While there are several factors at play, there’s no denying the impact on decent sleep that a good (or bad) pillow can provide. As is the case with mattresses, the best pillow for you will depend on a few factors. Read on to find out exactly which is the best pillow for a comfortable night’s sleep.
How do I choose the right pillow for me?
The right pillow will depend on which kind of sleeper you are (stomach, side, or back), whether you suffer from allergies and what type of filling you prefer. Do you get hot quickly at night? You may want to consider a pillow with a breathable cotton outer. Hypoallergenic microfibre, silk, and certain memory foam designs are great if you suffer from allergies.
Choosing a pillow for neck pain will depend on the issue, but muscle cramps and discomfort are often due to using the wrong pillow for your size, position, and shape. Finding the right firmness (or softness) for your particular sleep style is crucial to waking up feeling refreshed. The ideal pillow for you is one that supports your head and neck in the same alignment as if you were standing up straight, which is down to the amount and supportiveness of the filling. It must also eliminate pressure points on your face and neck, and preferably improve facial circulation.
If you’re not sure where to start, the general rule is that back-sleepers should choose a medium thickness pillow. Side-sleepers are better off with a thicker, high-fill pillow to cushion the space between the neck and the bed. Front-sleepers are best advised to opt for a thinner, softer down, synthetic or specialist pillow to avoid feeling suffocated. If you tend to change positions throughout the night, opt for the pillow which supports the position you find yourself in most often. Or, choose a medium-filled pillow to cover all your bases.
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What are the different types of pillows?
While most pillows have a soft, cotton or polyester outer, fillings can vary considerably.
- Down or feathers: A combination of down and feathers will be soft, and those with a larger percentage of down to feathers are more luxurious and gentle on the face. However, more down means less support, so while they are good for front-sleepers, they may not be firm enough for side-sleepers. Pillows filled with pure feathers are less expensive but the quills can poke through the outer covers. For those with allergies, a higher down to feather ratio might be best avoided. However, if looked after, natural materials are the best choice for a long-lasting pillow.
- Silk: This is a good choice if you overheat at night because silk naturally wicks away moisture and helps regulate heat at the same time. Perfect for front-sleepers with allergies as they are naturally dust mite-resistant.
- Wool: Natural wool gives a good level of support and can work well for both back- and side-sleepers. Regular plumping will help to stop it compacting over time.
- Synthetic: Synthetic fillings, such as microfibre and hollowfibre are also hypoallergenic. They’re lightweight, often machine-washable and reasonably priced, too. Medium-filled pillows provide support for back- and side-sleepers but choose your outer carefully. Some have a polyester cover, which is not as breathable as cotton and will be unpleasant if you get hot at night. They are among the cheapest pillows, but they also have short lives as the filling can start to clump and be uncomfortable over time.
- Memory foam: Memory foam provides great support if you sleep on your side, although some find it too firm and hot. This deep, firm support makes it a good pillow if you suffer from neck problems.
- Latex: Latex has a similar feel to memory foam, providing firm support to head and neck but often giving a cooler sleeping experience – excellent if you’re an overheating side-sleeper.
Your Pillow Know-How
Can you wash them?
Always check the care label on your pillow. It’s not recommended to wash cheaper synthetic versions as this can result in clumping of the filling, although middle to high-end are usually fine if you tumble dry carefully to keep the filling loose. Most natural wool, down and feather pillows can be washed at lower temperatures of 30-40˚C but if you want to get rid of dust mites you’ll need to choose ones that can be cleaned at 60˚C. Tumble dry and fluff regularly to plump the filling. Most memory foam pillows require marks to be spotted with a sponge but have outer covers that can be removed and popped in the wash at 40˚C to keep them clean.
How often should you change them?
If you’re waking up with a sore neck it’s probably time to change your pillow. Some synthetic pillows may need replacing after as little as six months, while others (down, feathers, and memory foam) will give you two years or more depending on how well you look after them. Down tends to last longer (up to four years), while a feather pillow could last up to eight years. A hypoallergenic synthetic pillow is chemically treated to prevent dust mites, and they aren’t fans of natural materials such as silk or wool either. However, in all cases, regular washing and changing of bed linen, plus the use of a pillow protector will help.
Adapted from an article which appeared on womanandhome.com