Following on from my last post about choosing the best mattress, we will now explore the world of pillows. Once again, I am constantly asked about which pillow to choose. The market for pillows is huge. As an osteopath, I have personally tested many pillows in search of ‘the one’.
I have tried the normal every day ‘cheap’ microfiber filled pillows, latex pillows, memory foam pillows, memory foam pillows with special cooling gel, pillows you can adjust the height of, shaped pillows, buckwheat pillows… the list goes on.
From my research, I have so far found the best measure of a good pillow is height. Now, this can be tricky, as we don’t always sleep in the same position all night. Personally, I like to sleep on my side or on my stomach, which therefore requires the pillow at different heights.
When side-sleeping, a higher profile pillow is best – it should fill the distance between the curve of your neck and the tip of your shoulder – so that your neck is fully supported and allows for a neutral spine.
If the pillow is too high or too low, then your neck will be bent to one side which will ultimately result in tense shoulder muscles, leading to possible conditions such as torticollis (more commonly known as a wry neck or pinched nerve in your neck – not a pinched nerve at all).
A pillow that is too low, can cause us to roll our shoulders forward, also causing tight muscles in the shoulder and neck.
For back or tummy sleepers, a lower profile pillow is ideal. Once again, we are looking for a neutral spine (stomach sleepers will never achieve this due to the neck rotation, thus the stigma behind stomach sleeping).
For those who tend to swap positions at night, mixed profile pillows are available in different forms. The popular ‘contour’ pillow typically has a low side for back sleeping and a high side for side sleeping, but this means that when you move positions, you would have to flip the pillow around too. This is quite hard to do when you’re in the deepest sleep. There are also the newer ‘anatomical’ pillows, which have a lower centre, but the sides are higher – which is my preferred option.
So which pillow to get? The materials come down to comfort, but try and choose a pillow that will support your sleeping style through the night.