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A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Pillow

If you have been tossing and turning in your sleep due to neck and shoulder pains, maybe it’s time you got a new pillow.

When many of us suffer from after-sleep body aches, we often run to buy a quality mattress, forgetting that getting the right pillow is equally important.

The perfect pillow improves your sleeping posture, ensures your spine is well-aligned and supports your neck, shoulders, back, and hips.

But with so many pillow choices in the market, how do you choose the one that fits your needs and personal preferences?

Well, this article gives you everything you need to know on how to choose a pillow that will guarantee you a good night’s sleep.

Why Having the Right Pillow is Important?

Okay, you’re probably wondering, is a good pillow essential?

Well, a quality pillow is important.

A good pillow will give your upper body the support it needs allowing you to enjoy a painless and comfortable sleep.  Such a pillow aligns your neck, head, and shoulders with the rest of your body, alleviating pressure on your upper body.

Besides, for those with spinal and back problems, a good pillow can eliminate back pain. Your spine is naturally curved, and a pillow that provides the right support to your upper body ensures that the spine stays in this curved position when sleeping.

Mind Your Sleeping Position

So, now that you know the benefits of a quality pillow, what kind of pillow do you need?

Choosing the perfect pillow largely depends on your sleep position. As noted earlier, a healthy sleeping posture is one that ensures your spine is aligned properly, maintaining a straight line from your head, shoulders, and down to your back.

Since there are different sleeping positions, the pillow needed to maintain a healthy sleeping posture for each position is also different.

So, what kind of pillow do you need considering your sleeping position?

Back sleeper – If you’re a back sleeper, you need a pillow that holds your head up such that it’s at the same level as your shoulders. The pillow should also give your neck proper support and help the tissues under your neck relax. A not too thick pillow is the perfect choice for back sleepers. If you go for a very thin pillow, your head will fall too far back, while a thick one will probably lift your head too high, causing pressure and pain at the back of your head.

Side sleepers – If you sleep on your side, then your shoulder takes most of your body’s pressure. You need a thick pillow with firm support that can take some of this pressure and bodyweight off your shoulder. A thick pillow will also keep your head and neck at the same level as your spine.

Stomach sleepers – if you’re a stomach sleeper, you may not need a pillow as your spine is already elongated through your body length. But if you feel the need to get a pillow, get a thin, soft pillow. Such a pillow will support your neck and head without craning them upwards. Sleeping on your stomach often compromises your spine alignment due to the way you position your neck and head. Most experts advise that if you can, avoid sleeping in this position.

Pillow Size

Most people, when it comes to choosing a pillow size, consider their bed size. But did you know that the size of your pillow can affect your sleep? For instance, an extremely narrow pillow may not give you enough room for movement if you’re a restless sleeper.

The most common pillow sizes include the standard, king, and queen sizes.

Standard pillow size – The standard pillow size measures 20″x26″. This is the best pillow size if you’re looking for a pillow you can squish in your sleep. It’s also a good fit for a twin or a double bed.

Queen size pillow – This pillow measures 20″x30″. A queen size pillow is highly recommended for restless sleepers as it provides the perfect support for the sleeper’s shoulders. It’s also a perfect fit for a queen bed. The queen-sized pillow also gives a luxurious feel when put on a smaller bed.

King size pillow – This one measures 20″x36″ and it’s perfect for those who love reading or working in bed. It’s also great for a twin bed where one of the sleepers is known to turn and toss. It will also perfectly fit a king-sized bed.

Ergonomics (form, neck support, comfort, etc.)

When considering the factors that can help you find a good pillow, you may consider the pillow ergonomics. This may include the form, material, neck support, and comfort.

An ergonomic pillow is made with all these factors in mind. Such a pillow is made to complement your sleeping position such that it cradles your body and supports your head during sleep. This cuts down tension and pain, giving you a comfortable sleep.

But what do you need to look for in an ergonomic pillow?

  • Filling – Most ergonomic pillows are made of memory foam as this material molds and adjusts to the shape of your head and neck during sleep.  A memory foam pillow will ensure your body is in perfect alignment throughout the night.
  • Comfort – The best pillow is one that feels right when you sleep on it. It should be stable and comfortable. You should feel supported when you sleep on it and shouldn’t suffer from neck or shoulder pains after sleeping.
  • A contoured design – A pillow with a contoured design will help reduce neck pain and give you the support your upper body needs. Since it shapes around your head and neck, it reduces tilting during sleep.
  • Special features – Consider if the pillow offers additional features such as adjustable height pads, moisture-wicking abilities, hypoallergenic traits, or a zipped cover for that extra comfort.

Filler Material

Pillows are made from different filler materials. It’s hard to pinpoint the best pillow types based on their filler materials, as all of the materials have their pros and cons.

Here are some of the most common pillow filler materials:

  1.     Memory foam

Many people prefer memory foam pillows as they contour to the shape of the body during sleep. This material also evenly distributes one’s weight across the foam material.

A notable drawback of memory foam is that it retains heat, which can cause discomfort for people who suffer from night sweats. The material also has a lingering plastic odor when new, which can be uncomfortable for some people.

  1.     Down

Down pillows are made from duck or goose fibers. They are very soft and light, making them perfect for those looking for a soft surface to lay their head.  They are also highly breathable, hypoallergenic, and durable.

The major drawback of down pillows is that they are expensive.

  1.     Synthetic down

Compared to the down pillows, synthetic down pillows are more affordable, although not as soft as the down pillows.  

These pillows are machine washable and long-lasting. The only downside is that they need to be frequently replaced compared to other naturally made pillows.

  1.     Cotton and wool

Pillows made from cotton and wool are naturally hypoallergenic as they are resistant to molds and dust mites.

They are also durable and effectively regulate heat during sleep. These are the best pillows if you have allergies or you’re sensitive to chemicals.

  1.     Latex

Latex is said to produce a firmer pillow compared to other filler materials. If you love a pillow that you can squish to shape during sleep, this may not be it.

The advantage of a latex pillow fill is that due to its firmness, it holds its shape for a long time. Latex is also good for people with allergies as it's resistant to dust mites and molds. If you’re looking for a pillow that gives extra support to your upper body or one that restricts your movement during sleep, a latex pillow is a perfect choice.

When choosing your pillow’s filler material, remember that the filler weight also matters. For instance, down and synthetic down materials are light, while wool and latex made pillows are heavier.

Casing Materials

Your pillow will have a casing that protects it from stains and wear and tear. The casing is often made from a breathable material to protect you from night sweats.

A proper pillow casing should have a high fabric thread count. Thread count is the number of threads per square inch of the casing fabric. A higher thread count makes the pillow soft and durable.

Here’s a look at the most popular pillow casing materials.

  • Cotton – This natural material is durable and soft. It’s also affordable and can be blended with other materials to create good airflow.
  • Wool – Wool is another natural material with moisture-wicking abilities. Wool is also extremely comfortable to the skin.
  • Poly fibers- This synthetic material is long-lasting and strong. When blended with other natural fibers, its durability and breathability are improved.
  • Bamboo - Fibers from the bamboo plant are soft and hypoallergenic. The bamboo casing also has a cushion-like feel, and it’s breathable.
  • Copper infusions –Metals infusions are often woven and blended with other materials to create pillow casings that release positive ions on your body. These ions can help promote body healing and blood flow.

Washability and Care

The washability and care needs of your pillow are dependent on its material.

We recommend that you wash your pillows as often as you wash your bed sheets. Dirty pillows harbor dust mites, dead skin cells, and in some cases, bed bugs.

Check your pillow label to see if it's machine washable. Pillows made from foam or latex may need to be hand-washed. Always check the care tag and follow the washing instructions given.

Once you clean your pillow, air dry it on a flat surface. If the label provides that the pillow can be dried in the drier, ensure you keep the dryer heat low to ensure your pillow holds its shape.

Breathability and Coolness

If you’re a hot sleeper, consider buying a breathable pillow with cooling abilities. Such pillows have moisture-wicking capabilities and also provide better ventilation, protecting your body from overheating.

Natural materials such as cotton, bamboo, and wool are often recommended for hot sleepers as they are naturally breathable and wick away moisture.

Memory foam and gel materials are also suitable for regulating temperature, but you should be prepared to deal with strong chemical odors that can disrupt your sleep.

Breathable pillows are also perfect for protecting you from night sweats as they are designed to let the air pass. This kind of pillow will also diffuse moisture, letting it evaporate instead of allowing it to build on the pillow’s surface.

Another popular cooling pillow is the water pillow. This pillow is made of foam or down but underneath this material is a protected layer of water. This water layer keeps you cool all night long.

There you have it, the perfect pillow buying guide!  

Hopefully, now you know how to choose the right pillow and what to look out for when shopping for a comfortable and supportive pillow.

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