good night’s rest can be elusive, and sometimes the
culprit is the wrong — or old — pillow.
pillows can cause neck or shoulder pain and headaches,
and they can worsen allergy symptoms, like sneezing and
congestion, said Natalie D. Dautovich, assistant
professor in the department of psychology at Virginia
Commonwealth University and the environmental scholar
for the National Sleep Foundation.
Marc Leavey, primary care specialist at Lutherville
Personal Physicians, part of Mercy Medical Center in
Baltimore, who speaks on sleep issues, said that because
people have different sleeping patterns — side, back,
stomach and restless — and there are different pillow
styles and fillings, there isn’t one right pillow for
matter how a person sleeps, Dautovich said, a great
pillow allows sleepers to rest comfortably in their
natural sleeping position and supports their head and
neck in a neutral alignment, which means centered over
sort through the different pillows out there, the sleep
experts offered the following tips.
sleepers. These people only need light support, said
Brandon Berman, in-house sleep expert for sleep-products
company Reverie. Look for a low-loft pillow, which
refers to a pillow’s height as it lies flat on the
sleepers tend to like a very thin pillow, which can be
used under the head, chest or stomach," Dautovich
said a thin pillow prevents stomach sleepers from
hyperextending their neck. Stomach sleepers may not even
need a pillow.
sleepers. A medium-support pillow will give back
sleepers adequate support for their head and neck, the
sleep experts said.
sleepers may also seek out a pillow with a curved edge
that allows their shoulders to remain level while
elevating their head and neck," Berman said.
and Dautovich cautioned back sleepers to ensure the
pillow won’t lift their necks too high, which ends up
craning the head forward. A lower-loft pillow may
sleepers. Side sleepers need firm support to keep the
spine aligned with the shoulders and hips, they all
said. A high-loft pillow can help.
said firmer pillows will prevent side sleeper’s heads
from tipping down toward the mattress. Here’s also
where the mattress comes into play, Leavey said. Ideally
for side sleepers, their hips and shoulders should sink
slightly into the mattress to help with that
sleepers. Leavey said restless sleepers may have a
harder time fitting into these categories.
you’re a restless sleeper, all bets are off. You
should try and look for a bolster-type pillow or a body
pillow," he suggested.
Leavey said people should buy whatever size they want
and not to let the size of their bed determine pillow
Feathers, down, synthetic, memory foam and latex are
different pillow fills. Generally, down and feather
blends are soft and fluffy, synthetic can still be soft
but gives some resistance, and memory foam feels dense
and supports the sleeper’s head, Dautovich said.
one drawback to memory foam is that it can be hot,
Leavey and Berman said. Latex is an alternative to
memory foam that doesn’t get hot. Manufacturers are
starting to focus on technology to make pillows cooler
too. Memory foam and latex pillows may take some time to
get used to, Leavey said, but they are extremely durable
and can last a long time.
possible, test pillows before buying, Dautovich and
Leavey said, such as going to a bedding shop and lying
down with the pillow.
you spend 10 minutes testing pillow options before you
buy, it will be a great investment for your … sleep in
the long run," she said.
and care. How much to spend on a pillow is a personal
preference. Dautovich said sleepers should focus first
on what’s comfortable to them and keeps their spine
straight. That said, inexpensive pillows might only last
six months or a year at best, Leavey added.
time to replace pillows if they have lumps and sags,
Dautovich said, noting that many doctors suggest
replacing them every two years. Leavey recommended the
fold test. If the pillow can be folded over and doesn’t
spring back into shape, shop for a new one. In between
purchases, wash them a few times a year, Leavey said,
and Dautovich added that pillows that aren’t washable
can be run through the dryer on high temperatures to
kill dust mites.
it’s time for a new pillow, Leavey said, experiment a
really whatever makes you comfortable. There is no
panacea in pillows. Because of that, you need to try out
a few to see how they perform. Don’t be afraid of
trying out different kinds," he said.