Best pillow: Which type is ideal for you?
Growing up, did your mom ever tell you to sit up straight, stand tall because good posture is important? - well, she was right – and good posture is just as important while we sleep as when we are awake.
Investing in a high-quality mattress is one of the most important decisions you will make for your sleep health. However, finding a pillow that allows your head, neck and spine to be in neutral alignment is the real key to perfect sleep posture.
Pillows and sleeping positions
What is your go-to sleeping position? The best pillows for back sleepers will be different from a side sleeper or a stomach sleeper.
Loft (how tall your pillow is) and firmness are two important features to start with.
Other details, such as whether you are a “hot sleeper” will impact any special features your best pillow can offer you.
Best pillow for back sleepers
Although it is the healthiest position for most people, only about 18 percent of people sleep on their backs.
Back sleepers should look for a pillow with medium loft and medium firmness. This will support your neck and shoulders comfortably through the night.
Best pillow for Side Sleepers
In order to maintain a neutral position for your spine, side sleepers need a pillow with high loft and firm support. The taller profile of a high loft pillow will hold your head up so your spine can remain in a neutral position.
A high and firm pillow will support your shoulder, so your body weight is not falling on your shoulder.
If your pillow is not supportive enough, your head will gradually sink deeper into your pillow as your sleep, which could result in a stiff neck when you wake up in the morning.
Best pillow for stomach sleepers
Sleeping on your stomach, particularly with your head turned to one side, is discouraged the most by sleep experts.
The risk of extending your neck and putting pressure on your lower back and abdomen are the highest when sleeping on the stomach.
If you find yourself turning to your stomach every night anyway, the best thing is to find a low loft, soft pillow to minimize the chances of craning your neck while you sleep.
Other bells & whistles for pillows
Once you’ve identified the ideal loft and firmness for your sleeping position, you can consider which special features will bump your sleep up a notch.
- Customizable Support – more and more brands are offering pillows that you can customize to meet your specific needs. Some brands achieve this by having an insert you can remove or loose stuffing that you can remove as much as you need (and store in a clean, zip lock bag). This is a great feature for someone still figuring out what sleep position they lean towards or a combination sleeper who can adjust their pillow as often as they need.
- To pillowcase or not to pillowcase – some of the pillows on the market come in odd shapes in order to offer support for certain sleeping positions. If you have favorite pillowcases you would like to use, you may want to look for the traditional rectangular shaped bed pillow. If you would rather skip a pillowcase altogether, look for pillows with hypoallergenic cover material, such as organic cotton.
- Cool pillows – If you’re a hot sleeper, it’s entirely un-cool to have to flip your pillow over in the middle of the night in search of that cool surface to lay your head against. Consider a pillow with a cooling gel pad which should stay cool throughout the night. If that’s not enough, look for a pillow with phase change material, especially designed to keep your pillow icy cool all over.
- Moisture-Wicking – A cooling pillow does not necessarily mean it will also wick away moisture, an important feature if you experience any kind of sweating at night. The easiest way to keep your head dry during night sweats is to use a pillowcase made to wick away excess moisture, such as one made of polyester, Lyocell or bamboo.
- Down alternatives – Down filled pillows are usually super soft, easily molding to your shape, which is ideal for stomach sleepers. However, if you are allergic or if you would prefer not to sleep on any animal products, check out down alternatives such as poly gel fiber or micro-denier. These have a similar feel as down but do not have any animal products. Another plus? They’re usually machine-washable while a lot of other pillow fillings are not and can only be spot cleaned.
- Breathable Foam – Whether in mattress form or as a pillow, memory foam is popular with many people for the way it responds to pressure and allows for support without any added pressure points. But if you tend to run hot, memory foam can be frustrating because of its tendency to trap heat. To get around this, look for a pillow made of shredded memory foam instead of one solid foam insert. The smaller pieces breathe much better and will not feel so hot while giving you the memory foam support and feel.
You get what you pay for
As with many things, there is a wide range in prices for bed pillows. While the most expensive pillow may not be the best pillow for you, “you get what you pay for” does have some truth to it.
Investing in a high-quality pillow that fits your sleep style and needs is one of the best decisions you will make for your sleep health and overall well-being.
A high quality pillow paired with a regular, sensible bedtime routine, and you are well on your way to deep, restorative sleep!