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There are many pillows available to the public and it can be very confusing as to how to choose which one to pick. Here I will list out a few things to look out for when choosing a pillow.
How to test a pillow
I would recommend trying a few different pillows. The best way to do this is to take a hand towel to your local pillow shop, put the towel on a pillow you'd like to test, lie down, rest your head and see what you think (take as much hygiene precaution as possible when doing this).
What to look for
Support recommendations depend on how you tend to sleep:
In side lying - Your head should be horizontal so that your neck is in line with the rest of your spine. Your shoulders can be an issue here so make sure the pillow is high enough to fill the gap created by the shoulders.
On your back - Be careful that the pillow is not too big as it can take you head in to too much forward flexion. This can cause a lot of aggravation in the neck, we see this a lot with people the use too many pillows when sleeping. I tend to recommend one good pillow for head support and another one just to help support your body's sleep position. Such as to hug or bolster your torso.
Face down - Chiropractors tend to find that Face down sleepers tend to get the most neck and back problems. We don't however, tell people to change their sleep position as sleep is crucial. If a person doesn't mind sleeping in another position then we suggest this. Though if face down is the only way they sleep, then so be it. Neck posture in a face down position is never going to be good, hence all the problems. In this case we have to just try and make the best of a bad situation and suggest a low pillow that keeps the head in line with the spine. Sometimes, this can even mean sleeping without a pillow entirely.
Does your body feel comfortable while using the pillow - you need to feel supported but also comfortable. Is the pillow too hard or soft. Does it provide the right amount of support without compromising on comfort.
I personally like a pillow to not be too soft as my head sinks down and becomes unsupported. Though I also don't like it too hard as it just becomes too uncomfortable.
The pillow I use is quite heavy, though this is because of the material that is used inside it (memory foam). I do not have a preference for the weight of the pillow, though this may be something to consider when checking for pillow comfort.
Temperature can be a factor when considering comfort, you can buy some pillows which have a 'cooling effect'.
There are many different shaped and style pillows that provide support, one of the most well known styles of pillow are the 'orthopaedic' pillows, these have a 'bump' at one or both ends which is designed to fill the gap between the head and the shoulder to help keep the spine straight at the neck.
You can get some very clever pillows which are customisable, in that you can adapt the interior of the pillow to increase/decrease the height and density of the pillow. One such pillow is the Sleeprrr.
Your medical history must be taken in to consideration when choosing a pillow. Neck pain and headaches are one aspect of this, make sure your Neck is kept in a neutral position where possible otherwise it can really aggravate a neck that has a history of wear and tear.
The most common positional errors we see when using a pillow is that they are too high, which brings the neck in to too much flexion.
This usually occurs when someone uses too many pillows. All you really need is one good height dense pillow to support your head and neck.
Sleep position can also cause neck issues but this is a much tougher issue to change. For example, front lying sleepers tend to get the most neck problems but asking them to change sleep position is a risky thing to do as they may end up losing sleep.
Sleep is always the priority so don’t prioritise changing sleep position over actually getting sleep if changing sleep position is not working for you.
As with most things in life finding a pillow that suits you is very personal. You may need to try quite a few before making a final decision. Hopefully these tips might make things a bit easier.