How to Pick the Right Pillow for You

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NSF

A rejuvenating night’s sleep could be right under your head—or your ear, depending on your preferred sleeping position. Choosing a pillow that corresponds to the way you sleep can dramatically improve the quality of your shut-eye, especially if you have special considerations like back pain, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or sleep apnea.

Before you start browsing, determine your sleep position type. We change positions frequently when we sleep, so begin by asking which position are you usually in when you wake up?

If you’re a side sleeper (as the vast majority of people are), look for a pillow that will support your head, neck and ear as well as your shoulder comfortably. You might also consider placing a pillow between your knees or thighs to help maintain spinal alignment as you sleep.

People who sleep on their back may benefit from thinner pillows which help to limit stress on the neck. Stomach sleepers likely need the thinnest pillow of all to keep their spine as straight as possible and minimize stress on the lower back.

If you suffer from neck or upper back pain, look for a pillow that will help the spine maintain its natural, neutral position. Some of these pillows may have an indentation in the middle of the pillow that cradles the head, while thicker edges fill the hollow between the base of the skull and top of the back, taking pressure off the neck.

Pillow fill is especially important consideration for people who suffer from allergies. Fills vary from natural choices like feathers, synthetics like rayon, foam, and even latex. Look for ones that are hypoallergenic to lessen the odds of any irritation.

If you have the sleep breathing condition called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), look for specialty pillows which are designed to help with your condition and are designed with treatment in mind. You may also want to consider a bed wedge, which can help raise the torso to an angle to lessen OSA as well as GERD, a very common nighttime condition.