Choosing a Pillow for the Best Night’s Sleep

By on February 3, 2015

By Sarah Baker for Discover and Play

We spend roughly one third of our lifetime with our head on a pillow, and yet we often spend the least amount of time thinking about that small item beneath our brains that whole time. Given how critical having the right pillow can be to getting a restful night’s sleep and avoiding neck pain, it’s about time we gave our pillows a closer look.

Just as your mattress should provide great support for your body type and preferred sleeping position, your pillow should be chosen to suit your particular sleep needs. Whether you’re a side sleeper, back sleeper or stomach sleeper, and whether you need firm support or extra cushioning, it’s important to consider how you sleep to find a pillow that’s ergonomically ideal for you. To help find the right pillow for you, here’s a helpful guide to choosing a pillow for the best night’s sleep.

Sleep Position

The position that you sleep in most often should largely dictate the size and shape of the pillow you select. If the pillow is too high, it can cause muscle strain on the back of the neck and shoulders, and may also cause narrowing of the air pipe, leading to obstructed breathing and snoring, which can hinder sleep. Alternatively, if the pillow is too low, this positioning can also cause strain to the neck.

Side Sleepers: Choose a pillow that just fills the space between your ear and your mattress without needing to tilt your head. Your head, neck and shoulders should remain aligned.

Back Sleepers: Select a pillow that keeps your head from tilting forward or backward; typically a thinner pillow works best. Also look for a pillow that offers extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to help cradle your neck.

Stomach Sleepers: Choose very thin, almost flat pillow that keeps your head and neck in a neutral alignment. Some stomach sleepers find it helpful to tuck another pillow under their stomach to avoid lower back pain.

Consider Your Mattress

We often select a pillow without thinking about the type of mattress that we have, but the two should be seen as working together to give you the best night’s sleep. If you have a softer, plush or pillow-top mattress, your shoulders will likely sink into the mattress if you’re a side-sleeper. In that case you’ll want a thinner pillow to accommodate for the slight sinking.

Pillow Filling

The type of pillow filling you choose depends a great deal on personal comfort preference, but can also be dictated by allergies if you’re allergic to down or latex. A few of the most common pillow options are memory foam, gel and traditional cotton. To help conform to your sleep position, you may wish to choose a pillow that is adjustable or naturally adjusts to your shape and position to provide maximum comfort.

How Often Should Your Replace Your Old Pillows?

Experts recommend that you replace your pillow on average every year, so chances are it might be time to replace yours. Follow these expert tips and you’ll see a difference in your quality of sleep in no time!

Sarah Baker is a holistic health, nutrition and Image consultant focused on bringing vitality and balancing to her clients. Her consulting practice, Style Body Soul LLC, offers numerous programs suitable for various lifestyles, and her blog; Balanced Babe, focuses on nourishing recipes and daily tips to leading a vibrant fulfilling life. You can also stay motivated to be healthy by using her plant-based dining guide: Eat Healthful.

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Choosing a Pillow for the Best Night’s Sleep