What Is the Best Pillow and Mattress For Me?

One of the most asked questions for Hump Day Conversations!

Last Week Tonight00:07-01:51
Why Are Pillows Such a Big Deal01:52-05:24
Love It or Dump It Pillows05:24-14:35
Sleeping Positions14:36-18:06
Mattresses18:07-22:07
The Medium Firm Mattress Study22:08-23:32
Magnesium Recap23:33-26:48
Tying It All Together26:49-30:54

Transcript:

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

I’m Dr. Ben Boudreau and my partner here is Dr. Clayton Roach. This is Hump Day Conversation number 12 and tonight we’ll be talking about pillows. What we spoke about last week is how adjustments fight headaches, how the alignment of the vertebrae can really have an impact on the way that the nerves exit from those canals. They supply the muscles, the intervention to the head and if you have improper alignment it can cause headaches, we call them cervicogenic headaches.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

One thing we touched on in past presentations and we’ll kind of touch on it tonight is this flat cervical spine. You never want to see this; you want to see a nice 42-degree curve in through the neck area. This 42-degree curve allows you to have proper spacing in between the vertebrae and then you have plenty of room for the nerves and especially here. When we talk about the nerves that supply the back of the head, as Ben said, huge link with headaches. We wanted to debunk that last week and what the important things were and taking a Tylenol to mask the pain will not create a curve in your neck.  You got to be careful in terms of what you’re choosing to do when taking care of symptoms and you want to take care of the cause of the problem. Let’s talk about this, Ben.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Why are pillows such a big deal? Everyone’s always wondering what’s the proper pillow and I always wake up and I have this neck pain, could it be my pillow? It could be your pillow, it’s important to maintain that proper alignment of those vertebrae in your neck, also known as the cervical vertebrae. You can see there and to maintain that 42-degree curve that we’re talking about, we look at the individual on the left side. There, perfect beautiful 42-degree curve and we look at our friend on the right-hand side and he’s got a very straight cervical vertebra.

Dr. Clayton Roach:  

One thing that I’ll point out is that the vertebrae are starting to look not square and the spacing in between is also starting to narrow.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Right, so a proper pillow can fit the contour of the 42-degree curve and help improve the curve while you’re sleeping because as you’re resting your neck muscles should rest at night and recover from the strains of texting, computer work and other forward head positions tasks we do during the day.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

I just want to talk about the circadian rhythm. Our body uses the night to recover and it does all kinds of metabolic functions and our body gets restored to somewhat a neutral set point for you to be able to begin the next day. Unfortunately, a lot of you who have come up to us and ask us questions probably feel that you wake up in the middle of the night or you wake up in the morning with what I call negative equity.

What that means is that you don’t feel like you’ve restored your body so that it’s ready to take on the next day. I just want to get a show of hands here just by a thumbs up to how many of you feel that there could be some improvements made to the quality of your sleep. Just go ahead and give us a thumbs up on that to make sure that we’ve got the right topic for tonight.

Dr. Roach Continued:

What happens is there’s a lot of things that need to come into play. We’re going to talk about pillows and mattresses tonight but one thing that some of you might not be doing is the heat in the room. The body goes into a deeper sleep if the temperature is below 20 degrees so we say about 17 or 18 degrees is ideal and make sure that the room is as dark as it can be.

Many of you are going to sleep with some electromagnetic frequencies that these devices emit and the blue light. I never recommend using your cell phone as an alarm clock so try to avoid that and that way you don’t have anything affecting your sleep. Also, try to calm down before you go to bed. Make sure you watch something that’s calming, that allows you to be able to prepare for that sleep. That was my tidbit on the circadian rhythm.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:  

This is a segment that I’d like to call Love It or Dump It: The Pillow Edition. We have a few different types of pillows on the screen here and we’re going to go through each of those and talk about why they’re important, why you should keep them and why there are some that you could probably kick to the curb or use as a between the leg type pillow. Let’s start from the left top and then we’ll sort of zigzag our way down and across. I’d like to first talk about the pillow that’s furthest to the left and top, it’s a nice cervical pillow.

You see how it has the centrepiece just for your head to lay in and then on the back and on the front is a slight bump. That’s where your neck is supposed to sit and this is supposed to be a back sleeper’s pillow and so it maintains that cervical lordosis, that curve in your spine while you’re sleeping at night. This is the bump right here and that’s supposed to be helpful. That’s one of those pillows that I would say love it because it’s not too soft and it’s not too firm and it’s not like you put your head on the pillow and your neck will sink directly to the bottom it has a little bit of cushion there to maintain that cervical lordosis. So, I love those.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

Basically, when we go back to this, you’ll see that the curve of the pillow would fit right in there and then the hole would be where the skull is going to lay.

Dr. Ben Boudreau: 

The next pillow below it is very similar. It’s a wave pillow and you can see it’s gray just below and it has a nice contour on it as well to suit the cervical spine. One of the things that I must talk about is that these pillows are fairly rigid, and you have to be able to decide if you’re ready for a rigid cervical pillow. If you have straightening of the spine, it’s confirmed on an x-ray. It’s like wearing orthotics, you wouldn’t want to start with a very high arch, you’d want to make your way up or make your way down. You want to be able to work it in.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

Unfortunately, unless these people are getting chiropractic care and working on the curve, they’re going to say well you know two weeks I’m still not used to it. You’re never going to get used to this one because you just don’t have a curve there and this is always going to feel like somebody’s poking you in the back of the neck. Midway through the night, they’re just getting tight and you’re going to wake up with pain.

Dr. Ben Boudreau: 

Next, I’d like to go to the middle row top pillow. The top pillow in the middle row is our common down pillow or our feather stuffed pillow. Unfortunately, some of you may say I’ve been using a feathered and down pillow my entire life, it’s been great. I’d like to say from personal experience they poke me in the face in the evening, they poke me in the eye sometimes and I was happy to see that the research said that they were too soft of a pillow, they do not provide enough neck support.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

Here’s one reason why people might like this one temporarily and I’ve always noticed this. If they don’t have a curve in their neck it allows the neck not to feel like it’s rigid or being put on a big roundness like this but eventually, it starts to hurt because you’ve got a straight neck that’s starting to sink into a pillow that’s not supporting you. Eventually, even the people that like this pillow temporarily start to hate it and they are very expensive by the way. Ben, we just had a question. What about the half-moon pillow made of memory foam?

Dr. Ben Boudreau: 

I’m trying to figure out the half tube/half moon pillow. I’m going to look it up quickly and it looks like a roller, Dr. Roach that’s cut in half. Now the pillow below the down pillow is the memory foam pillow and I’d like to talk about memory foam quickly. As long as the memory foam is rigid, I don’t have a problem with it but not all memory foam is technically the same. Some memory foam is softer, some are more rigid.

I wouldn’t recommend a memory foam pillow because the memory foam sinks into the type of structure that your body has. It doesn’t try to correct structure it only adapts to what your body lets it adapt to and so if you have a straightened spine your memory foam pillow is going to adapt into that straightened position. It won’t assume a 42-degree curve.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

Here’s a good analogy, it’s almost like going to a store and buying Dr. Scholl’s gel pad. They are not going to correct malalignments in your foot. They may feel okay but it’s not going to correct anything. The next thing I would say with the memory foam is depending on the type of curve in your neck, if you’ve got a very straight neck or even a reverse curve, a hard memory foam pillow will not feel any different than this one right here. It’s just going to be too much and it’s going to start to poke into the neck where you don’t have a curve. One of the keys to identifying a pillow that’s really going to work is knowing what kind of neck you have. If you don’t have a great neck, then a pillow is not going to fix that neck.

Dr. Ben Boudreau: 

The next pillow I’d like to go to is the Tempur-Pedic pillows and so these Tempur-Pedic pillows are filled with polypropylene capsules and they also cool down in the evening and so we go back to the idea of sleeping better in a cool room and everybody usually likes the cool side of the pillow and these polypropylene crystals that are inside of the pillows have been shown to have more support than our downed and our feathered pillows. They provide more than enough support for your neck to encourage a curve and then also have some fluidity. You can rest in the proper position come sleep time. Last and least this is your flattened pillow. I would not recommend this for a side sleeper or a back sleeper, possibly a stomach sleeper but we try to discourage that so you can dump your flattened pillows.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

The only time it would apply as you said, would be for the stomach sleeper but we highly do not recommend sleeping on your stomach. We have a question here, Ben. How often should you replace a pillow? I’m going to answer that and say aside from sanitary purposes if you feel you need to dump the pillow, dump the pillow. The moment that you feel you want to bring it to our practice is when the pillow is not providing the support anymore.

It’s like changing a pair of shoes, they don’t provide the support, but it also depends on how much mileage you put on your shoes. Give or take, we all sleep seven or eight hours a night, so the mileage is going to be the same, so we got to base it on support. How many of you are enjoying this so far, just show us a few hearts here. We want to make sure that we’re hitting what you were looking for in this episode.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

What about the sleeping position? People will ask I’m a side sleeper is there a better type of pillow for me or is there something that I should be doing that I’m not doing now. I’m a back sleeper, I’m a stomach sleeper or maybe you’re a cross between a side sleeper and a back sleeper. What the research is saying is that if you’re a back sleeper you should place a pillow under your knees to take some of the pressure off your back.

They say not a large pillow and the pillow should fit just underneath your neck to fill that cervical curve. We just spoke about the proper pillow to use to fill that cervical curve and they also say to put a small pillow under your knees to support that low back a little bit so you can use wedge pillows for that cervical spine or that wave pillow that we talked about.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

One of the things that I always tell my patients and they’ll bring their pillow in to see, is if a pillow is good for you while you’re laying on your side. Basically, line up the back of the skull. You remember on previous hump day conversations; we were talking about people that used their cell phones that have been developing horns on the back of the neck if you feel in the back of your head there’s a bump that’s called the EOP, the external occipital protuberance. If you line that up with the spine at C7, right at the bottom part of the neck, you’ll feel a bump.

In the middle part of your sacrum your tailbone all of that should be lined up horizontal parallel to the floor so guess what if your head is propped up it is not going to be lined up it means the pillow is too thick. If your head is lower so the bump on the back of your head is lower than the bottom part of your neck and your sacrum then the pillow is too thin. That’s one way and you can do this with a partner, whoever it is and then you can line up those three points and you will see whether the pillow is where it should be. Now, one thing that comes into play with that is you can have a great pillow but if you’re sinking into your mattress you’ve got an issue. Both must work in conjunction. Go to the next one, Ben.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

That’s a great point. I just have one last thing to say about a side sleeper. If you are going to sleep on your side make sure that everything is nice and aligned like Dr. Roach said. Put a pillow between your knees, it helps to align that sacrum up with that C7 so that’s something that they always encourage.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

People wake up in the middle of the night with back pain a lot of times because their knees are touching. Their pelvis starts to torque because they’re on their side, the knees come together and now it’s almost like you’re taking a rag and you’re twisting it and you’re torquing the lower back. If there are any pre-existing problems with your back then you’re going to start to have problems, you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night or you’re going to wake up in the morning feeling like a stiff board. We got to be careful about that, so a pillow in between your knees, really good tip.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

We are good to move on so what about the mattress? There isn’t a lot of research out there to sort of suggesting what type of mattress to get but they do say that a medium to firm mattress is best. About a six to a seven on the firmness scale. Any shop that you walk into, a Sleep Country, wherever they sell mattresses they’ll know what a firmness scale is. The type of mattress that gets the best sleep and that’s the best for preventing low back pain and neck pain is a medium to a firm mattress.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

We’re assuming that 10 is like a piece of plywood.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

A piece of plywood is what stomach sleepers should be sleeping on. So, a back sleeper needs a solid medium to a firm mattress and they should aim for a score of a six to seven on the firmness scale. If you’re a side sleeper, you’ll need a slightly softer mattress, and you should look for something in the 5.5 to 6.5 range and if you’re a stomach sleeper you should be sleeping on something tough as a board with a thin pillow that’s in the 6.5 to the 7.5 range. The side was 5.5 to 6.5 and our stomach sleepers are 6.5 to 7.5.

Now, they talked a little bit about the type of mattress to avoid, so they say if you’re going for a spring mattress make sure that it has a thick cover on it because the actual springs in the mattress if they’re poking through or even if the top cover is very thin, they’ve been shown to cause more backaches than any other mattresses. You want to be able to look to see can I get a nice thick topper or a mattress that is cooling and that provides comfort as well as a mattress. You can try it out for a few months see if you like it and take it back. Make sure that you’re at a place that has a good warranty.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

And most of the places now are good for that and let you try the mattress I think you can bring it back two or three times. One thing I would say is I’m always cautious when people say memory foam. I hear when people buy memory foam is, they’re very surprised how hot they are. What happens is you sink into the mattress and it doesn’t have any room to dissipate the heat and we said we like to have the room less than 20 degrees. That’s all fine and dandy if you do that but meanwhile, you’re boiling underneath your mattress. It kind of defeats the purpose, so always be careful not just the firmness, which obviously is important but also the type of material.

Make sure that it’s going to keep you cool. I know they say that there’s a cooling gel and all that but that is a common complaint that I get, and nobody says that their memory foam has been really cool. Just be cautious of that and make sure that you’re getting the support that you need based on how you sleep, whether it’s the back or side or stomach. Unfortunately for you who sleep on your stomach, make sure you follow the firmness scale that Ben shared with you. That was great information. Ben, anything else?

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

I just want to talk about the study on the medium to firm mattresses and they compared people who slept on this medium to firm mattresses versus these firm and not so firm type mattresses and they found that people who slept on the medium to firm mattresses had better outcomes and less pain on rising. They had less daily pain and disability compared to those who slept on the softer and firmer mattresses. So, if you’re experiencing back pain and you wake up in the morning with back pain, you’re not supplementing with chiropractic care, do consider switching over to a medium to a firm mattress. You will not regret it.

Dr. Clayton Roach: 

I will say, the older you get the less pliable the spine is. Unless you’re getting regular chiropractic care, the less likely you are to adapt to a soft mattress, right, because then you’re going to start sinking and then the mobility is just not there. So definitely, medium to firm to begin with. Good, show us the love. This is good information. I like this episode; it’s been probably one of the best episodes because it’s one of the most common questions that we get.

I’ll kind of touch base on this, Ben. Last time we talked about magnesium and the magnesium that we have in our office is either the powder or the capsules. One of the reasons I like the powder is because it absorbs quickly so you need less of the milligrams than what you will need with the capsule. In terms of the cost effectiveness the powder is a phenomenal product. Now why do you need magnesium? It’s a great muscle relaxer so it ties right into our conversation tonight in terms of the prep work you need to do in order to have a great night’s sleep.

Dr. Roach Continued:

Some of our patients have had phenomenal results with muscle cramps in the legs also helps restless leg syndrome. We’ve seen good results with that so we just want to plug magnesium and magnesium is one of those supplements that right now in literature is saying that most people should be on magnesium. I don’t know if it’s because of the stress we’re under but we definitely are seeing more people stressed and with neck pain and more people working from home. The other day there was this picture of this lady on Facebook she was on Zoom and in the back, you could see her child who was taped to the ground with masking tape and everything, so she didn’t interrupt the Zoom call.

We laughed so much, so many of us have thought about that but we never took a photograph of our daughter being taped to the ground which I don’t necessarily do but anyway it was funny. It’s almost like you eat more sugar, you got to brush your teeth a little more. If you’re stressed and you’re sitting a lot then we need to combat that because it all has an effect on the muscles, which attach to the spine, which can contort the spine into positions that we don’t necessarily want and create fixations and all that stuff that you are seeing us for.

Dr. Roach Continued:

You can still get it from natural sources, here we list a few: dark chocolate, avocados, almonds, tofu, bananas, leafy greens. So, you can definitely get your magnesium from these but how much dark chocolate you need to eat in order to get the magnesium that you need I probably don’t recommend.  Be careful where you’re getting it from.

I’m just going to stop sharing, we need to go through the winner last week of the Cryoderm!

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Yeah, the winner of the Cryoderm is up!

Dr. Clayton Roach:

We did a draw of the people that shared our last episode and again we want to thank you for sharing that episode because we had over 1500 views. The winner of the Cryoderm was Sylvia Larade, so you won the Cryoderm. Cryoderm is great because you can kind of put it anywhere, you’ve heard not your eyes, not your armpit, don’t recommend the groin either. So, keep it away from those areas and it’s a great analgesic with a lot of natural stuff in there so you don’t have to worry about any side effects.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Just to tie everything together, we talked about the 42-degree curve, what can we do to help maintain that 42-degree curve and we’re so happy that you asked about pillows and mattresses. Understanding that pillows and mattresses are meant to help like an orthotic, to help keep your cervical spine at that beautiful 42-degree curve and then you supplement them with chiropractic treatment, it brings your spine to a happier place so that it’s better able to adapt to the environmental components that you place upon it, which is your pillow. Then we talked about how you can incorporate nutritional aspects into it so that your muscles can begin to calm down. We talked about magnesium and then you can have a better sleep, which then results in better healing and that’s how you make a holistic chiropractic approach to taking care of your 42-degree curve.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

Great point, Ben and cut caffeine after 4 pm. If you’re having trouble sleeping, cut that caffeine after 4:00 pm. We’re going to ask you to do your duty and share this episode. Many people probably need this information because I know we get two to three questions a week on mattresses and pillows. If you feel compelled to help others click the share button. Make sure that if you miss this episode you can watch the full episode on YouTube. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Cathy, do you take magnesium just before bed? If your magnesium is depleted and you take magnesium right before you go to bed it can have the reverse action and it can excite you. I would take it two to three hours prior okay.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

I just want to say one last thing, thank you so much. We’ve had people call into the clinic and ask us for topics for hump day. Can you do this topic, can you do that topic and so we’re having an easier time picking our topics for next week. I think we already have one lined up that you are going to be really interested in and it will encompass a lot of the things that we already spoke about and some new stuff too. What kind of topics you want us to talk about because for us it makes a lot easier and also it’s content that’s pertinent to what you want.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

That’s what we want to do, so I think we’re done. A sincere thank you. It’s the little things done every day that make a big difference. We always overestimate what we can do in a short period of time, but we underestimate what we can do in a long period of time. Having a good mattress is a long-term project but you’re going to benefit from that big, nice pillow. You’re going to benefit from that and everything we talked about tonight.

Dr. Ben Boudreau:

Absolutely, I think the number one thing is staying committed to the things that you want to do because you are worth it. You create the reality; you create the health for yourselves, we just give you the tools and you build it. I’m going to drop the Calendly link in the comment section and so when you share these posts to your friends and family, whoever it is that you want to see, can see the Calendly link and they can investigate it themselves.

Dr. Clayton Roach:

Next Wednesday, same Facebook live channel nine o’clock!