Let's have some pillow talk!
If you’ve been tossing and turning at night or waking up with aches and pains, you may have wondered, “do I need a new pillow?” Let’s cover some of the sure-fire signs that it’s time to replace your pillow and start getting that beauty sleep you definitely deserve.
Why should I replace my pillow?
We’re going to be really honest with you – pillows are gross.
Did you know your pillow is full of bugs, dead skin, dust mites and their feces? Every night while you sleep, your body naturally sheds skin, hair and oil, which get absorbed by your pillow. Over time, these conditions attract dust mites to grow inside your pillow and feed on your skin. A study completed in the UK found that after just two years of use, more than one third of a pillow's weight is composed of dust mites, dust mite feces, dead skin and bacteria. Good luck falling asleep tonight!
But replacing your pillow isn’t just about not being gross (although that could be motivation enough)!
Along with your mattress, your pillow plays a crucial role in maintaining proper spinal alignment and preventing those post-sleep aches and pains.
When should I replace my pillow?
Using a pillow protector and following the washing instructions (usually every four to six months) will help extend the longevity of your pillow. In terms of support, a quick test to see if your pillow is still in-tact is to fold it in half and place a heavy item (such as a book) on top. A pillow that springs back is still in good shape, whereas one that remains folded should be replaced.
Here are some signs that it may be time to replace your pillow:
- You wake up with stiffness and/or aches, especially in your neck or shoulders
- You wake up with headaches
- You wake up sneezing (from the dust mites)
- You’re constantly re-fluffing your pillow to get the right shape
- Your pillow smells, even after washing it
- You have trouble falling asleep/you’re constantly tossing and turning
- You wake up tired due to light sleep
A good rule of thumb is to replace your pillow every 1-2 years. This can vary depending on the type of pillow (latex, feather, memory foam, down etc.), which is why it’s important to take note of how your body feels after a night of sleep (consult the list above).
How can I find the right pillow?
If this article has made you realize that it is time to replace your pillow, there are a lot of aspects to consider when choosing the right one; sleep position, preferred material, and allergies are just a few examples. Identifying your personal needs will help guide you towards the best choice.
1. Sleep Position
Sleeping with a neutral spine should always be the goal, and achieving this will depend on what position you sleep in. A neutral position will not cause stress in the pressure points along the spine. Try to remember how you fall asleep or the position you wake up in – this is what you should focus on when shopping for a new pillow.
Back Sleepers: You are in luck! This is the optimal position for achieving a neutral spine. Look for a medium-thickness pillow that does not push your head forward. You can also add an extra pillow under your knees to take pressure off your lower back and hips.
Stomach Sleepers: The least desirable sleep position since the head is turned, placing the neck and spine out of alignment. Look for a soft, thin pillow that will not kink the neck up or down. Add smaller pillows or rolled up towels under your shoulders to align the spine. You can also add a pillow under your pelvis to prevent the back from arching. Sleeping on your stomach over time can lead to neck problems. Turn your head to the side and think about having your neck in this position the rest of the day – we bet your neck hurts after just a few minutes!
Combination: Forcing yourself to sleep in one position is unnatural and can lead to more restlessness. You probably do not sleep in strictly one position throughout the duration of the night. Look for a pillow that has a more moldable fill that you can adjust – such as down. Having different pillows for your head and other parts of the body is a good idea. Play around until you achieve ultimate comfort!
2. Pillow Filling
Next, you must choose the fill of the pillow. The material and density will affect how supportive the pillow is. Remember that based on your sleep position you may need less (stomach sleeper) or more (back sleeper) support to keep your spine and neck aligned.
Down Pillows: Typically filled with down feathers from hens and geese and known for superior comfort and softness. Search for the appropriate “fill power”, which is a numerical measurement that indicates how much space the down takes up inside the pillow. For stomach sleepers, look for a lower fill power: less firm and more easily flattened. For back sleepers, look for a higher fill power which will be firmer. Side sleepers can look for something in-between. This is also great option for those who toss and turn, since down is moldable and can be fluffed into whatever position you need it in. This moldability makes down a good choice for support in other areas the body as well.
Also known for their ideal support and softness – with the added bonus of being vegan! While bamboo pillows are made from plant fibers, you can still find an appropriate fill power and see what fits best according to your sleep position. If you have sensitive skin, asthma or an allergy to down, bamboo is a great hypoallergenic option. Bamboo fibers are naturallywater-wicking and reduce moisture twice as fast as cotton. Since living organisms need water to live, rest assured the natural water-repelling quality of bamboo fiber will make this a less attractive home for dust mites and bacteria. Be aware that most bamboo pillows labeled as such only contain a 100% bamboo cover and have shredded memory foam as the filling. This is not a bad thing. The two materials complement each other since the foam is kept cool by the highly breathable bamboo. The malleability of bamboo pillows makes them great for the neck and other areas where pressure points need extra cushioning.
Check out this 50% Filled Bamboo Pillow.
In addition to down and bamboo pillows, there are many other options to explore! From memory foam to wool to latex, the options are vast. Make sure you do your research and find the pillow that best matches your sleep position and other needs.
When it comes to pillows, there is no ‘one size fits all’ option. Whether you suffer from body aches, pains or allergies – the right pillow (or series of pillows) is out there for you. The good news is that with a variety of materials, combinations of fill and sizes available, you will find several options to experiment with. If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, it may be time to replace your pillow and finally get a restful night’s sleep.