How To Pick The Perfect Pillow
Pillows form an essential part of our lives! Let’s face it if we sleep for 8 hours a night, as we should do, then we are spending 1/3rd of our lives with our head on a pillow, so like a good pair of shoes or your car tyres, it’s worth investing some time in it and getting it right.
The reason we want to discuss pillows is that they play a significant role in the health of our neck, and often we see clients come through the clinic who are waking with neck pain in the morning from sleeping on an unsuitable pillow.
Now, I appreciate that it can be difficult choosing a pillow and with so many varieties on the market, what should we be looking for. The purpose of this blog is to outline a few key tips on how to find the best fitting pillow and what things to look out for. So let’s dispel a couple of common queries we hear from our clients first:
1. The more expensive a pillow, the better it is for me! Cost doesn’t necessarily = best fit, Just because its expensive doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you.
2. We don’t really need a pillow and if we do is it should be as flat as possible. You should sleep on a pillow that is high enough to support your neck and head and prevent pain and stiffness.
3. There is one pillow out there that will fit everyone! There is no ‘one’ pillow for everyone. Pillows come in a range of sizes and densities for a reason! Humans come in all different shapes, sizes and preferences and as such we need to find a pillow that fits our individual dimensions.
4. Sleeping on your stomach is the best position! We don’t usually recommend sleeping on your stomach, as you need to adopt a high degree of neck rotation in order to breathe. This places a lot of stress on the neck joints. What would happen if you walked around all day looking over your shoulder?
The entire purpose of a pillow is to support the curves of the neck to prevent us sleeping in a position that predisposes us to developing stiffness through the joints in the neck and tightness through the muscles. So while a pillow that is too soft and low can create problems, so will a pillow that is too high or firm.
So what do we need to look for in a pillow?
1. It must be comfortable to sleep on. If you like a firm density then get a firm pillow, if you like a soft density then get a soft pillow. If you’re not comfortable on it, you won’t use it!
2. The purpose of the pillow is to support the curves in the neck and hold it in a neutral position when you lie on it. So the width or thickness of the pillow should fill the gap between your shoulder and your ear when you lie on your side. To replicate what your neck does when you sleep, you need to lie on it for at least 5 minutes. In this case if you like a soft pillow it will need to be thicker, so that is still supports your neck once the weight of the head rests into it.
a. Remember we are aiming for neutral – too high or too low will cause the same problems à just on the opposite side.
3. We recommend that the pillow has a contour or a wave in in. Our neck is not built at right angles and the purpose of the contour is to fit quite closely into the shoulder and the neck to support the spine. When you look at a contour pillow you will notice that the pillow has a high side and a low side, the high side is for use if you are a side sleeper, and low side if you are a back sleeper.
Best case scenario look for somewhere that does a pillow fitting to ensure you get the correct size and density for you. This can be done by any of our Physio’s or Chiro’s at CBD Wellness Centre.
The final thing to remember is that you need to replace your pillow every 18-24 months. The longer we lie on the pillow the softer and flatter it will get, even if it’s a memory foam, think back to the shoe and tyre analogy we mentioned earlier, makes sense to replace it on a regular basis.
So there you have it 4 tips, make sure the pillow is comfortable to sleep on, make sure it’s thick enough to fill the gap between your shoulder and ear when you lie on it, make sure it has a contour and replace it every 18 months.
If you find you are waking up with a stiff neck in the morning then check when the last time you replaced your pillow was and consult your healthcare practitioner sooner rather than later.
Enjoy the rest of your week and we’ll see you in the clinic soon.