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How to choose the right pillow

Posted in: Beducation
By Tom Starkey
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How to choose the right pillow

How to choose the right pillow...

There are several things to consider when choosing the right pillow.  Comfort, support, and neck alignment are some of the most important. Because there are so many types and sizes of pillows, it can be frustrating to select one that provides all three of these factors. Let's take a look at some of the benefits of different types and of pillows.


Pillow Comfort

The comfort level of the pillow can vary based upon the material. There are pros and cons to each type of material. Some of the most common types are: Down, Memory Foam, Latex Foam, Feather, Down Alternative, or some combination of these.

Down pillows offer squishability and can be scrunched into the neck for customized support. High quality down can maintain its loft and support for many years. Down loft is measured in fill power, which ranges from 450 - 850 fill power. If you prefer a fluffy pillow that you can scrunch, then you may love a down pillow.

Memory foam pillows are made from visco-elastic polyeurethane foam, which is a foam that adapts to the shape and weight of a persons head. Depending on the density of the foam, and how long they bake the foam, a memory foam pillow can be firmer or softer. Memory foam pillows usually aren't very squishable, and tend to stay in one place and not move around. Memory foam can be more of a heat insulator, however some options have holes throughout the foam, or cooling gel to counteract the insulation. If you prefer a pillow that stays put and has a firmer feel, then you may love a memory foam pillow.

Latex foam pillows are made from either synthetic latex foam or natural latex foam rubber. Latex foam, unlike polyeurethane foam has a different cell structure that doesn't collapse or breakdown as quickly and can last a very long time. Most latex pillows can last up to 10 years. These pillows feel a bit bouncy and kind of like your head is floating. They are made by steaming the sap mixture of the rubber tree. Usually it's done in molds using long fingers, which creates a hole filled porous structure which contributes to them being very cool and breathable.

Feather pillows offer some of the squishability that down offers, but are a firmer feel. Feathers have the quills that can poke through the fabric if the thread count of the cover is not high enough. Usually a minimum 400 thread count fabric will prevent the feathers from coming out of the pillow. Feather pillows are cheaper thand down but offer some of the same benefits. They usually won't stay as lofty and tend to squish down quicker.

Down Alternative pillows are made from synthetic fibers such as polyester or gel fiber, and offer a soft fluffy feel for a lower price than down. These pillows are hypoallergenic and create a comfortable support. The firmness and thickness of the pillow depends on how much fill material is used. Unfortunately down alternative fibers are difficult to refluff once they get compressed, and typically last only a few months.

Combination type pillows are made from two or more of these types and can offer a mixture of benefits. For example, a latex core pillow with down alternative fill surrounding it can offer the comfort of a down alternative pillow, but with the long lasting benefits of a latex pillow. A feather core pillow with down surrounding it can offer the fluffy feel of a down pillow with the firmer support and cheaper cost of a feather pillow. Some options are reversible and offer one type on one side, and another type of feel on the other side for a 2-in-1 support.


Side Sleeper Pillows 

Pillow Support

To look at pillow support it is important to take into consideration two factors including sleeping position, and mattress firnness. The primary sleeping position is important because the distance from the shoulder to head is different than the distance from the back of the neck to the bed. For example, most side sleepers need a taller pillow to fill in the gap between shoulder and head, which can keep the neck in better alignment. Whereas a stomach sleeper needs little to no support so that the head and neck won't be arched backwards.

Side sleepers are the most common, with almost 60% of sleepers preferring this position. Side sleepers can benefit from a medium to taller support, depending on the mattress firmness and the shoulder width of the sleeper. If you sleep on a softer mattress and your body is more into the mattress, then you may need a smaller pillow. If you sleep on a taller mattress, and your body is more on top of the bed, then you may need a taller pillow. Make sure to take into consderation the firmness of the mattress when selecting a good pillow.

Back sleepers are the second most common, with just over 20% preferring this position. Back sleepers can benefit from a medium to smaller thickness pillow that can allow the back of the head to almost reach the mattress, but fill in the curve of the neck. Some back sleepers prefer a neck roll, or just a small amount of support in the neck area. Too thick of a pillow can push the neck and head forward and put excess stress on the upper back and neck. It's important to have the shoulders on the mattress and only the neck and head on the pillow for proper support.

Stomach sleepers are the least common, with under 20% preferring this position. Sleeping on your stomach is not ideal for a few reasons. You have to turn your head and neck to breath, which puts your neck in a twisted position and not in proper alignment. Also, when sleeping on your stomach, you are putting your body weight on your chest making it harder to breathe, which means your body is getting less oxygen. Most stomach sleepers prefer a very thin pillow, and often pull the pillow more under the upper torso, which can minimize the arching of the neck.

Multi-Position sleepers will usually have a primary sleeping position, but also sleep in other postions. Pay attention to the sleeping position that you first wake up in, as this is usually where you have spent the most time. If you are a back and side sleeper then a medium to taller pillow may be a good multi-position pillow.  If you are a back and stomach sleeper, then a very small to medium height pillow might be a good option. And if you sleep in all postions, then a medium height pillow could be a good compromise.

Best pillows for neck alignment 

Pillow Neck Alignment

When selecting the perfect pillow, it's important to take into consideration neck alignment. If you can keep your neck in more of its natural alignment, then you should feel less discomfort and be more relaxed when you wake. The right pillow will support your head and neck, while relieving pressure. Imagine if you were standing up straight with good posture, and put your back against a wall.  You would have a curve in the neck, and a curve in the lower lumbar region of the back. To support your spine while you are asleep, it's important to have a mattress that adapts to your body shape, as well as a pillow that fills in the curve of your neck or supports your head from your shoulder to your neck. When testing pillows, evaluate your alignment by asking yourself if you feel straight or in good posture.

 Pillow Reviews

Pillow Reviews

Like most things, it's important to take pillow reviews with a grain of salt. Everyone is shaped differently, has different sleeeping positions and habits, and not everyone likes the same comfort type. If you can experience the pillow first hand by trying it out in-store in your primary sleeping position, then you are more likely to be satisfied with your purchase. Make sure to find out what the retailers' return or exchange policy is, so you can exchange it if you are not satisfied. 


The right pillow can make a huge difference in your overall comfort throughout the night. Getting comfortable from head-to-toe can reduce tossing and turning, allow you to stay asleep longer, and wake more refreshed. Don't settle for a bad pillow, make sure to choose the right pillow. 


Check out some pillow options:   https://www.qualitysleepstore.com/bedding/pillows.html


2 years ago
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