you're going to have problems; pain across the upper back, into the neck, or even into your head. You can also wake up with the feeling that there's a tight band around your head that leaves you feeling fuzzy-headed. If you've had a few glasses of wine the night before then yes, this feeling could be a hangover, but otherwise, the chances are that it's your pillow that is causing the problem.


The bed matters too

The first thing you need to take into consideration is the bed you're sleeping on. Your mattress needs to be soft enough that it's just giving in to your hips and your shoulders, but that it's keeping your back in a nice straight line. When you're lying in bed you should be able to completely relax and let go, and your mattress should hold you in place without letting you roll or twist at all. Also, your pillow should be an extension of your shoulder, just high enough to keep your neck in a straight line.


Generally speaking, a pillow will be the same thickness all the way through. If your pillow is too thin your head and neck will angle downwards towards the mattress and this will cause pressure on the neck muscles. If your pillow is too thick, you'll get a completely opposite effect. You're head and neck will angle up away from the mattress, and again, this will put pressure on your neck muscles and ligaments and over time will cause tension and pain. So, it's important to make sure your pillow is nice and level and that it takes the tension away from the neck itself.


Contours prevent the kink

For many, the solution is to choose an orthopaedic pillow. These pillows have contours that make one side higher than the other, with a comfortable hollow in the middle. Your head fits snugly into the hollow and your neck is supported whether you're sleeping on your back or your side. And because the contours of the pillow are at different heights an orthopaedic pillow will usually cater for all body shapes and sizes.


Most orthopaedic pillows are made from memory foam which gently cradles and supports your neck, and when you get out of bed it returns to its original shape. Normal foam pillows are also available and can be just as good for your neck, but are not as durable and will usually not last as long as pillows made with memory foam. The lower cost of a normal foam pillow can, however, be a good option for someone who is trying to sleep on an orthopaedic pillow for the first time and is not sure if they are right for them.


Keep the same posture

As a rule of thumb, when you go pillow shopping you should choose a pillow that allows you to maintain the same posture while asleep just as the posture you have when standing up: your ears should be level with your shoulders on both sides. This is the posture you should keep when standing up, sitting down and even lying down.


Experts tend to disapprove of sleeping on your stomach, but if you are in the habit of sleeping face down then choose a pillow that is slightly softer than normal. This will prevent your head from rising up further than it should. Back sleepers should use a medium firm pillow which helps them maintain the normal, straight posture of the spine. If you are a side sleeper then you should on no account sleep on a soft pillow. You need a firm pillow that holds your head up slightly higher and prevents that downwards kink that can lead to stiff and sore necks in the morning.


7 Quick pillow tips


1. Allergy sufferers should stay away from down and feather pillows or they could wake up sneezing without knowing why.


2. Don't forget to change your pillow when you need to because pillows do wear out and they are just as important to your health as a good mattress.


3. People who suffer from back and neck pain should try changing their pillows before they go out and spend hundreds of pounds on a new bed or mattress.


4. Sleeping without a pillow is not recommended. When you're laying completely flat on your back the natural curvature in your neck flattens out and this is not good for the supportive muscles or joints in and around your spine.


5. Too many pillows can cause the head to tilt forward if you're a back sleeper. This could not only cause you to wake up with a stiff neck, it will constrict your airways which in turn can lead to breathing problems and snoring.


6. If you do find a pillow that really works for you it is recommended you don't just purchase one, buy three or four if you can. The reason is that after your pillow wears out you're going to go back to the shop to find the same pillow and the chances are it won't be there.


7. The Sleep Council of the United Kingdom recommends changing your pillow every 2 years. Pillowcases should be washed once a week, and the pillow itself every three months.





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