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Why Is Your Pillow So Important? – Pillows 101

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Why Is Your Pillow So Important? – Pillows 101

We all need a good night’s sleep. The proper pillow in combination with a great bed can complete the experience and make a big difference in quality sleep. Let’s look at just how important the profile and loft of your pillow can be to your better night’s sleep.

Profile High or Low?                                                                                         

A pillow with too low a profile or too high a profile between shoulder and neck can cause a proverbial crick in the neck. The proper pillow gives anatomical body alignment, reduces pressure points and reduces turning during the night.

Back Sleepers?                                                                                                 

The Speech Test: Lay down on your back, say your name or the word “hello”, if the sound (timbre) of your voice sounds squeezed or constricted, change pillows. The reason behind this test is that if your neck goes too far forward, the larynx is squeezed against thorax and chin. The voice sounds choked off. If the neck falls too far back, neck muscles stretch across the larynx, it restricts air flow and vocal timbre will sound squeezed off. Back sleepers need to choose a pillow that supports the neck without going too high or too low. The Speech Test is a very good way to determine pillow profile.

Side Sleepers?                                                                                                             

Unfortunately, the Speech Test does not work for Side Sleepers. If the bed gives good general anatomical alignment, the choice of pillow should be one that keeps the neck aligned with the spine as well. Again, too low a profile or too soft a pillow can cause the neck to crick down. Too high a profile or too hard a pillow can cause the neck to crick upward. Ideally you want a pillow with a profile that fits between shoulder and ear and supports the head, aligns the neck with a very slight ½” tilt upward (but not too far!!!). Try several pillows between shoulders and ears. Fluff the pillow to check the firmness or loft you think you might like. If you think it might work, try the pillow on a mattress with a similar feel to what you sleep on at home or even better, the feel of the mattress you are planning to purchase.

Stomach and Stomach/Side Sleepers?                                                   

Stomach sleepers present a unique challenge when looking for the perfect pillow. Stomach sleepers often shift the knees into a partial stomach-side position. Many stomach-side sleepers will subconsciously shift the arm and shoulder up under the pillow to support of the head. While using the shoulder as support is not always the best, try telling a stomach sleeper they need to change their sleeping position. Stomach sleepers need a mattress that aligns the body, relieves shoulder and hip pressure points, but avoids that sway back in the lumbar area. A tall profile pillow can exacerbate back sway and cause pain. Nose and mouth are apt to be covered, another reason, stomach sleepers will shift to that partial stomach-side position. A lower profile pillow can help a stomach-side sleeper breathe easier. Stomach sleepers often choose a lower profile, softer loft pillow so they can, as my wife (a stomach/side sleeper) says, “mush it up.” This “mush-pillow” is normally a low profile and has a soft fill, which is easier on the face.   

In pillow article Part II, we’ll talk about the various fill material in your ideal pillow.

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