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Like the choice of a mattress, the choice of a pillow is a very personal matter. Although some people can sleep with their head on a block of wood, most of us are very particular about the type of pillow we use. Your head weighs more than 10 pounds, so your pillow needs to provide you with support as well as comfort.
According to leading chiropractors one of the most common causes of neck pain is prolonged abnormal posture during sleep. Using too many pillows to create height causes the spine to curve upwards slightly and too low or thin pillows causes the spine at the top of the neck to curve downwards and the skin to crease on the underside of the neck. For ideal support the spine should remain level and in alignment, and the pillow should tuck into the neck/shoulder.
Consider what position you like to sleep in when choosing your pillow. If you sleep on your back or stomach you might prefer a soft or medium pillow that is not too thick and will mould to your head and neck to give you comfortable gentle support. Choose a firm or dense pillow if you sleep on your side, as this will offer the most support for your spine, head and neck in that position. If you have wide shoulders and sleep on your side you may prefer to use two pillows – a popular combination is a firmer bottom pillow and a softer top pillow. If you suffer from neck problems, a memory foam pillow may provide the shape and tension you are after.
Find a pillow that makes you feel comfortable. Just because a friend or relative uses a particular type of pillow and finds it perfect for them, that doesn't mean that it will be perfect for you. And when your pillow starts to lose its shape or support, it's time to get a new one. Experiment with a variety of types, and stick with the one that provides you with the best night's sleep.
The life cycle of a pillow is usually 2-4 years. Once pillows start to age, they no longer provide the support required for a good night’s sleep and can also become unhygienic. There are a few warning signs which may indicate that it is time for a new pillow, such as: the cover of your pillow becoming discoloured, you waking up with a neck ache and you waking up feeling wheezy or with a runny/blocked nose. It is worth remembering that we all loose up to 1 pint of sweat per night which stains and dirties the pillow cover, allows unhealthy fungi to grow inside and attracts dusts mites which can cause allergic reactions.