How to Choose a Pillow

Did you know that 40 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleep disorder (see: How to Fall Asleep)? Think about it, that’s more people than Tokyo’s entire population! If you’re one of these sleep deprived individuals, you may want to consider looking for a new pillow.

There is no right or wrong pillow type, generally speaking. It all comes down to personal preference. In order to find your preference, though, you need to know what your options are!

Pillows Made of Natural Materials

  • Down – This is considered to be the most luxurious pillow option due to the cloud-like texture. Down is not technically a feather. Rather, it is the fluff beneath a goose’s feathers. Many people are allergic to this material, so manufactures have begun adding milkweed as a hypoallergenic coating.
  • Feather – These pillows contain large goose feathers and offer more support than down, but the disadvantage is that the feathers tend to poke through pillowcase material and jab at the face. Feather pillows aren’t a good option if you’re sensitive to smell, as they have a natural odor which intensifies when damp.
  • Wool – This material is coveted by hot sleepers because it absorbs moisture and prevents sweaty sleep. Dust mites aren’t a fan of wool, so allergy sufferers do well with these pillows as well.
  • Buckwheat hulls – This is a commonly used material in Asia, but is gaining popularity in America. It’s a great option for fussy sleepers who like to have a nicely fluffed pillow at all time, as the pieces constantly move about and reshape the pillow. Buckwheat hulls vary in shape and are hollow, allowing air ventilation for an allergen-free pillow.
  • Cotton – This all-natural filler is thought to be clean and safe for the body. It provides mediocre support, which is perfect for those who aren’t starting out with neck issues. The down side to cotton filler is that it tends to clump up and you will need to replace your pillow often.

Synthetic Pillows

  • Memory foam – Scientists have found a sleeping option that appeals to many people. Memory foam reacts to the body’s natural heat and forms around curves for a customized pillow. As you toss and turn, the pillow will reform around your head and neck.
  • Polyester – This is the preferred filler for people suffering with allergies. As with cotton, this material clumps. Because of the ease of processing polyester, these pillows are cheapest to purchase.

Other Pillow Types

  • Water – A water pillow is much like a water bed, but on a smaller scale. They can be inflated or deflated to the desired density and height, and are advocated by chiropractors for their customizable support.

Choosing a Pillow Based on Your Sleep Position

Depending on which position that you sleep in, you’re going to want to find a pillow that suits that sleeping style best. Many pillow brands do the work for you by specifying on the package how the pillow is meant to be used. If this is not the case, here are the standard positions and suggested pillow styles:

  • Back Sleepers – These sleepers do well with any sort of pillow that allows for the head to nestle in the middle of the surface area. When this occurs, the filling is pushed out to the sides and creates a makeshift cradle that prevents the head from falling to the side. Memory foam and natural pillows work well.
  • Stomach Sleepers – This position requires less support than the others. Look for a soft and flat pillow that won’t hinder your breathing by forming around your face. Babies use flat pillows (if any at all) for this very reason. Also, keep in mind that a thick pillow will push your head up and curve your neck in an unnatural way.
  • Side Sleepers – Think about this position and how your shoulder creates a pocket between your head and the bed. You’ll want to find a thick pillow that can bridge the large gap which tends to tweak a person’s neck. Consider a synthetic filling which will hold its shape better than natural filling.

Some sleepers find it best to use a rolled up towel under their necks rather than providing a pillow for the entire head. This is an orthopedic tip to help cure chronic neck and back pain. Many manufacturers have caught on and now create round pillows in this style, in a variety of materials.

As you can see, you have lots of options and plenty of combinations to try! If at first you don’t succeed, return the pillow or donate it to a friend and try again. Your body deserves it!

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