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Research has shown that millions of people in the United States have trouble sleeping without tossing and turning through the night. Most people do not realize that they have this problem because they do fall asleep. Some may even find themselves in dreamland just minutes after their heads hit the pillows. But, it’s not about falling asleep. It’s about sleeping soundly until the night is done.
You could be turning and tossing the entire night without even knowing it. It’s your body’s involuntary response to uncomfortable sleeping conditions. By the time your alarm goes off, you will find yourself still yearning for more sleep. Your body hardly feels refreshed and well-rested from the previous day’s toll.
You can blame this on your bedding accessories.
Most people are aware of the importance of a good mattress when it comes to getting some shut-eye. But, very few realize that those little details - the pillows, can undo all the good you'd hoped to achieve by getting a top quality mattress.
Humans have been using pillows since as far back as 9000 years ago. Although these were not comfortable, the fact goes to show that people have always wanted to keep their heads elevated when sleeping.
Most people use pillows and very few can say they voluntary avoid using pillows unless as a medical precaution to prevent the exacerbation of back or neck injury. But normally, most people use at least one pillow, with some using two or three every night.
Here is everything you need to know about pillows from what types to choose, to how to make sure they last long, and what problems signal a bad pillow.
What Are the Available Pillow Fillers?
A lot of different materials go into pillows these days, and the best depends on a number of factors. Actually, it is advisable to have different types of pillows. These will serve you depending on how you are feeling that day. For example, if you happen to have neck pains, you might want to use a pillow with a particular softness and size.
But, once the pain subsides, you may find the same pillow quite uncomfortable.
Pillow fillings range from feathers, polyester fillings, cotton, and foam.
If you are looking for specialty neck and back support, you may go for a pillow with memory foam fillings. Latex pillows also provide added comfort and support. Here are some details about the available types of fillings.
The best foam fillers have to be dense. This will ensure the pillow lasts long and does not compress too much under your weight. A pillow that overly compresses will not provide adequate support for your body, and this will only get worse as it ages.
2. Memory Foam
Memory foam was engineered by NASA for its astronauts. The foam can be molded to follow the shape of your body. Using this filling in your pillow allows it to adjust its shape to follow your body as you turn in your sleep. Therefore, any position you put your pillow will soon be comfortable.
These can be good pillows for back pain sufferers. The downside to using memory foam is that since it's synthetic, it comes with an odor which some users find irritating. It also tends to sleep hot.
Latex rubber pillows are some of the best you can get. If they are 100 percent organic, they can be the firmest, most resilient type out there. They also come with the advantage of less dust mite infestation which is a major problem of synthetic foam. This particular quality makes it the darling of people with allergies.
If you have asthma, or simply like your pillow dust-free, a latex pillow is your best friend. It prevents dust from gathering inside, which becomes a problem for most pillow filling over time.
Using feathers as pillow filings has been hailed as one of the best ways to build a comfy compressive soft pillow. That because unlike most fillers, feathers can easily remain loose throughout the pillow’s life and can be moved around to change the pillow's thickness for maximum comfort.
The one disadvantage of feather-filled pillows is that they can be harmful to those with allergic reactions since they can host mites. That's why some people go for synthetic feather fillings.
They come with the structural characteristics of the original but are hypoallergenic. But, with these, you have to be ready to hit the bed shop soon as they don't last as long as organic down pillows.
What Are The Special Types of Pillows Available?
There are some pillows designed to address specific problems. These can cost a lot more than the ordinary types due to the effort that goes into building them. Here are 6 types of pillows you can consider if you are looking for something beyond the ordinary types.
1. Oxygenating Pillows
Do you need extra air flow as you lay your head on your pillow? You may need to get your hands on an oxygenating pillow. These are designed to enhance airflow within the pillow mass. This means that the user will be able to breathe in more fresh air as they sleep.
Sometimes, oxygen levels within the blood capabilities of people can shoot up by as much as 25 percent or more with this specialty pillow. This tends to reduce headaches and neck pains according to reports by some users.
2. Pillows that Prevent Snoring
Snoring isn’t just annoyingly noisy, but is also bad for the resulting oxygen deprivation it causes in the snorer. This leads to snorers feeling fatigued during the day which makes them less efficient at work and other daily responsibilities.
Anti-snoring pillows are designed to prevent just that although there are not enough studies to prove this. However, people that have used them reported less snoring and more comfort during sleep.
The pillows are designed with a special shape to enhance air passage through the airways as one sleeps.
3. Positional Pillows
Positional pillows are shaped to support the body at different points like the stomach, spine, hip area, knees, etc. They come in different sizes and densities depending on what point they are supposed to support.
Side sleeper, back sleeper, and stomach sleeper can each select the appropriate pillow for the sleeping position.
4. Cervical pillows
Although there isn't much documentation of cervical pillows helping with neck pain, some users say they got some relief from, and managed to ward off neck pain. The pillow comes with a thicker bottom section and that's the part that lies under the neck to sustain the arch between the shoulders and the head.
5. Water Pillows
Using water as part of the filling, water pillows can give you different firmness and density depending on your needs. Many physicians recommend them for this versatility.
However, when shopping for this type of pillow, makes sure the manufacturer is a reputable one as poorly manufactured water pillows have been known to leak.
6. Cool Pillows
If hot flashes seem to be your woe, having a cool pillow on your bed might be your redemption. An ordinary pillow will simply absorb your body heat and which will result in an uncomfortable temperature.
But not cool pillows. They are filled with specially designed beads that absorb the heat that comes from your head and leaves the surface of the pillow cool. It's like flipping your pillow to get to the cool side without actually flipping it.
Pillows and Your Sleeping Position
You use pillows to keep your head neutrally positioned on your shoulder. That’s just a more comfortable position and it prevents neck and back pain. But, if you pick the wrong type you may find yourself doing your bedtime a disservice.
Your pillow should be just the right thickness. But, there is no one size fits all. The right fit depends on your sleeping positions, and if the thickness and your sleeping position do not match, you will end up with disrupted sleep and possible back and neck aches.
Side sleeping is a common sleeping position. It comes with the advantage of keeping the spine curved as you sleep, which is its natural shape. This makes side sleepers less prone to back pain. However, it also comes with a bad side: wrinkles.
Your facial skin will be subjected to sagging which, in the long run, will result in contours on your face. What's more, your arms will be constricted and blood circulation hampered.
Firmness is the most important aspect you will need to consider when choosing a pillow if you are a side sleeper. A pillow that's too soft will compress way too much, leaving the head angled downwards.
This will result in discomfort and disrupted sleep. Slide sleepers must use firm mattresses to adequately support the weight of the head without letting it tilt downwards too much.
Best Pillows for Side Sleepers
Down and Feather Pillows For Side Pillows
If you are a side sleeper, down pillows might be a good option so long they are a bit bulky. That's because feathers tend to compress too much and that might leave inadequate mechanical support for your head. A side sleeper might love feather-filled pillows for their ability to keep the face from getting squished under pressure. That's thanks to their soft and airy nature.
Latex and Kapok Fiber For Side Sleeper Pillows
The combination of pure, natural latex rubber and organic kapok fiber from the Kapok tree is a great combination, especially when configured in a semi-circle that cradles the head and neck. Great for side and back sleepers.
Buckwheat Pillows for Side Sleepers
What makes buckwheat pillows good for side sleepers is their dense characteristics. This makes them very incompressible under the weight of your head.
The downside to using buckwheat pillows if you are a side sleeper is that they tend to squish the face too much due to their incompressible nature. Their weight can also be a huge minus as some can be as heavy as 2 pounds.
Latex Pillows for Side Sleepers
Latex makes a good pillow for side sleepers, being able to sustain its support even under pressure. Since it's not compressible it won't have to be bulky to provide the necessary cushioning. Latex pillows though, just like most latex products, can come with a high price tag.
For stomach sleepers, the head is naturally in its relaxed position. You can sleep without a pillow and still enjoy deep invigorating slumber.
However if you feel uncomfortable, a very thin pillow might do. You might also want to support your stomach to prevent back pains.
Best Pillows for stomach sleepers
Foam pillow for Stomach Sleepers
Since stomach sleepers don't need that much support, foam pillow provides adequate support. It is compressible enough and will provide the much-needed support for your spine without being too high.
Shredded Latex Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Shredded latex pillows have all the benefits of latex, but can be adjusted to be thinner and the filling material moved around well, which works well for stomach sleepers.
Wool Filled Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Wool and cotton make good pillow fillings for stomach sleepers because of their soft nature. They are readily available and can be quite cheap to buy. But, they tend to harden after prolonged usage and thus become uncomfortable.
If you are a stomach sleeper looking for a pillow that will last longer than average, organic cotton wool filled pillows may not be the best option.
Feathers Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Because pillows of down feathers can be made into any shape just by moving the fillings around, they make great support for stomach sleepers. What else makes them great is their compressibility.
You may not even need a combination of hard and soft feathers since there isn't much need for structural support if you are a stomach sleeper. This is especially so if all you need is to support the stomach to keep the spine in its natural shape.
If you like to snooze on your back, you should use a thin pillow. Your head isn’t pushed too far back if you sleep in this position and a thin pillow will keep you comfortable. However, there is a little detail to pay attention to, and that has to do with your neck.
To keep it supported, your pillow should not be of uniform thickness. Towards the bottom (The part that you place close to your shoulder) the pillow should be thicker.
Best Bed Pillows for Back Sleepers
Down Feathers Pillow
Since back sleepers need thin pillows, down feather fillings make great cushioning? You don't want a pillow that won't compress when you lay your head on it and down feathers play this role perfectly.
Furthermore, since the neck needs a little more support than the head, you can move the contents of feather pillows downwards to make them bulky towards the bottom.
Like down, the contents of a shredded latex pillow can be shifted to work well for back sleepers.
Since back sleepers need a shaped pillow to support the head and neck firmly, memory foam makes a good choice since it's able to change shape to suit your body.
What Pillow Shapes Are On the Market?
Lumbar pillows are usually shaped rectangularly. They are meant to give a broad area to support the lumbar part of the back. It is important to position the pillow properly and that is just under the curve of the spine.
This will enable the spinal column to maintain its shape through the night and therefore prevent back pains. Lumbar pillows are particularly good for pregnant women or those with a high susceptibility to lower back pains.
Wedge pillows are shaped to emulate a wedge, having one end really thin then slowly increasing thickness towards the opposite end.
They can offer support if you are trying to achieve a more upright posture when you are sleeping or when you are sitting on your bed, for example, to read or watch a movie. If you suffer from acid reflux, a wedge pillow can be an ideal purchase.
Bolster pillows come with an oblong form in a rectangular or rounded shape. You can put them between your legs to provide some support for your hip area.
If you are suffering from lower back or hip pain, they can be an effective aid. For this reason, they are popular with pregnant women.
How do You Know If You Have the Right Pillow?
You have to make sure your bedtime is as pleasant as possible. Everything should be just right including your pillow. How do you know your pillow is the right one?
Your spine makes a curve in your neck to allow a uniform distribution of weight from your head when you are in an upright position.
You can sleep in any position you feel comfortable; however, you must maintain the spine's form at all times through the night. A good pillow will help you achieve this.
The following are the signs of a bad pillow that result from improper support of your body:
Neck pain: Especially for side sleepers where the pillow is not thick enough, or for back sleepers where the pillow is too high. The latter also applies to stomach sleepers. The neck pillows for pain will depend on the sleeping position.
Headaches: This can be the result of a pillow that's too hard thereby disrupting the flow of blood. Even the mere pressure against a pillow that's to compact can result in pain.
Migraines: The same conditions that cause headaches apply here. These can also be caused by pillows with chemicals in them that harms the body systems once inhaled.
Shoulder pain: Shoulder pain is the result of pillows with the wrong thickness - either too thin or too thick, and the wrong firmness, if too compact.
Upper back pain: Most problems that cause neck pain can also cause upper back pain. These include a pillow that's too thing for side sleepers or a pillow that's too thick under the head for back and stomach sleepers.
Lower back pain: Lower back pain is caused by insufficient lumbar support, meaning the spine is not able to maintain its curvature as you sleep. This might mean the pillow you are using is not thick enough.
Neck stiffness in the morning: This might be caused by a pillow that has a combination of improper size and firmness. It might mean the pillow is too firm which disrupts blood circulation and disturbs nerve function.
How Do Different Improper Pillows Affect Your Health?
A pillow that's too thick
If you have a pillow on your bed that's too high, your neck will be angled upwards, away from the mattress. This will stretch your neck muscles and disturb blood flow as well as nerve communication. The other result is that the spine will be pushed out of alignment.
A Pillow that’s Too Low
A low pillow will mean your neck has to be angled downwards as you sleep. This has the same effect as a pillow that’s too high. Problems include disturbed blood flow and nerve communication which may result in stiff necks and general neck pain.
A Pillow with no Contours
This mostly applies to such ‘solid’ pillows as latex if they do not have any contours. The best latex foam pillows should have contours. A pillow that comes with no contours will not support the spine’s original shape. That means all the aches and curves of the spinal column will not be in their natural form and this will cause back and neck pains.
Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine if Your Pillows is Okay for You
How old is the pillow?
Nothing last forever and at one point you will need to replace your pillow. But it can be difficult to determine just when a pillow has fully run its course and needs to retire.
Although different materials have different life spans, the general rule is that pillows need replacing every two years if they are to remain effective.
Does Your Shoulder Feel Pressure When You Sleep?
If you feel any pressure on your shoulder as you sleep, it mean your pillow is not soft enough.
This might be a sign that the pillow has been in use for too long, long enough to have its filings compressed beyond the comfortable limit. It might be time to get to the store.
Do you feel the need to tuck your hands under the pillow as you sleep?
This might be out of habit but usually, if you find yourself putting your hands under the pillow as you sleep, it is a sign that the pillow is not high enough. Replace it with a higher pillow.
Do you always need to fluff up your pillow?
If you find yourself shaking the pillow in order to fluff it up before using it, you might want to get a new one. Having to fluff up your pillow during use means it is not soft enough as the fillings have probably become too compact under pressure. This usually results from over usage or poor filling quality.
Do you find yourself bunching your pillow for increased support?
If you find yourself folding the pillow to support your neck, you clearly need a replacement. There can hardly be any comfort in a pillow that has to be bunched up before use. Doing this compacts the filings and reduces the size of the pillow.
Do You Find Yourself Adjusting Your Head Too Many Times?
If finding the most comfortable poison on your pillow is a matter of trial and error, you need to find a new one. Memory foam, which will follow the shape of your boy as opposed to you following the shape of the pillow might be good for this.
Questions To Ask Yourself before Choosing a Pillow
How Long do you want it To Last?
If you don’t mind replacing your pillow within a few months, synthetic a synthetic pillow might suffice. These last around 6 months max. The longest lasting are latex pillows. but these can be costly
Do You Have Allergies?
If you have any allergies, you may want to steer clear of pillows that use synthetic fillings. These ted to gather mites and dust. This can be a terrible combination for people with asthma and other conditions that are triggered by allergic reactions. The way to go in this case is an organic latex pillow.
Are Your Sinuses Sensitive to Chemicals?
If your sinuses are sensitive to the smell of chemicals you might want to stay away from memory foam pillows and indeed any that uses synthetic fillings. These give off offensive smells that may irritate your airways.
How Heavy Are You?
Obviously, if you are heavy, you will need a pillow that is a little more bulky. This will makes sure it does not compress too much under the weight of your head. This especially applies to those that use body pillows.
How much do you want to spend?
This definitely has to be on your mind if you're thinking about getting pillow. Memory foam and latex pillows are on the expensive side of things. The cheaper alternatives are cotton and feather – filled pillows. However, since latex pillows are longer lasting, they may save money in the long run.
How to Determine if You Need to Replace Your Pillow?
Different pillow types will need different methods to determine if you need to replace them
Test for Down Feather Pillows
To successfully carry out this test, make sure your pillow is not moist and ensure that it is well fluffed and aerated. Now fold it once and press it down on a flat hard surface like a table (not a bed).
If after you letting it go the pillow springs back into its original position, it has some more miles to run. If it stays folded after releasing, then it has lost its resilience and needs to go.
Test for Synthetic Pillows
To test if a pillow with synthetic fillings is still usable, place it on a hard flat surface and fold it. Now push all the air out by pressing it with your hands. Put a shoe on top of it and then let go. If it stays folded, you need a new pillow. Normally, it should throw the shoe off and spring back to its normal position.
Test for Latex or Memory Foam
For latex or memory foam, determining whether the pillow needs replacing may be a bit difficult. The only thing to consider is their resilience. Does the pillow still fell resilient? Does it retain impression you leave in it? Press on it with your hands until it is deformed. If you can still see the deformation after two minutes, your pillow needs replacing.
How to take care of your pillow?
There are some things you can do to make your pillow last longer. Some of the most basic rules include not exposing your pillow to heat. Avoid using your pillow on your seats for comfort. The prolonged exposure body heat will work to deteriorate the pillow faster. The perceptual pressure is also a major pillow aging agent.
You do not have to wash your pillow as frequently as you wash your pajamas of course. Twice or three times per year is enough. Some pillows cannot be washed using the machine.
Check the pillow label to verify if it can handle a machine wash. Avoid using washing powder because it can leave residue in the pillow filing. The best is to use a liquid washing detergent, a mild one at that. It is advisable to wash pillows two by two to make sure there is balance in the machine.
Also, since the pillow pauses risk of keeping some detergent water inside due to its bulky nature, rinse it twice or three times to make sure it is fully free from detergent. Avoid using rough cycle. Pillows have to be washed with the gentlest cycle your washing machine can deliver.
Some machines have cycles meant specifically for pillows but this is not very common.
Make sure the pillow is thoroughly dry before using it if it uses down fillings. Using a pillow that has moisture inside will lead to mold, which will in turn shorten its lifespan drastically.
For synthetic pillows, any amount of heat, whether low or high, will lead to clumping. To prevent this, absorb the moisture from the pillow using thick towels. Then try to fluff it up.
You can now put it in the dryer to remove whatever moisture might be remaining. A few tennis balls thrown in along with the pillows will make the job more effective. Just be sure to put the balls in white socks to prevent them from staining the pillow.
Air out Pillows
If you want your pillow to have a longer lifespan, put it outside in the open air, on your clothesline. This will allow all the moisture to dry out without the risk of clumping. One thing you have to bear in mind is not to put your pillow in direct sunlight as this will damage the fibers.
Keep Your Pillow Covers On
While pillows come with pillow cases and that might seem enough, pillow covers play an important role. They will help prevent your pillow case from getting stained and become the first line of defense from dust and body oils getting into the pillow fillings.
Fluff Your Pillow Daily
Fluffing your pillow every day will help keep it breathable. Your pillow will maintain its resiliency for longer, and will have its filling evenly distributed every time. The fluffing also prevent dust from settling in your pillow, a vital thing if you are asthmatic.
Need Expert Advice?
If you need any other information about pillows, mattresses or beds and feel the need to improve quality of sleep for your family, friends or yourself, just pick up your phone and call. I will be glad to help. And you will be glad, you called. Guaranteed.