How To Choose a Pillow For A Better Night’s Sleep

August 16, 2016 | Chiropractic, Lifestyle, Wellness

Pillow Choice Affects Our Sleep More Than We Think!

Flat or bulky, orthopedic, hypoallergenic, feather, foam…there are so many choices when you are looking for a new pillow.  The one you choose can have an impact on the quality and quantity of sleep you get. People spend roughly one-third of their life sleeping. That much time deserves a well-outfitted bed and a quality mattress and pillow. Ill-fitting and inadequate support and posture may prevent you from sleeping comfortably through the night and may cause you to wake up with aches and pains. There’s nothing like a good night’s sleep to make you feel refreshed and ready to take on the day.  A good pillow must be comfortable to lay on but it must also support the curve in your neck.  Choosing one that is too thick or too thin can put you in an uncomfortable position through the night and leave you waking up with a sore neck or even headaches.  

There is no one pillow best suited to every single person.  There are four criteria that you should consider when you are selecting a pillow:

1. Size

Choose one that is the appropriate size for your body frame.  Pillows come in different sizes so pick the one that fits you the best.  Someone with broader shoulders would need a thicker one than someone with a narrower frame, for example.

2. Material

If you are an allergy sufferer, look for a pillow that is hypoallergenic.  Pillows are made from a wide range of materials – foam, feather, down, polyester and polyurethane, for example.   Dust mite covers can also be helpful to allergy sufferers. In addition, washing your pillow cover regularly can also help.  Depending on your allergies and the quality of your pillow, it usually needs to be replaced every 6 months.

3. Sleeping Position

Are you a side, back or stomach sleeper?  Your pillow choice will depend on this.  Pay attention to what position you most often fall asleep in and what position you wake up in. Your pillow’s role is to maintain spinal neutrality: your head, neck, back, and hips should stay as aligned as possible during the night.   

(a) Stomach sleeper:

You will need a pillow that is flat and soft.  However, sleeping on your stomach is not a favourable position for your neck and back and it can be detrimental to your long-term spinal health.  It may be contributing to your neck and back pain and stomach sleepers typically have a decreased spinal curve in their necks. If you are a stomach sleeper, ask your chiropractor for tips and tricks to kick the habit.  

(b) Back sleeper:  

Look for a pillow that is of a medium thickness.  A cervical pillow (one with a bump in it) can also be helpful to people who sleep on their back.  The key is to have your neck properly sorted and in a neutral position.  A pillow that is too thin will allow your head to lean back too far while you are sleeping.  One that is too thick will cause you to sleep with your head pushed forward too far.  Both positions can create neck pain and headaches.

(c) Side sleepers:  

A thicker pillow that is a little firmer is needed for this sleeping position. The breadth of your shoulders will determine how thick of a pillow you need. With your head and neck supported on your pillow, your nose and the centre of your neck should be in a perfect line. Feeling the need to put your arm under your head during the night is a clue that your pillow might be too thin. Sleeping with an arm under the head is bad for your neck and for your blood circulation and may make your hand feel numb in the morning.

4.  Take Your Time

Try out the pillow in the store.  Most pillows come in a plastic wrapping so you can put them on a display bed in the store and try them out.  Your neck should feel supported whether you are lying on your back or on your side.  Pillows that are too thick or too thin will make you sore by the morning and can have long-term negative health consequences.  Trying one out for just a few minutes will not give you a good indication as to how it will hold up overnight.  Take your time!

Secondary pillows

Pillows aren’t just for supporting your head. You can use other pillows or cushions to help you support your body during the night.

Body pillows are commonly used by side sleepers. It is simply a large pillow that you can hug during the night. By placing it in between your knees, you can ensure that your pelvis is leveled and that your spine remains neutral. Having a cushion in front of you that you can hold may also help those who have a tendency to bring their arm under their head during the night. It can also prevent you from rolling onto your stomach while you’re asleep.

Sleeping on your back can be painful for people suffering from low back pain. Placing a cushion under your knees while you are on your back will help remove some of the pressure off your low back.

A good quality and supportive pillow will provide you with the many benefits of a good night’s sleep such as reducing neck pain and headaches, even reducing snoring!  Finding the right one for you may take some time and it’s important to change your pillow as soon as it loses its supportive quality.  Your body will thank you!

To book an appointment, call 613.860.8600 for our Byward location, and 613.237.9000 for our Glebe location.