While a mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep, the right pillow truly makes all the difference in sleeping correctly. Some pillows may be hurting you more than they help. Either because of the way you sleep or the type of firmness, choose your pillow with care.
In general, there are three basic sleepers: back, stomach, and side sleepers. Each of these people needs something different in their pillow.
Side sleeper – firm pillow with neck support
Back sleeper – thinner pillow or contoured pillow with neck support
Stomach sleeper – soft, slim pillow to decrease stress on the back
The wrong pillow may be hurting you
At times it may seem like any old pillow may do, but there is an unappreciated art behind a good pillow. So much so that the wrong pillow may actually hurt you. To put it very simply, bending your neck in any way for a long period of time, such as sleeping for 8hrs each night, can hurt the muscles and bones in the neck, shoulders, and spine.
An example would be a person who sleeps on their side, but uses a very soft pillow, such as a down pillow, which causes their neck to dip towards one shoulder as they sleep. These people may be more likely to wake up with neck pain or shoulder pain, as their neck stretches and strains throughout the night.
Another example would be a back sleeper with a very large, stiff pillow. This position may push the neck forward too much, causing the muscles in the back of the neck to become stiff or even strained. These people may wake up with a stiff neck or headaches every morning.
The right pillow will never cause these problems.
Talk about dirty
While many of us know the amount of sweat, dirt, and oil that seeps into our beds, we never consider how much goes directly into our pillow! Pillows can get very dirty over the years, and are the perfect place for:
- Dust mites
- Oil from the hair and skin
- And of course… drool
If you can’t remember when you bought your pillow – chances are it’s time for a change.
Don't lose sleep
Of course, sleeping with the wrong pillow may also cause you to toss and turn at night. This can disrupt your sleep cycle – even if you don’t remember waking up! This leads to sleep deprivation, which can cause stress and affect your thinking and mood.
Your pillow may affect your sleep condition
People with sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea, may want to pay special attention to their pillow choices. People who use a CPAP machine to regulate their breathing already have limited choices in the way they sleep, but the wrong pillow may only add to their frustration.
For instance, a side sleeper with a soft pillow runs the risk of knocking their CPAP mask off as they sleep, increasing the chances of sleep apnea. And a back sleeper who uses a stiff pillow may constrict their airways, making it harder for the CPAP machine to do its job.
The right pillow can mean the difference between feeling rested and happy each morning or feeling like you just woke up from a nightmare. Luckily, dealing with the wrong pillow is not a life sentence. Most problems are temporary and can be solved by finding the right pillow!