How do I know which pillow is right for me?
Choosing the correct pillow is as important as your choice of mattress. No one pillow type is right for everyone, and it pays to take the time to identify the perfect pillow for your needs. Get it right, and sweet dreams await. Get it wrong, and it could be a nightmare.
Here are the key factors you need to think through before purchasing a pillow.
Do you know what's inside your pillow? Similar to quilts and doonas, different filling types have different advantages, and can unlock the secret to getting the perfect night's sleep. The three most common types of pillow filling are down, memory foam and synthetic.
Goose or duck down pillows are light and fluffy, and they can make you feel like you're sleeping in the lap of luxury. Though malleable, they also offer good support for your head and neck. Additionally, hypoallergenic down pillows and pillow covers are available for those with allergic reactions or sensitivities.
If you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep during the night, a memory foam pillow is a smart option. Why? The foam molds to your head shape during slumber, then springs back when you're up and about. If you toss and turn, it also adjusts to your movements during the night and offers extra support for your back and neck.
Note: memory foam pillows hold heat and warmth, so they might be an issue for someone prone to sweating at night or living in a hot climate.
Synthetic pillows are affordable and versatile, and suit many sleeping styles. They are lightweight, flexible, allergy-friendly and can be easily cleaned. However, they're not as durable as higher quality materials and they may lose their shape after frequent use.
The rule is simple: the higher the number, the better the quality and, therefore, the longer you're likely to enjoy optimal pillow performance. But, remember, even pillows with high fill power will need to be regularly replaced. Pillows aren't designed to last a lifetime.
We're all prone to sleeping in different positions - on our backs, sides or stomachs - and sometimes a combination of each. However, if there's a position we prefer over others then that position influences the pillow we should be using.
If you sleep on your back, memory foam offers reliable support for the curve of your neck. Your pillow should have good loft, especially in the middle, to cradle your head and neck.
If you sleep on your side, look for a firmer pillow to prop up your head and support the space under your neck. You should be keeping your spine as aligned as possible to minimise discomfort or risk of injury. Some pillows will specify whether they're tailored for side sleepers, so keep an eye out for that information on the packaging.
If you sleep on your stomach, you're likely to suffer from lower back and neck stress. Thinner pillows are generally more suited for stomach sleepers. Also, body pillows mimic the feeling of sleeping on your stomach while reducing pressure on your neck and back.
The most obvious health considerations when choosing a pillow are neck and back pain but you may have other special requirements for your sleep, such as allergies and snoring.
For allergy sufferers, hypoallergenic pillows help keep away mold, dust and mites, and mitigate asthmatic or allergic reactions.
For snorers, a pillow that holds your head and neck in place will minimise the likelihood of airway compression or disruption, which helps reduce the risk of snoring.
If you're pregnant, your sleeping needs will change along with the rest of your body. As months pass, it becomes harder to get comfortable using traditional pillows, and your body is likely to need extra support. Specialised pregnancy pillows or maternity pillows are specially designed for those expecting, and can offer therapeutic benefit to ease discomfort, pressure and pain, and then help with feeding and other needs once your baby is born.
If you suspect you may have specific medical or health needs when it comes to your sleep, always consult your doctor for advice.
Sleep On It
Once you've done your homework on which pillows meet your needs and/or preferences, give them a test drive wherever possible. Ultimately, the best way to know what pillow will work best for you is to sleep on it and assess the results.
Care and maintenance of your pillow is also important to keep its benefits intact and help you achieve a healthy night's sleep. Make sure you read our guide on when it's best to replace pillows, and how to wash and care for pillows, and remember to refresh your pillow regularly or replace it when there are signs of wear and tear, such as losing its firmness.
Pillows wear out quicker than other bedding because they're working extra hard to support our weight every night. As a general rule, they should be replaced every 18 months to two years. Letting them go past their use-by date may increase health risks, reduce your sleep quality and impact your sleep hygiene.
Be pillow perfect, and have a good night.