We spend a lot of time sleeping, so it’s natural to pay close attention to our mattress. Naturally, our head, neck, and spine health depend on it. However, don’t overlook the innocent looking pillow!
Many of us assume that any type of head support works, but the reality is that the wrong pillow choice can cause neck stiffness, back pain and recurring headaches.
Even a pillow that has served well for many years eventually loses its firmness and support. Therefore, when it comes time to get a new pillow, consider the following to make the best choice:
Always make pillow purchase an individual choice
People come in all shapes and sizes, so it stands to reason that an individual’s neck and head support needs during sleep are unique. Don’t rely on someone else to pick something out for you; make sure you actually test the pillow out before making the purchase. A knowledgeable sleep expert can point you in the right direction, but it does not hurt to have basic criteria in mind (e.g. pillow height, firmness, overall comfort) when visiting the shop floor.
Select quality material as permitted by your budget
The four major categories of pillow are:
- Fibre-filled pillows (e.g. micro/polyester fibre)
- Down and/or feather-filled pillows
- Foam pillows
- Latex pillows
Latex pillows are the most expensive, but have the advantage of being hypo-allergenic and longer lasting than either fibre or feather-filled pillows. A quality foam pillow offers good head and neck support and as a result has become a popular choice. Modern “memory” foam technology allows moulding and remoulding of pillows to your shape to prevent gaps with your neck. However, we recommend that you test these out thoroughly before making a commitment.
What type of sleeper are you?
While the majority of people are side sleepers, there are a number of back and stomach sleepers who have different pillow requirements. Side sleepers require more hip and shoulder support, and need thicker pillows. Back sleepers need head and neck support that prevents tilting towards the chest, so thinner pillows are preferable. As always, neck and spine support are priorities for everyone.
Test and buy from a reputable store
It pays to shop for your pillow in person, ideally at a retailer that specialises in bedding products or in a large department store. You are usually free to try different pillows in the presence of specialists, often on beds that closely resemble what you have at home. Don’t be shy about moving and rolling around. You should be certain that your pillow offers enough support and that you will be comfortable for your 6-8 hours day of daily rest.
Expert advice is available
Compared to mattresses, pillows are relatively low cost. Nevertheless, they are vitally important for head, neck, and spine health. When the time comes to buy a pillow and re-evaluate the quality of your sleep, don’t hesitate to consult a qualified physiotherapist who specialises in neck and back pain, and has expertise when it comes to headaches and proper posture.