How to Choose a Pillow

How to Choose a Pillow

Just how old is the pillow you sleep on every night? A new pillow is such a (relatively) inexpensive way to improve sleep and refresh your nights. If you aren’t convinced after reading this post, re-read point number 6, the drool factor!

With hundreds of pillows to choose from, finding the one that suits your individual sleeping style and preferences can be a real challenge. When you discover that magical combination of composition, firmness, contour, thickness, and coolness, using a different-style pillow (when traveling, for example) can adversely affect your sleep and even cause neck or back pain in the morning. Before you embark on your search for a new pillow, consider these six factors:

  1. Your pillow’s age. The perfect pillow may be difficult to part with, but if you have used it for a year or two, it is time to say goodbye, say sleep experts. Lumpy or flattened pillows can put strain on your neck, shoulders, and back and old pillows harbor bacteria and dust mites from the accumulation of hair and body oils. Tip: To remember the date of purchase, jot it down on the new pillow’s tag with a permanent marker and toss it when a year is up.
  2. Your sleeping position. Back, side, and stomach sleepers have very different needs, and a one-style-fits-all pillow will not work. Back sleepers should look for a medium-loft pillow that supports their neck without forcing their head upwards or pressing it flat against the mattress. Side sleepers need a higher loft that relieves pressure on the shoulder and can be easily fluffed or embraced. Stomach sleepers should look for compressible materials that allow a low loft. Whatever your sleeping position, your pillow should keep your head, neck and spine all in neutral alignment and support your spine’s natural curvature. Unsure of your sleeping position? You may want to look for customizable pillows so you can adjust the fills and experiment with loft and firmness.
  3. Individual preferences. Some sleepers like to sink into soft pillows, while others prefer body-conforming foam. Hot sleepers benefit from breathable, cooling and moisture-wicking properties. If you are allergic to a certain material used in pillows, it may be helpful to identify it and avoid that material. According to Consumer Reports, there are no federal standards for the term “hypoallergenic,” so be advised.
  4. Be sure the foam is certified. You’ll sleep better knowing the foam in your pillow is CertiPUR-US certified. That means the foam was screened for relevant chemicals, including flame retardants, that are classified as carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins and are harmful to human health. Certified foams are made without formaldehyde; ozone depleters; mercury, lead and other heavy metals; or phthalates regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. It also means the foam has low VOC (volatile organic compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). Visit the CertiPUR-US directory of manufacturers and retailers offering pillows, mattresses and upholstered furniture using certified foam before you make a purchase.
  5. Your type of mattress. Sleep experts say a firmer mattress calls for a fuller pillow, and vice versa, regardless of your sleeping position. The body tends to sink into a softer mattress, reducing the gap between your head and the mattress. A firmer mattress creates a larger gap for your neck to fill using a pillow.
  6. The drool factor. Let’s face it – pillows can get gross. You drool on it! Okay, you don’t drool, but your pillow is a very personal product which is why you should buy a pillow protector that goes on before the pillowcase and is useful for everyone, especially those with dust-mite allergies. A pillow protector also helps keep your pillows clean and free of dust, dander, oils and face and hair products.

Here’s a recommendation: When you find the perfect pillow, buy more than one. It’s nice to have a spare favorite on hand when it’s time for a new one!

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