How to choose the right pillow for your sleep style
We have all been there, waking up with aches we can’t explain and struggling to awkwardly massage our backs in the bathroom, office, cabs and wherever possible. Perhaps your pillow isn’t doing its job well. Many studies have shown a correlation between poor sleep with improper sleep alignment or posture.
Here’s how it works. Imagine a line running from your head to toe. An ideal pillow should be able to keep your neck and spine aligned for you to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up well-slept. No matter whether you’re a side, back or stomach sleeper, the right pillow should adequately support your head such that your head, neck and spine are aligned at all times.
So in this guide, we tell you how to find a pillow that will help you maintain a neutral alignment and say bye-bye to body aches.
Determine your sleeping position
Let’s start from the start. Determine what kind of a sleeper you are. In other words, are you a back sleeper, a side sleeper, a stomach sleeper or a combination of all?
Different sleeping positions require different levels of pillow support as have explained below.
If you are a back sleeper:
One of the most recommended postures for sleeping is on your back. Sleeping on the back evenly distributes the weight on the spine, neck and joints. As a back sleeper, you will need a pillow that has cervical support or support for the neck or underneath the neck. Imagine your neck is curved like a backward ‘C’ and you have to make sure that there is support for it while you lie on your back. Remember, the perfect pillow is the one that keeps your head aligned and doesn’t tilt it up or down.
In order to maintain a neutral position that’ll help you alleviate back pain and relieve pressure off the body, pillows with medium loft (or height) and medium firmness is most recommended. Back sleepers usually do well with pillows that contour to the head shape like memory foam.
- Recommended Pillow for Back Sleepers: Medium loft with medium firmness
- Recommended type: Memory foam, Feather/Down or Latex
If you are a side sleeper:
Side sleeping is the most popular sleeping position globally. And Australians prefer it as much. According to popular estimates, over 70% of Aussies sleep on the side.
So, if you’re a committed side sleeper, you will need a pillow that can fill up the gap between your head and shoulders. Side sleepers, you will want to measure your shoulder width and try to find the closest option, to keep your head, neck and spine aligned. If the pillow is too thin, your head will be tilted down and if it’s too thick, your head will be tilted upwards.
In general, side sleepers need a high loft and medium-firm pillow. A taller pillow will help to keep your head and spine in a neutral position. As a side sleeper, if you are experiencing shoulder pain, then your pillow is probably not tall enough.
- Recommended Pillow for Side Sleeper: High loft with medium firmness.
- Recommended Pillow Fill Material: Memory foam, Down alternative or Latex
If you are a stomach sleeper:
Imagine walking all day with your head turned sideways. Painful, right? Lying flat on your stomach while sleeping is the most discouraged position for the strain it can cause. However, if you are a stomach sleeper, choose a pillow with low loft and soft support to put your neck and spine at ease. Avoid a firm pillow as it will only keep your head tilted upwards, causing you discomfort.
- Recommended Pillow for Stomach Sleeper: Low-loft soft pillow.
- Recommended Pillow Fill Material: Memory foam, Feather, Down, Latex, or Polyester
If you are a combination sleeper:
If you don’t have a go-to sleeping position or change it depending on your mood, you will need something more versatile and adaptable. Something that brings the best of both worlds together, basically. It should be soft but firm, something that can adjust to your changing needs through the night. Medium loft and medium-firm pillows are the most recommended for combination sleepers.
Additionally, pillows that can mould to the head as you lay down on them, like memory foam or even down pillows, work well for combo sleepers.
- Recommended Pillow for Combo Sleepers: Medium-loft with medium firmness
- Recommended Pillow Fill Material: Memory foam, Latex, Goose Feather, Down, or Latex
Do you have additional needs?
Apart from sleep positions, reasons such as backache, stiff neck and even pregnancy also force people to rethink the pillow they are using.
One of the causes of neck pain could be the lack of cervical support. In this case, opt for a pillow that supports your neck and is able to keep your spine aligned. A bolster or memory foam pillow, with a good loft, may help you relax and catch some shut-eye.
Poor ergonomics leads to back pain and the correct pillow can act as an at-home masseuse to help you right the wrong. An adjustable pillow is highly recommended to help alleviate the pain and rest.
Note: The information provided above shouldn’t be construed as medical advice. Please consult a doctor for professional advice.
The not-so-lovely side effects of pregnancy include insomnia. Experts advise pregnant women to sleep on their side as this promotes the flow of blood and nutrients between the mother and baby. Additionally, you will need all the extra support for your growing body and your baby-to-be, and a full-body pregnancy pillow can help you achieve it.
Get the correct pillow size
Pillows come in all shapes and sizes. A standard pillow comes in 51x 66cm, a queen size pillow comes in 51×76 cm and a king size pillow comes in 51×92 cm.
The pillow size you choose should correspond with the bed size. Like on a queen size bed, you can put two standard pillows or two queen pillows or one king and one queen or standard pillow. Additionally, you can also add pillow shams and a couple of accent or euro pillows.
Similarly, a king bed can have up to three standard pillows or two queen pillows or two king pillows.
Ultimately it boils down to your preference. The only thing to keep in mind is when you stack all the pillows on the bed horizontally, the pillows should not overhang the bed.
Check for the filling
The filling in a pillow affects the pillow’s loft, softness, firmness and how it feels. It all depends on what you need. You need a dense pillow, maybe memory foam is for you. If you need a flat and soft pillow, maybe a down pillow is a match made in heaven for you.
Before you choose, let’s break down all the different pillows out there and discuss their pros and cons.
- Foam: Memory foam consists of polyurethane. The foam material is dense and allows your pillow to mould and contour to your head’s shape and give your neck that comfort it craves. Memory foam is a good option if you sleep in one position all night. Unfortunately, the high-density material is not breathable and can leave you a hot mess.
- Latex: Latex is nothing but natural rubber. It’s obtained from a mature rubber tree, making it all-natural, durable and eco-friendly. Latex is bouncier, more breathable and durable than memory foam. It is also hypoallergenic and anti-fungal.
- Microbeads: Made out of tiny unexpanded polystyrene (EPS), microbead pillows are often used as travel pillows. They are hard and provide excellent support, especially if you are a side sleeper.
- Feathers: They are also known as down pillows as they are made from quill-less feathers of the underbelly of geese or ducks. Feather pillows are usually soft and sleep cool. However, feather pillows don’t offer the pressure relief and conforming properties of foam or latex. Also, some sleepers may be allergic to the feather filling. They are generally the most expensive types of pillows out there but they are also very durable.
- Cotton: Sustainable, soft and lightweight, resistant to mildew, cheap and many more adjectives can be added to this list. The only thing going against is that cotton pillows do not hold their shape.
There is a wide range of pillows for you to pick and choose from. The right pillow would be the one that helps you relax at night and doesn’t cause any physical discomfort in the morning. To make things easier, we have already reviewed the best pillows in Australia so that you get the sleep you deserve!