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Choosing the Right Pillow for a Good Night's Sleep

Shalu Bhatti
Pillow could be the culprit behind keeping you away from a good night's sleep? As we need a comfy mattress to get the much-needed sleep, a good pillow is of equal importance.

Picking a comfy pillow!

Before selecting the pillow, ensure that it's comfortable. In the store, test the pillow by either lying down, or placing it on the wall, and positioning yourself as if you're sleeping on a vertical bed. Your neck and spine must stay aligned evenly.
A good night's sleep is not only needed for relaxation, but is also responsible for us to be able to function efficiently throughout the day. Why do you think terms such as beauty sleep and power nap are used for this effortless activity.
Did we say effortless? While once going to sleep was as easy as blinking your eyes, getting timely sleep and most importantly, staying asleep has become one of the most difficult tasks of late. It is common for many of us to wake up with a stiff neck, backache, or numb arms and fingers.
While most of us tend to associate it with stress―which may very well be the cause―a bad pillow may equally be the culprit. So, if you're wondering what's keeping you awake, causing you to toss and turn all night, and making you feel groggy during the day, take a careful look at your pillow.

The Pillow Test

Does your pillow look flat? Do you even remember the time when you bought it? There are chances that it might look okay, but it doesn't have the support and structure it needs to give your head, neck, and spine the right alignment. Here's a simple test that'll help determine if it's time to bid your pillow goodbye.
Squeeze the pillow with a tight hug, fold it into half or thirds, and place a trainer (or anything of equivalent weight) on it. If the pillow pounces the shoe off and gets back to its original shape, it is still good to go. If that doesn't happen, well, you need to go pillow shopping. Experts strictly suggest to change your pillow every 12 to 18 months. 

Essential Tips for Choosing the Right Pillow

What makes a pillow right may differ for you and your partner. There is no 'one size fits all' in this case. As mentioned earlier, the main criterion is that it should provide proper support to the natural curvature of the neck by filling up the space between the ear and shoulder blades.
Also, the alignment of the head and spine should be in the same line. Further points will take you through the various factors that need to be considered while making your pick.

Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position plays a crucial role in making the selection for your pillow. Back sleepers would need a different pillow from those who sleep on their stomach―which is not a good position to sleep in as it may cause lower back pain. Experts suggest to tuck a pillow under your stomach to prevent this pain.
Determine your dominant sleeping position, and choose a pillow accordingly. The mantra is to ensure that the head doesn't go forward or backward, and stays in its natural position.
Back Sleepers: Experts recommend using comparatively thin pillows with extra loft at the bottom where the neck would rest, to give it proper support.
Side Sleepers: The need of a comparatively firm pillow arises as the curvature alongside the ear and neck needs support.
Stomach Sleepers: Look for a pillow with minimal height, to avoid improper upward alignment of the head and neck, which would otherwise cause pain and stress in those areas.

Size, Comfort, and Filling

The size of the pillow would depend upon your body frame, weight, and sleeping position. You must always feel comfortable with the fabric and filling of the pillow. Here are some among the different fillings that would suit different users due to their varied pros and cons.
Down/Feather: It's good to have a pillow that is adjustable and soft, and many people prefer using down/feather pillows for this reason. Pillows with a combination of both these fillings prove to great for those who need the softness with the much-needed firmness. However, those who have an allergy from feathers should stay away from these pillows.
Synthetic: Perhaps the most popular among the different types of pillows, these are ideal for almost everybody; however, the only con is that these pillows tend to wear out very easily, arising the need to replace them quite often, comparatively.
Memory Foam: They adjust to the shape of your body while you're asleep, and provide great support. However, they might emit a chemical-like smell at times which could be disturbing to some sleepers. They can also become very hot at times, and should be avoided by those who get hot flashes and night sweats.
Latex: These are cooler than memory foam pillows, and are among the firmest. They are designed to cradle the neck and back while maintaining a neutral alignment. They are ideal for those with allergies as they are resistant to mold and dust mites. They're also the pick for those with neck and back pain, provided they select the pillow with the right height.
Wool/Cotton: These traditional hypoallergenic fillings tend to make the pillow quite firm. They also are resistant to dust mites and mold. However, because most of us love soft and squishy pillows, these tend to fall back on that criterion.

Pillows for Your Health

There are certain pillows that are specifically designed to cater some health issues which include backache, neck pain, snoring, hot flashes, and the like. While there isn't a hundred percent positive feedback on their effectiveness, it would be a good idea to understand about them, in case you would like to try them based on your specific needs.
However, make sure that you consult a trusted physician before going ahead. Here are some specialty pillows manufactured to cater to specific health problems.
Water Pillows: Gaining a fair amount of popularity are water pillows that are known for their effectiveness for neck pain. They take the shape of the body and give the sleeper a cooling effect. Based on the water level, one can adjust the firmness, height, and support. 
However, it takes time for one to adjust to them; the water can also make these pillows very heavy and noisy (in case of an air pocket).
Anti-snore Pillows: The name sounds like a lullaby to your ears, doesn't it? Especially to those who sleep with a partner who snores noisily. The effectiveness of these pillows vary―some have found relief, while some have not.
Cool Pillows: As we had mentioned before, many people experience hot flashes while asleep. These pillows have tiny beads filled in them that tend to absorb sweat and heat emitted by the body during sleep, and emit a cool sensation to the sleeper.
Cervical Pillows: These are supposedly designed to help people with neck and spine problems by providing extra cushioning in the lower area of the pillow, which gives the neck extra support. However, their effectiveness is not medically proven.
Oxygen-promoting Pillows: These are known to promote oxygen supply to the sleeper to prevent any sort of breathing obstruction. Experts suggest that these pillows can increase the oxygen level in blood by almost 29%. Sounds like a good option for those with sleep apnea, isn't it? In fact, these are also believed to be helpful in reducing pain.
Positional Pillows: No matter what your sleeping position is, these are recommended as helpful by experts, and can help get better support. They come in various shapes and sizes, and need to be picked as per one's comfort and size preferences. These pillows assist your body to sleep in the right alignment.

Well-known Pillow Brands

There are various pillow brands in the market, each claiming to be the best from the others. However, there are a few notable names that are worth a mention. Brands such as Tempur-Pedic, Pacific Coast, Serta, Sleep Number, and PrimaLoft are among the most favored ones. 
While renowned brands do give us the assurance of quality, there is no guarantee that they'll suit our specific needs. Therefore, keeping the aforementioned points in mind and checking if the pillow is made for our needs is essential through physical inspection.
Little did we think that something like a pillow would prove to be so essential for a good sleep and a healthy life. We all may have different needs and preferences depending upon our health condition, body structure, and comfort. We hope that the aforementioned info helps you select what is right for you.
Disclaimer: This is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered as a replacement for professional advice. Consultation with a trusted healthcare professional is recommended.