Pillows are an essential part of the sleeping process, but most of us don’t take the time to select one that works well with our needs. Unfortunately, this means having a bad night's sleep and potentially hurting ourselves at the same time. But you can sleep great by figuring out what your body needs from a pillow and how to find the best pillow for sleep.
How to Find the Best Pillow for Sleep: Listen to Your Body
If you've been having poor sleep, it's probably for a reason, which is often that your body is uncomfortable or unsupported. So a great first step is to figure out where in your body you're uncomfortable or feeling pain and do the proper research to find out how your sleep affects it and can help heal it.
This might sound mystical and complicated, but it's relatively straightforward. Take out a minute or two to mentally scan your body and notice if any soreness jumps out at you. Next, move your arms and head around a little, and twist your abdomen gently from side to side. Are you stiff or sore anywhere? If the answer is yes (and you haven't been doing any excessive workouts or activity lately), then those areas are the ones you should focus on supporting or fixing.
Some signs from your body that can help you find the right solution might include the following:
- A neck that feels sore to look up or down- If your head and neck don't have enough support, your neck might feel like it's acting like a crane all night long as if you were staring at the stars for too long. Getting a more supportive pillow that's tailored to your sleeping position will help with this.
- Feeling more tired than the time of night you went to sleep- If your head is unsupported, it might be lolling or rolling around during the night, with your body automatically pulling it back into position. That's a lot of work, especially when you're supposed to be resting and getting your energy back. To fix this, figure out the pillow for your sleeping habits (back, stomach, or side), and get a pillow that offers support.
- Waking up stuffy and sneezy every morning- Bedding is a major target for dust mites, dust, and a bunch of other allergens. As a result, your pillow can accumulate a bunch of allergens, soaking them up like a sponge. Because of this (and other reasons), you should replace your pillow every two years. Look for a pillow with a hypoallergenic fill, like memory foam or wool.
How to Find the Best Pillow for Sleep: Look For Something Suited to Your Sleeping Position
How you spend most of the night matters greatly to the pillow that will work best for your body. For example, people who sleep primarily on their backs need a different pillow than those who sleep on their stomachs or sides. This is because the purpose of a pillow is to support your spine in a neutral alignment. This means keeping it in the ideal position, the position it would be without compression, twisting, or bad posture.
Due to the shape of bodies, the distance between the mattress and your spine changes depending on how you sleep. This means the pillow needs to change according to how you spend most of your time.
How Do You Spend Most of Your Sleeping Time?
These recommendations are based on most of the time you spend sleeping. So, if you spend 60% of your time on your side and 40% on your back, go with the side sleeping recommendations. A side sleeper spends 40% of their time, while back sleeping still needs the best pillow for side sleepers. Back sleeping on a side sleeper pillow for less than half the night won’t hurt you and will still have you sufficiently supported and taken care of.
What Does the Word Loft Mean?
We’re not talking about houses here. Pillow loft is the term for the height or thickness of a pillow. The higher the loft, the taller the pillow. This is important to know because the loft changes depending on how you sleep.
- Low Loft- Thickness three inches or less.
- Medium or Mid Loft- Thickness between three and five inches.
- High Loft- Thickness five inches or more.
Great Pillows for Side Sleepers
When we sleep on our side, it’s crucial to have enough support to keep our heads from pitching downward off our necks. Imagine an arrow shooting straight off the top of your head. You want the end of that arrow to align seamlessly with your spine and shoot into your headboard at a right angle.
The best pillows for side sleepers have the following:
- High Loft- Tall pillows keep a side sleeper's head aligned with their spine.
- Firm Support- Firm pillows won’t compress and flatten into a lower loft over the night.
- Shapeable- While you want a firm pillow, it must be comfortable. Getting a down or down alternative pillow will let you reshape the pillow to the height you want it while still being like sleeping on a cloud.
Great Pillows for Stomach Sleepers
Because stomach sleepers are technically going against the normal curvature of their neck, stomach sleeping is the least recommended sleeping position. However, the body wants what the body wants, and you can still have a supportive pillow that cares for the neutral alignment of your spine when you’re sleeping on your stomach.
The best pillows for stomach sleepers have the following:
- Low Loft- To better protect the C curve of your spine, a thinner pillow will give lots of room for the natural curve. We want to avoid craning your neck upwards out of the natural shape, so a thinner pillow is best.
- Soft Support- A too-firm pillow will crane your neck upward and straighten out that curve. Instead, pillows should gently cushion the head while keeping it level with or slightly lower than the rest of the body.
- Compressible- Stomach sleepers will benefit from a pillow that will compress and flatten over the night, becoming a lower loft as the weight of their head bears down on it. Feathers, down, or down alternatives are great compressible pillows for stomach sleepers.
Great Pillows for Back Sleepers
The great aspect about being a back sleeper is that it’s a great position for neutral spine alignment. As long as you have a pillow that gives you medium support and height, your spine will be naturally supported and give you a great night’s sleep.
The best pillows for back sleepers have the following:
- Medium Loft- A pillow that fits the Goldilocks Ideals (not too tall and not too short) is great for back sleepers. It’ll keep your head from being craned too high up and relieve pressure on your neck and shoulders, so you don't feel like you're sleeping flat.
- Medium Firmness- While keeping its shape is important for your pillow, having it be soft at the same time, so it perfectly cradles your head will keep you comfortable all night long.
- Conform to Pressure- When a pillow conforms to pressure, it cradles your head in perfect alignment with your spine. Memory foam pillows are great for this and are super comfortable.
Sleep Better with the Right Pillow
Choosing a pillow based on your position and how your body should be supported is the best way to get a great night's sleep and help your body feel better than ever before. Check out our website for more details on how to find the best pillow for sleep more tips and products to help you sleep better.