Pillows: the Princess and the Pea

Is neck pain keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep? Are you waking up with a stiff neck? Perhaps your pillow is to blame. Pillows do compress over time and then don’t offer the support that they did when they were new. Most pillows should be replaced at least every 3 years. When was the last time you replaced yours?

We know that shopping for a comfortable pillow can be a daunting task. It’s easy to buy a cheap pillow and think that you’re getting a great deal. But if uncomfortable pillows are just taking up space on your bed, or you need more visits to the chiropractor to relieve your neck pain, perhaps it’s not such a great deal after all.

Here are a few tips on how to shop for a great pillow and get the sleep you’ve been dreaming about!

  • Consider your sleep position. Some pillows are designed for side-sleepers and some for back sleepers. If you sleep on your stomach…don’t! When you sleep face down, your back is arched, and your head must be turned to one side to breathe. That’s not good for your neck or your back. No wonder your neck hurts!
  • Do you prefer soft and squishy or firmer support? Memory foam pillows offer firm support and conform to the contours of your head and neck. Feather or down pillows conform easily but flatten over time and need to be fluffed up and replaced more frequently. Synthetic fiber-fill pillows can provide good support in varying densities. Regular or “egg-crate” foam is just a bad idea. Foam is elastic and creates a bounce or vibration that causes muscles to become more tense rather than relaxed.
  • Consider your size. Do you have a long neck or broad shoulders, or is your neck of the petite variety? Not all bodies are the same, but often you will only find a “standard” or medium size in the store.
  • Do you have allergies to feathers or dust mites? Consider a hypoallergenic pillow or zippered pillow cover.
  • Conventional pillow or “cervical” pillow? Cervical pillows are shaped to support and cradle your neck and head in ideal alignment. This allows your muscles to relax so that you can wake up feeling well-rested and pain-free.

We can’t possibly comment on all the pillows available on the market today, but there are two brands that we have been recommending for years that work well for our patients. Both are cervical pillows and come in a variety of sizes and shapes to best suit different bodies and sleep positions. The Ultima pillow from Anabolic Labs provides softer support for both back and side sleeping. Most of us don’t stay in one position all night, so this is a very versatile pillow that works great for most people. If you’re looking for something firmer, you might like the Tempurpedic line of pillows. Depending on the style, you can get support for back sleeping, side sleeping, or both. Tempurpedic was the first to use memory foam technology and is superior to most other memory foam pillows in density and durability. Tempurpedic pillows come with a 3-year warranty.

We offer one-week trial periods for both the Ultima and Tempurpedic pillows to our patients. We know you don’t need another unused pillow at home, even if you are the “Princess and the Pea” of pillow connoisseurs. Dr. Wells and staff can help you figure out the best pillow for you.

The worst thing in the world is to try to sleep and not to."

                   F. Scott Fitzgerald

ArticlesDr. Pamela Wells