There is not much science behind
recommending a sleeping pillow. There
are no charts that compare head weight to neck diameter and then show which
type of pillow is best for whom.
Much like finding the perfect pair
of shoes, you just have to keep trying pillows out until you find the one that
is the right fit for you. Are you consistently waking with a stiff neck and
shoulders? Perhaps it is time you considered
a new pillow.
To further the difficulty of this
task, pillows differ not only in size and firmness but also in a multitude of
Polyester pillows are often called
“fibre fill”, and are the most common and cheapest type of pillow for sale.
Aside from being cheap, they are
also machine-washable. The down-side is that they break down quickly and will
need to be replaced every couple of years.
However, when we consider that a two-year-old
pillow can be composed of up to 10 per cent dust mite faeces and carcasses –
changing the pillow every couple of years doesn’t sound so bad!
Someone who is looking for greater
support for the neck or head will likely find the polyester pillow not to their
Latex pillows come in either foam
core or granulated. Latex pillows offer
superior support, but many may find the pillow too springy. The life-span of a latex pillow is much
longer than polyester, tests suggest they can last up to 15 years.
Another bonus is that the latex is
resistant to dust mites, a real plus if you are planning on keeping a pillow
for 15 years. The downside is that latex
pillows tend to be much more expensive and can have an odour when new.
Memory foam pillows are made from a
heat-sensitive material that moulds to the shape of head and neck.
As most of us know from the
bombardment of commercials on TV, this material was developed by NASA for space
This visco-elastic material comes
in different firmness options, is resistant to dust mites and will last up to
For individuals who require a
pillow that offers more support and less moulding, the memory foam pillow would
be a poor choice. These pillows also
carry price tag reminiscent of their NASA heritage.
Feather and down
For that indefinable plumpness and
cuddle factor, it is hard to beat a down pillow.
Feather pillows require frequent
reshaping, but pounding a pillow into shape can be very therapeutic – a good
way to release any residual aggression before turning in for the night.
Since these pillows are made from
natural fibres, they will cause the most allergy issues for those who are
A feather pillow’s lifespan will be
around five years.
While not as expensive as memory
foam, a down pillow is still much more expensive than polyester.
Hikers appreciate wool socks and
sweaters because of wool’s ability to wick moisture away from the body.
The fast drying aspect also helps
prevent dust mites and mould.
A wool pillow will also stay cool
and not lead to “hot head” unlike some synthetic pillows.
Wool is also hypoallergenic and
will hold its shape over time. Wool pillows
are on the firm side of support, with little “cuddle” factor and they too can
be very expensive compared to polyester.
Waterflow pillows are one of the
few pillows that have been clinically tested for comfort and reduction of neck
They are currently enjoying a lot
of buzz in the marketplace due to their favourable clinical findings.
The water pillow has a water pouch
in the base of the pillow with an overlying hypoallergenic fibre filling. The level of support can be varied by how
much water the user adds to the pillow.
They are ideal for people who
frequently change position as the water base moves with them.
The waterflow pillow can also be
ideal for people with lower neck pain.
These pillows tend to be larger and
would not appropriate for children or petite adults. They are much heavier than standard pillows,
and while great for pillow fights, will not be cuddly.
Waterflow pillows are more
expensive than polyester pillows, but tend to cost less than the memory foam
pillows. General household stores do not
usually stock these pillows, but they can be found in most chiropractic
Points to remember
When choosing your pillow, there a
few basic points to keep in mind. When lying
on your side, your pillow should support the head and neck so that it is level
with the spine.
A back sleeper will need a pillow
that is not too firm or too high; the neck should not be raised but supported
so that it and the head remain level with the upper back.
Stomach-sleepers will likely not
need a pillow at all.
If you have a fibre fill pillow and
it is more than two years old, set some time aside this weekend to go pillow
Dr. Jemal Khan is a chiropractor based in the Cayman Island.