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Having trouble sleeping? Maybe your pillow's the problem.
“Your bedshould be something just shy of decadent,” said Dr. W. Christopher Winter, owner of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia and author of "The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It." Along with a comfortable mattress and soft sheets, he said a quality pillow is key.
But, most people don’t give a second thought to their pillow — and may be using one that’s decades old. That’s a problem.
“Choosing the right kind of pillow and a supportive mattress helps relax the spine and rejuvenates the body for the next day,” said Sridhar Yalamanchili, a physical therapist at the Atlantic Spine Center in New York.
The perfect pillow depends on the type of sleeper you are. (Back? Side? Allergy-prone?)
Regardless of snoozing position, a pillow should keep your head, neck and shoulders aligned with your spine, advised Dr. Michael J. Breus clinical psychologist and sleep medicine expert from Los Angeles, California. In order to achieve the perfect alignment, though, different types of sleepers require different types of pillows.
Here’s how to pick the perfect one for a better night's sleep.
The best pillows for back sleepers
If you sleep soundly on your back, look for a pillow that nestles the head at an intermediate height.
With almost 600 five-star reviews, this Parachute pillow is the luxurious splurge your bed needs. The key to its comfort? Its "supportive-yet-airy quality" that comes from its premium down and feather fibers. While you may gawk at the price tag, one reviewer notes that "like most things in life, you get what you pay for and this pillow is no exception."
Bedgear’s Alpine 2.0 Performance pillow is another good option. It was specifically tested for back sleeping comfort, according to the company's website. The height adds comfort for sleepers who like to rest their shoulders on the pillow.
The best pillows for side sleepers
This position is often recommended by experts. “Side sleeping in a fetal position opens up the spine and relaxes the muscles,” said Yalamanchili.
Side sleepers should choose a firmer, contoured pillow with a wave shape to cradle the head. “These help to maintain the natural distance between your shoulder and head to keep your posture better aligned,” Winter said.
This contoured pillow from CR Sleep features a washable jersey fabric cover over gel-infused memory foam. Its design and material also promotes deeper breathing and an enhanced airflow while you slumber.
Yalamanchili also recommended sliding a medium-firm pillow between the knees to ease pressure on the lower back. This Live & Sleep medium-firm pillow on Amazon provides support through a CertiPUR-certified memory foam interior that caves a bit under pressure.
The best pillows for propped-up sleepers
Fall asleep in a chair or stack two or three pillows in order to stop yourself from snoring? Consider a wedge pillow, said Winter. These raise the head and upper body more reliably than stacked pillows, helping to keep airways open and snores at bay. Your sleeping partner, kids, friends, family and neighbors will thank you.
Prop up with this adjustable wedge pillow from InteVision. With over 5,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, its firm memory foam layer gives you enough support while remaining "cushiony and soft." Beyond curbing your snoring habit, it's also designed to help those dealing with acid reflux, post nasal drip, migraines, poor circulation and post-surgery aches.
With a 30° inclination and advanced cooling gel memory foam technology, this 4.3-star-rated pillow from Healthex guarantees a soothing, sound snooze. As an added bonus for those concerned about their beauty sleep, this pillow is also crafted to tackle puffy eyes!
The best pillows for stomach sleepers
Yalamanchili recommends avoiding this position, if possible. “It causes the natural curvature in the neck and lower back to flatten, putting excessive stress on your neck,” he said. Yet, there are some pillows that can help reduce this strain.
Choose a compressible pillow, which squeezes down into a flatter shape and reduces stress on the neck, Winter advised. Be sure to stay away from memory foam, he added. Most people don’t find it appealing when their face sinks into these.
The Sable down alternative pillow may be a good option. The height of the pillow is adjustable, and the softness allows your head to sink down low. Breus also recommended using a softer pillow and sliding a second one under the stomach and pelvis if you experience back pain.
Another adjustable option good for stomach sleepers is this premium model from Layla. Its premium blend of open cell memory foam and a breathable poly fiber fill can be stuffed or removed at your own convenience for an optimal thickness and feel.
The best pillows for the 'every which way' sleeper
For those who flop around at night — from back to side to stomach — a shredded latex pillow might be best, said Winter.
The Sleep Artisan natural latex pillow is fully customizable — just add or remove as much fill as you need until it feels right for your sleeping patterns.
The best pillows for the allergy sufferer
When allergies kick in and sinuses start dripping, finding a comfortable sleep position might seem impossible. Changing out your pillow can help. “There are certain materials that tend to accumulate more allergens, like dust mites, in them. Down tends to be the worst,” said Winter. Swap it for a latex pillow, which resists allergen build up.
From Talalay to Dunlop materials, latex pillows can come in varying densities. So, if you find that one is too hard or soft, try another version, Winter advised.
The 100% Talalay option from Malouf features a zoned design to strategically relieve pressure, according to the company.
This pillow from Coop Home Goods is not only hypoallergenic and dust mite-resistant, it's also good for the environment! Made with super soft materials like bamboo-derived viscose rayon and polyester, it's CertiPUR-US and GREENGUARD Gold certified to ensure the safest sleep possible.
For more stories like this, check out:
- This anti-snoring pillow has Amazon reviewers raving — here’s what experts say
- Bed head be gone: These silk pillowcases will tame your hair while you sleep
- 14 cooling pillows that will keep you from tossing and turning all night
This story was originally published on April 2, 2018.