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How to Choose a Pillow

Mattresses get all the attention when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. And while having a comfy mattress is a key component for restful sleep, finding the proper pillow is essential too. 

Without the right pillow, your neck won’t get the correct amount of support to keep you feeling your best. Almost everyone has had a night of sleep in their lives at some point where they’ve “slept wrong” and woke up with excruciating neck pain or have been unable to turn their head.

That’s what the wrong pillow can do to you. Let’s go over how to choose a pillow, so you can feel like a whole new person every morning. 


The Types of Pillows and Choosing the Right Pillow

While all pillows may seem the same at first, there are different kinds. Are you asking yourself, “What kind of pillow do I need?” Here are some good choices you might encounter when trying to find the right pillow:

  • Microfiber: These are inexpensive and can be hypoallergenic, but you shouldn’t expect them to last forever. If you’re sleeping in hot conditions, this type might not be your best bet, since they don’t have great breathability. 
  • Feather or down pillows: These can keep their fluff and shape longer than synthetic pillows. They can contribute to allergy issues and are pricier than other types of pillows, though. 
  • Memory foam pillows: Memory foam pillows are champs at retaining their shape, which is good for those who have to sleep in a certain position to avoid neck pain. They can take some getting used to since they don’t feel like a traditional pillow though. 
  • Water pillows: Some people swear that water pillows are a great pillow for neck pain. A water pillow contains a pouch of water and generally a memory foam area for added comfort above the water portion. 
  • Buckwheat pillows: These contain buckwheat hulls that give the sleeper a feeling of resting their head on a beanbag. They can be a perfect pillow for side sleepers, helping them align their spine and leading to a more comfortable night. They are also pretty cool to the touch, which is good for sleeping in the summer. 
  • Wedge pillows: These are sloping pillows that let you achieve an inclined angle for your shoulders, neck, head, and upper torso while you are sleeping. Wedge pillows can be tricky getting used to, but have real benefit for conditions like sleep apnea and acid reflux.
  • Travel pillows: These pillows are small and offer your head and neck support when you’re sitting up, trying to sleep in a car. They aren’t a good solution to use while lying down, but they are invaluable on airplanes, trains, or cars. 

Before buying a pillow, look at your individual needs and wants. Ask yourself: What pillow is best for me


Choosing a Pillow Based on Your Sleeping Style

Are you a side sleeper? Or do you sleep on your stomach or back? What position you sleep in can influence what kind of pillow will work best for you. 

  • Stomach sleepers: If you’re sleeping like this, you might not use a pillow or you’ll want one that’s soft. You could also need another soft pillow to place under your stomach if you start experiencing back pain. An extra pillow for your stomach can be especially important if you’re using a weighted blanket
  • Side sleepers: Many people who sleep in this position like a thicker or firmer pillow to elevate their head enough that the spine is level. But some people prefer flatter pillows while sleeping on their side. Experiment with a few different heights and firmness levels to find the one that is most comfortable. 
  • Back sleeper: Lots of back sleepers like flat pillows to keep their neck and back alignment in place. But wedge pillows can be a great choice for back sleepers too. 



How Often Should Pillows Be Replaced?

This depends upon what kind of pillow you have. Polyester or microfiber pillows should be changed within two years, and possibly after six months. Down or feather pillows are good for two to three years. 

Foam pillows can go anywhere from one to three years before you replace them. 

If you don’t want to keep all these different timelines in your mind, just use a general rule of thumb and replace your pillows every one to two years



Buying Tips and How to Test a Pillow

If you’re having a hard time figuring out which pillow to buy, here are some tips.

  • Figure out which pillow type works best for any particular pains you’re having or for the sleeping position you use. 
  • Look at whether you have allergies and which pillows work best for fighting those. 

If you’re buying in person rather than online, you can test a pillow without having to sprawl out on the showroom bed with everyone in the store watching you. 

You’ll stand against a wall as if it were your bed. If you’re a back sleeper, put your back on the wall. Side sleepers would put their side on the wall.

Place the pillow between the wall and your head. Does it feel comfortable? Keep testing pillows until you find one that does. 



Styles, Shapes, and Special Options

The good news about finding the proper pillow is that there are so many choices out there, you’re bound to find one that leads to a pain-free night of sleep.

You can get them fluffy, thin, soft, firm, oversized, or standard-sized. And if you’re looking for something different, you can opt for a specialty contoured pillow. 

It’s completely up to you. You don’t have to suffer with the wrong pillow -- keep searching until you find the right one. And when you do, you might consider buying several, in case that brand or type is discontinued. 

Sleep On It and Make Your Choice

Getting enough restful sleep can be as easy as finding the right pillow. For a small investment, you can feel energized and ready to tackle your day.

Spending a few minutes to figure out which type of pillow works best for you might be one of the smartest things you can do with your time.