How to choose the right pillow
Pillows. They hold our heads for hours every night. They make the difference between a great night’s sleep and a lousy one and affect how we feel for the rest of the day. Apart from disrupting your sleep, sleeping on the wrong pillow can cause all sorts of other issues like neck and back pain so finding the right one is mighty important.
We’ve all experienced that sinking feeling when staying over somewhere and you realise the pillow isn’t right for you. It might be too hard, too soft, or way too thin. But what exactly is the right pillow, and how do we find it?
According to Spine Health pillows should support the head and neck so the spine maintains a ‘natural horizontal line’. If your head is too high or too low, your neck will bend uncomfortably and cause all sorts of issues later down the line. So the type of pillow you choose really depends on your preferred sleeping position.
What pillow should I buy for my sleeping position?
If you like sleeping on your back, you’ll need a thinner, softer pillow to keep your neck as straight as possible. The pillow should allow for the natural curve of your cervical spine (the area around your neck) while supporting your head, neck and shoulders. If your pillow is too thick, your head will be bent too far forward, resulting in a bad night’s sleep and discomfort the next day.
Side sleepers will need a firmer, thicker pillow, especially if they have wide shoulders. According to The Sleep Doctor, you should look for a pillow that’s ‘as thick as the distance between your ear and outside shoulder’. A thicker pillow will keep the spine in a straight horizontal line, stopping your head from leaning too far to one side.
Sleeping on your stomach isn’t great for your back and neck. But if you must do it, make sure your pillow is quite relatively flat, or use no pillow at all - as this puts less strain on your head and neck.
If you move around in the night, alternating between your back and side, then a soft malleable pillow is a good shout. Real down pillows are very soft and fluffable so you can move and shape them according to your needs to get comfortable.
Next up is the filling. Pillows come with all sorts of different fillings, some synthetic and some natural, each with its own benefits and downsides. Here are the main ones.
What are the benefits of feather pillows?
Feather pillows are super comfy, malleable, lightweight and easy to move into the shape you want. Though you might find them a little too soft, especially if you’re a side sleeper and need a thicker, more supportive pillow. The other potential downside is the feathers themselves can cause allergies for some people or even poke through, catching you unawares with a spike.
What are the benefits of down pillows?
Down pillows are very light and soft. If you look forward to letting your head sink into a pillow at night, then down pillows are the choice for you. The down filling is usually made from duck or goose fibres rather than feathers. (Though check for good quality down, as many pillows sold as down in fact contain a mix of feathers and down)
As with feather pillows, some people have sensitivity to down. Though it’s good to bear in mind these allergies are usually due to low quality down filling that hasn’t been properly cleaned. Check for down that has been properly washed like Rise & Fall’s recycled down pillows, that are de-dusted, sterilised & washed using the latest technologies.
What are the benefits of polyester pillows?
Allergy sufferers may prefer synthetic pillows to play it safe. Some offer the benefit of being machine washable too. They are usually cheaper than natural down pillows but need to be replaced more often. Most people find that polyester pillows feel cheap and nasty; and some are treated with harsh chemicals that may lead to other allergies.
What are the benefits of memory foam pillows?
Memory foam fits the contour of your head and neck and distributes weight evenly. It’s often chosen by people with localised head or neck pain.
Memory foam pillows do retain heat, which can be uncomfortable and lead to sweating and poorer sleep - especially if you’re a hot sleeper. Some memory foam pillows give off a very unpleasant chemical smell, so make sure you’re doing your research and buying quality.
What are the benefits of wool pillows?
Wool is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mould and dust mites, so it makes a great filler for pillows. It’s also great at regulating your temperature as it wicks away moisture while you sleep - which means a cosy, warm you in the colder months and comfy, cool you in the warmer months.
Wool pillows are also slightly firmer than down, so if you like your head to feel more supported, then a wool pillow could be just the ticket.
They’re also 100% natural and fully biodegradable (as long as the wool filling is cased in a natural fibre like cotton). Try Rise & Fall’s 100% natural wool pillows.
What pillowcase should I go for?
Make sure your pillowcase is made of natural and breathable fabrics like cotton, linen or silk. Read our handy guide to choosing the right pillowcases; and the difference between an oxford pillowcase and a housewife pillowcase here.
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