Not long ago, I was waking up with tension headaches and an ache in my lower back.
As a frequent sufferer of insomnia, I was happy to wake up from any sort of sleep at all, but as the headaches increased in frequency, I grew concerned. After all, the quality of my sleep should have been just as important as the quantity. I visited my chiropractor, thinking I could get some advice on my mattress and sleeping position. Was I sleeping the wrong way? Was my mattress bad?
As it turns out, it was my pillow. Until recently, I’d never thought much about my pillow. As a generic supermarket find in my favorite pillowcase, it got me through my night just fine—or so I thought. My chiropractor explained that my generic pillowcase wasn’t supporting my head and neck properly and my neck and body unsuccessfully attempted to compensate for the awkward positioning by over-arching.
My chiropractor suggested a new pillow, and while I was there I asked him what things I should look for when shopping for a new one. He said I should consider the following factors when looking for a pillow:
A pillow should be chosen according to a person’s particular sleep style.
Stomach sleepers should choose a flat and soft pillow. The pillow should lift the head off the bed in a manner that aligns the neck and spine (an important factor for any sleep position).
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People who sleep on their back should use a medium-sized pillow with medium firmness. The thickness of the pillow should not cause the head to tilt too much forward.
Anyone who sleeps on their side should use a large, thick pillow that fills the gap between the bed and head. This will keep the neck in alignment with the spine. Side sleepers should purchase pillows that are medium to firm.
Pillows come in a variety of stuffing options (more than you’d think!). Memory foam, polyester and cotton blend, down and even buckwheat are popular choices of pillow fill.
Memory foam’s popularity is due to its ability to adjust to accommodate pressure and mold itself around the neck and head.
Polyester and cotton blend pillows have a medium to soft level of firmness. The higher the thread count, the higher the quality of filling.
Down filling, comprised of feathers, are known for being soft and lightweight. Like polyester blends, they have a medium level of firmness. They tend to be more expensive than polyester blend pillows but can maintain their shape better.
Buckwheat pillows conform to the shape of the neck and head. Because the buckwheat hulls have air space between them, they do not retain heat throughout the night. This keeps the pillow cool.
Pillows are available in a startling number of styles that include head pillows, neck pillows, side pillows, and body pillows.
The head pillow provides support for the neck and the head. Neck pillows elevate the neck and not the head and are ideal for people experiencing neck problems, which turned out to be my problem.
Side sleepers will appreciate side pillows because they support the spine and back which often get out of alignment as the night progresses.
Body pillows are extra long and support the entire body.
So why is choosing the right pillow so important?
Aside from causing my headaches and back problems, my chiropractor told me our pillow choices can affect a lot more. A poor choice in pillow can ruin a night’s sleep, and sleep is important to a person’s overall mental and physical health. The right pillow can increase the level of comfort and the amount of sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause issues like a decrease in reaction time, memory problems, and a weakened immune system. Using and incorrect pillow can put pressure on the muscle, joints, and nerves to cause inflammation. Neck pain and shoulder pain are other consequences of using the wrong pillow.
After my chiropractor visit, I realized there was a lot more to choosing a pillow than I’d ever considered. Selecting the right one was just as important as selecting the proper mattress.
In the end, I went with a memory-foam neck pillow that provided the perfect support for my neck and head as I slept on my back and kept me from jamming my head back and compressing my spine. If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms I mentioned above, switch out your pillow according to my chiropractor’s guidelines to see if your pillow was the problem—it’s cheaper than a mattress and a great place to start.
Melissa Jones is the Online Marketing Specialist for www.Respshop.com the leading provider for everything cpap. When not spouting statistics about cpap equipment, you will find Melissa looking for her next half marathon or planning her dream vacation to Alaska.