When it comes to putting together the perfect bed, everyone talks about mattresses, duvets, and sheets. These are all important components, of course, but we often skip right over the very place we rest our head: the pillow.
If you find yourself tossing and turning, folding your pillow to get it right, and constantly re-fluffing then it may be time to upgrade to a new pillow.
Why does the pillow matter?
The goal of sleeping is resting, and for your body to rest properly you need good sleep posture. It may sound silly, but the way your body lays while sleeping has a huge affect on how you feel when you wake up. Have you ever woken with a sore neck, back, or shoulder? This happens because of bad sleep posture, and your pillow plays a big role in this. Poor sleep posture can also cause you to wake up throughout the night in pain, and reducing the amount of sleep, and deep sleep, you get. Check out our blog on the importance of deep sleep and how you can achieve it.
Let’s Talk Pillows
You’ve made it this far, you’re ready and willing to replace and upgrade, but first here are a couple tricks to tell whether or not it’s time to replace your pillow:
- The Test of Time – A pillow should be replaced every 18 months. Higher quality pillows can last longer than this, and poor-quality pillows can last than 18 months.
- The Smell Test – Does your pillow have a certain funk? An odor that won’t wash out? That’s a sign it’s time to replace it!
- The Sight Test – Much like the smell test, just give your pillow a good visual check in. Inspect the pillowcase and pillow without the case. If there are stains, tears, or signs of damage it’s time to replace it. The same goes for the pillowcase!
- The Folding Test – This test is designed to check in with your pillows stuffing since you can’t smell it (hopefully!) or look at it. Fold you pillow in half, or thirds depending on the size, and squish it down flat. Does the pillow fluff back up on its own and unfold? If not, the stuffy is no longer going to support your neck properly, time to replace it!
Picking the Pillow
When deciding on your new pillow there are a lot of factors to take into consideration: filling type, weight, pillow size, fabric, pillowcase, and sleeping position. We know, this sounds like a lot, but that’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you make the best decision for your sleep.
Filling comes in many forms. For some, knowing what’s inside their pillow is crucial because of allergies. If you’re not sure, make sure to double check. Nothing ruins a night’s sleep like rest your head on a pillow that will stuff it up!
First, let’s look at Down filling. Down pillows are light, soft, and often the first choice of pillow filling. The down can come from either goose or duck fibers, which is why it’s important to know if you’re allergic to either bird before purchasing. If you are allergic there are alternatives out there. Some companies make hypo-allergenic down filling, or “hypodown”, which is a purer and thoroughly cleaned form of down filling.
If down is an absolute no, for allergy or price reasons, there’s also Synthetic Down / Polyester filling. These pillows have a similar lightness and softness to down, though not as soft. Because they are synthetic and lower quality they will need to be replaced more frequently.
Next, there’s Wool filling. Wool filling creates a much firmer pillow structure, and if you want medium to firm filling there’s also alpaca wool. The natural properties of wool make it hypo-allergenic, mold resistant, dust mite resistant, and moisture wicking. Because of its firmness and self-protecting qualities, wool pillows need replacing less frequently.
Cotton filling is another popular filling choice for many. It has the same hypo-allergenic and mold/dust mite repellent properties but creates a flatter firmness than wool. Cotton is a great choice if you have especially strong allergies or sensitivity to chemicals.
Another fill type out there is Latex. Again, make sure you’re not allergic to latex before confirming this purchase. Latex is similar to down in fluffiness but are firmer. Pillows specifically designed to support the neck, shoulders, head, or body are often made from latex because of how well it holds its shape. Latex is also resistant to dust mites and mold.
Finally, we have Memory Foam. This pillow type has become very popular in recent years and provides a unique kind of pillow-feel. The memory foam within the pillow contours to the shape and weight of your body and provides excellent support from pain and discomfort associated with sleep. It’s important to know that memory foam material retains heat extremely well, even in higher-end models with built-in ventilation.
The last thing to consider when deciding on your pillow filling is the fill power and quality. Always opt for the highest quality pillow your budget can support, it’s worth the investment! Some types of filling don’t have a fill power, like memory foam, but for others, the key takeaway is the higher the number the better. This ensures that your pillow is filled with the right amount of filling. While a higher number is better and does guarantee a longer lasting pillow, beyond a certain point, like 800, the fill power won’t increase the life span.
Weight difference in pillows can make or break your preference. Heavier, firmer pillows won’t squish, fold, or be moved as easily in your sleep, but they will provide better neck/back support. Likewise, light pillows allow you to change their shape, fluffiness, and position.
Size & Shape
Some think that your pillow size needs to match your bed size, but this isn’t true. What matters is the relationship between your body and pillow, not your bed and pillow. For most the standard pillow is fine, but some people want bigger pillows. This is fine, just prioritize neck/shoulder/spine alignment, because that’s the most important factor.
Remember to double check your pillow’s size and shape to ensure it matches the pillowcase you’ve picked out. There are also specialty pillows that come in sizes and shapes specifically for bodily support. They even make body length pillows for pregnant women, specifically designed to help support the extra weight of their stomach while ensuring the back and neck stay aligned.
A pillowcase is absolutely necessary for your pillow but consider adding a protector as well. This will help lengthen the life of your pillow’s surface and protect it from stains and smells. When purchasing a pillowcase, it’s important to seek out soft, breathable fabrics since your face will rest against this fabric. We recommend purchasing 100% organic cotton pillowcases because this means no GMO’s or chemicals are involved in the production of your pillowcase that could potentially harm your skin.
A more luxurious alternative to a cotton pillowcase is a silk pillowcase. The silk helps prevents wrinkles or blemishes from developing on your face, and helps your hair fight bedhead and stay smooth. If you’re curious to learn more, check out our article on the benefits of silk pillowcases.
The most important job a pillow can do for you is support and align your body so that you wake feeling rested and rejuvenated. In order to let your pillow, do the most for you it’s key to match it to your sleeping position.
Side Sleeper – if you sleep on your side your pillow should be thick and firm enough to hold your head so that your neck is level and aligned with your spine. Look for pillows around the thickness of the length from your neck to the edge of your shoulder.
Stomach Sleeper – you can get away with no pillow at all, but if you do want one soft is the way to go. It’s important that your pillow not be too thick or firm so that it doesn’t prop your head up at a weird angle or block your breathing.
Back Sleeper – you’ll want a flatter pillow, with medium to soft filling, to support your head without propping it too high. If you have neck or shoulder pain you may consider a firmer flat pillow, like memory foam or latex, to provide additional support while you’re asleep.
At the end of the day, and the end of the night, you want a pillow designed to support you, your body, and your specific set of needs. Following this guide will help you find your perfect pillow. We wish you the best of luck and a great night’s sleep!