Six Key Points When Picking A Suitable Pillow
Finding the right pillow can greatly improve the quality of your sleep because it helps your sleep position. No matter which sleeping position you prefer, the right pillow can help you keep your spine aligned while you sleep (that is, help you sleep better). With a pillow that supports healthy posture, your neck, shoulders, back, and hips will have the support they need so you don't wake up sore. Here are six features of interest when you're looking for a suitable pillow?
There is an array of fill options available for pillows. No one is best—all have advantages and drawbacks, depending on your needs and preferences. Let’s look at the most common types:
Down. These pillows are light and soft—if you like a soft place to rest your head at night, you may like a down pillow. Down pillows are usually made from either goose or duck fibers. Goose down tends to be softer than duck down—and more expensive—though there is also variation in softness within goose down. Down pillows are made of different combinations of down, feathers, and other fillings. Be aware that “pure down” and “all down” pillows may still contain feathers and other fill.
Many people worry about allergic reactions and sensitivity to down. There are people who have hard allergies to down and feathers. Often, however, the allergic reaction to down comes from a lower-quality down filling that hasn’t been sufficiently cleaned. The dirt that remains on the down, rather than the animal fiber itself, can cause allergy and discomfort. You can look for hypo-allergenic down, often called “hypo down,” which is a rigorously cleaned blend of pure down and a natural substance called syriaca, which helps bolster the allergy-free properties of the down, and increases the longevity of the pillow. Good quality down pillows are expensive, but worth it if this is the type of pillow you prefer.
Synthetic down and polyester fill. Synthetic down pillows are less expensive than natural, hypo-allergenic natural down—and will need replacing more frequently. Polyester fill pillows are a relatively inexpensive pillow choice, compared to other pillow types. They tend to be medium to soft, though less soft than down. They will flatten with time, and typically need replacing more frequently than other types of pillows.
What about fill power?
Here’s what you need to know: the higher the number, the better the quality of the pillow—and the longer it will last. A fill-power of 600 and higher is a sign of a high-quality synthetic or natural down pillow. But there are limits to the power of fill power. 800-plus fill power does not mean your pillow will last for a decade, no matter what the sales pitch says.
Wool. These pillows are naturally hypo-allergenic and resistant to mold and dust mites. Wool pillows wick away moisture from your head and neck and can be effective at helping regulate your temperature during sleep, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Wool pillows tend to be pretty firm. They also have longevity. If you want the benefits of wool without all the firmness, look for alpaca wool, rather than cashmere fibers.
Cotton. Similar to wool in many ways, cotton pillows are also naturally hypo-allergenic and resistant to dust mites and mold. Cotton pillows tend to be somewhat flat and firm. Cotton pillows are often a smart choice for people with allergies and chemical sensitivities.
Latex. Latex pillows tend to be more firm than down, but still very comfortable. These pillows hold their shape. This isn’t the kind of pillow you squish into just the position you like. Latex is resistant to mold and dust mites. Often, contoured pillows designed to deliver extra support to the head and neck, or to restrict movement during sleep, are made of latex.
Memory foam. These pillows have become tremendously popular in recent years. Memory foam conforms to your individual shape. Responding to your weight and body heat, memory foam softens and contours to the lines of your head, neck, and shoulders. It also distributes weight evenly across its surface. These qualities make it a popular choice for people with head and neck pain, or pressure points that cause discomfort during sleep. Memory foam retains heat, which can lead to discomfort and sweating. High-quality memory foam pillows are often made today with ventilation built into the pillow—but make no mistake, this remains a heat-retaining material. These pillows can also give off chemical smells—particularly when they are brand-new—that are bothersome to some people.
2. Fill weight
Down and synthetic pillows are lightweight choices, while memory foam and latex are heavier. The weight of your pillow is about personal preference. If you like to re-shape and move your pillow with you as you rest, a lighter pillow may be a better choice.
3. Quality of fill
With every type of pillow, quality matters to comfort, support, and longevity—and will be reflected in the price. Once you’ve decided on the type of pillow fill that’s right for you, select the highest quality pillow your budget will allow. Remember, you’ll be spending thousands of hours on this pillow over the duration of its life.
For most people, a standard-size pillow is sufficiently large. If you prefer a larger pillow, that’s fine, provided you can keep your sleep posture in alignment. The thickness or thinness of your pillow should enable you to sleep with your head, neck, and shoulders aligned with your spine, as well as provide you comfort. Make sure the pillow cover and pillowcase fit properly. Don’t stuff a big pillow into an undersized cover, or let a standard-size pillow swim in an extra-large pillowcase.
Pillows are also made in specialty shapes, to provide additional support and stability for your head and neck. Some of these can be useful: cervical and contour pillows may help with neck and back pain, and contoured body pillows can provide support, stability, and relief for pressure points along the body. Be aware, though: there’s a marketing element involved in many specialty-shaped pillows.
Use natural, breathable fabrics to cover your pillows. Pillow covers under pillowcases help extend the life of the pillow, protecting it against stains and sweat. Decorative pillows look great on the bed but should be removed before sleeping.
Synthetic materials like memory foam and polyester are made through chemical processes, and many pillows are put through antimicrobial treatments. Know the chemistry that went into making your pillow, be willing to make an investment in a well-made product, and consider your own allergies and chemical sensitivities when selecting a pillow type.