A Guide To Choosing The Perfect Pillow

Are you sleeping on the right kind of pillow?

We all sleep differently, and we all have different needs, so it follows that we may need different types of pillows to give us the best night’s sleep.

If you’re not sure which kind of pillow is right for you, follow these simple steps from the experts here at Sleep and Beyond to find out:

Most of us have a go-to sleeping position that we adopt and usually maintain throughout the night. You may not realise it, but the position you like to sleep in largely dictates the kind of pillow you should be sleeping on in terms of thickness and firmness.

Do you know which position you usually sleep in?

If you’re not sure, spend a few nights paying attention to and taking note of the position you go to sleep in and the position you wake up in. If it’s largely the same position over and over again, you’ll know this is the position you sleep in most of the time. If it’s always different, that’s OK; there’s a pillow type for you too.

Here are the four main sleeping positions and the best pillow types to suit them:

Stomach sleeper – If you lie flat on your front with your head to one side, you should look for a relatively flat, soft pillow or even use no pillow at all. This is because you’ll need to keep your neck aligned with your spine in order to avoid neck pain and posture problems from straining your neck throughout the night, and thinner pillows help you do this.

Back sleeper – If you like to sleep on your back, you should aim for a pillow of medium thickness and firmness. If your pillow is too thick, your head will be pushed forward at an uncomfortable angle, and if it is too thin and soft your head will sink too far back towards the mattress. A medium thickness should keep your neck and spine well aligned for a comfortable sleep.

Side sleeper – If you’re a side sleeper, which is one of the most common positions, you’ll need a pillow that is both thick and firm in order to support your neck and keep it aligned properly with the spine. If your pillow is too soft, your neck and head will lie at a very unnatural angle to your spine and can lead to neck pain.

Mixed sleeper – If you find yourself sleeping in all sorts of positions throughout the night, you should choose a fairly soft pillow of medium thickness. This will allow you to remain comfortable in a variety of positions, and provides a happy medium in terms of support from all angles.

Now that you know what thickness and firmness you should be aiming for, it’s time to look at fillings. Your filling will somewhat dictate how thick and firm your pillow is, so getting this right is very important.

Also affecting your choice of filling are personal preference, allergies and price. Here are the four main types of pillow fillings and their attributes:

Synthetic microfibre pillows

Microfibre pillows are great for sleepers who suffer from asthma or allergies, as they are hypo-allergenic with purely synthetic hollowfibre fillings. Microfibre pillows also come in a range of thicknesses and levels of firmness, so you can find a pillow that perfectly suits your sleeping position. Synthetic pillows also tend to be budget friendly, costing less than wool or feather and down pillows.

Wool or cotton pillows

Another great selection for those suffering from severe allergies, cotton and wool pillows are resistant to mold and dust mites and are naturally very soft. Wool pillows do tend to be rather thick and firm, however, so these may not be the best choice for you if you’re a stomach sleeper. Because of their natural fibres, wool and cotton-filled pillows do tend to be further up the pricing scale than synthetic choices.  

Goose and duck feather pillows

Duck and goose feather pillows tend to be the most luxurious, and are therefore among the most expensive on the market, so make sure you take this into account. As they are filled with the inner plumage of ducks and geese, these pillows are understandably often avoided by those who suffer from animal allergies and asthma. However, if you don’t suffer from allergies, these natural pillows are great for providing varying levels of support and are very soft and breathable.

Memory foam pillows

If you suffer from neck or shoulder pain, memory foam pillows can be very helpful in keeping you comfortable and providing firm support for your neck. The main downside to memory foam pillows is that the foam is not very breathable, but the level of support makes them a very comfortable option for side sleepers in particular.

Once you’ve found your ideal pillow thickness, firmness and filling, you’ll want to keep your pillows well protected. To keep them clean and in tip top condition, you should use pillow protectors which will help shield your pillows from sweat, body oils, hair products and saliva.

You can buy hypoallergenic pillow protectors if you suffer from allergies, or you can go for a touch of luxury with super soft Egyptian cotton pillow protectors. Whichever type you choose, make sure you change and wash your pillow protectors regularly to keep everything fresh and hygienic.

Having the right pillows is one thing, but knowing when to replace them is just as important. Not all types of pillows have the same life span, and once they start to sag they will no longer provide the support you need, or the same level of comfort.

So how do you know if your pillow needs replacing? A foolproof trick is to simply place the pillow over your arm. If it stays rigid and holds its shape, it’s still in perfectly good nick. If, however, it sags over your arm, it might be time to replace it.

If you’re at the stage where you need to replace your pillows, or if you’ve realised you’re using the wrong pillow type, Sleep and Beyond is here to help. Browse our range of pillows and find your perfect match over on our main site.

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