How to choose the right pillow!

February 4, 2021 Chiropractor 0

No one size fits all for pillows.  Trying to find the right pillow is like trying to find the right shoes and sometimes you will need different ones for different occasions.  My first question to you is: are you a side sleeper or a back sleeper?  Please tell me you aren’t a stomach sleeper.  Oh no, you are?  Ok, no judgement, but here is why stomach sleeping makes me cringe.  When you sleep on your stomach most likely you are sleeping with your head turned all the way to one side.  Most stomach sleepers always sleep with their head turned to the same side which makes matters worse.  Sleeping with your head turned to one side for hours without movement is really bad for your neck.  However, if you are one of those people that sleeps on your stomach with your head straight down into the pillow then never mind, keep doing what you are doing.  I don’t know how you breathe but if you aren’t craning your neck to one side to sleep on your stomach then you do you.  But, if you are one of those people sleeping on their stomach with their head turned so they can breathe, I am going to take this moment and ask that you do your neck a favor and try sleeping on your side or back. *

Pillows for Side Sleeper 

Make sure the pillow fills the space between your shoulder and your neck.  If you are a side sleeper your pillow is going to need to be thicker than that of a back sleeper.  The pillow needs to fill the neck space but then it needs to dip down again for your head.  The cheap way to achieve this is by getting a fairly pliable pillow (cotton stuffing or feather stuffing) and jamming the pillow next to your shoulder and then letting it flatten back out for your head.  You can try a contoured pillow.  Contoured pillows are a little harder to work with because they have to be a more exact fit.  The sizing and the contours actually have to fit the height of your shoulder, the length of your neck, and the dip of your head.  While this is a harder task to achieve, if you can find one that fits it is going to be well worth it.  It can help relieve headaches, neck pain, and jaw pain.  But if you get it wrong it is like having a shoe that doesn’t fit, it makes things worse… sometimes much worse.  My happy compromise has been memory foam pillows where the foam is cut up.  When the foam isn’t in a block it is easier to mold it to you.  The only thing that you have to do with a memory foam pillow that has been cut up is make sure that height is correct.  Now they are making this type of pillow with zippers so it is easy to remove or add foam. 

Pillows for Back Sleeper 

The front of the pillow should fill the contour of your neck and then be smaller for where your head is.  If you have allergies you can consider having a higher pillow to help with sinus drainage but you don’t want your pillow to be too thick.  When your pillow is too thick it puts your head in flexion which over time shortens the muscles in the front of your neck.  When these muscles get too short it causes the nerves to get pinched that go down into your hands and can cause sharp pain to go down your arms, tingling down your arms and into your hands, and/or numbness in your arms or hands. 

*If you are sleeping on your stomach to relieve low back pain, there is a good chance you are having a problem with a disc in your low back.  I would encourage you to seek care to help you rehabilitate your disc.