Do you go to bed thinking “I hope I wake up with a stiff neck and backache in the morning?” Probably not. Yet, having a pillow that doesn’t provide the right head and neck support could be contributing to those conditions. You know how important sleep is to general good health so if the quality of your sleep has continued to decline, maybe it’s time to replace the pillow.
The first function of a pillow, supporting your neck and upper back, is the most important. The spine is curved naturally and when the pillow provides the proper support, the alignment of head and neck is maintained. When the pillow isn’t doing it’s job, chances are you will wake up with a stiff neck and a sore back.
The second function, comfort, is a bit more subjective. Does the fabric feel nice on your skin? Does it keep your head and neck cool (for those that get warm)? Features like that are personal preference rather than “must haves.”
What kind of pillow should you get to ensure proper support? It depends on your sleep position. If you sleep on your back, the pillow should be flatter but still support the curve of the head, neck and shoulders. You don’t want your head tilted up at an angle forcing your chin down. A second pillow under the knees can also be beneficial in preventing back pain.
If you’re a side sleeper, the pillow needs to be thicker than one for a back sleeper in order to maintain a straight spine. As with back sleepers, a second pillow or contoured foam between the legs helps prevent back pain.
If you sleep on your stomach, you probably don’t need a pillow at all as the last thing you want to do is lift the head causing an unnatural angle to the neck. Using a pillow under your stomach can help minimize lower back pain.
The last tidbit you may not know: Replace your pillow every 12 months. Pillows start to lose their integrity (support) and general cleanliness after that long. Do you really want to sleep with dust mites and dead skin cells? Blech!
Having the right pillow is more critical to a good night’s sleep than you may realize. Stop tossing and turning every night and find a pillow to love.
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