Where to lay your head
A great mattress may be just what you need to get a better night’s sleep, but don’t overlook the difference a better pillow can make. If you’re waking up with neck or shoulder pain, a new pillow could be the solution. It’s best to upgrade your pillows every two years or so (the typical shelflife of a pillow) and finding the right one for you can provide comfort and relieve pain.
Finding the right pillow
Sifting through all the pillow options out there can be difficult. Above, we have our top picks and below you can find some things to look for when choosing your new pillow or pillows. Here’s what to consider:
Thickness/Loft. You want to rest your head on a pillow that is the right height so that you’re not putting any strain on your neck and shoulders during the night. Your size, sleep style, and even mattress material can help you determine whether you are suited to a low-, medium- or high-loft pillow. Some pillows allow you to adjust the loft to your fit.
Size. Pillows come in a variety of sizes, such as Standard, Super Standard, Queen, King, and Body. Standard size is the most common and is usually suitable for most, especially if you sleep on a smaller mattress. If you tend to roll over a lot while you sleep, you make prefer a longer pillow to accommodate your movement. Larger pillows are also better as backrests when you sit up in bed.
Material. There is quite a range of pillow types out there. There are down pillows, polyester pillows that mimic down, feather pillows, latex, memory foam, and polyfoam pillows to name a few. They vary in price and all have their benefits and drawbacks.
Latex pillows, for example, are great at relieving pain, maintaining their shape, and regulating temperature, but can be too responsive for some sleepers. While down pillows really cradle your head luxuriously, they can definitely get up there in price. Memory foam pillows provide great support and neck pain relief, but may not be breathable enough for those who sleep hot.
What kind of sleeper are you?
The most important consideration in deciding what kind of pillow to get it is thickness/loft, and your style of sleeping, your size, and your mattress type can help you determine how thick your pillow should be. Most people sleep very well with a medium-loft pillow, but if you notice you’ve been waking up with neck or shoulder pain, it may be a sign that you should try a pillow with a different loft.
Position. If you sleep on your back, you’ll probably most enjoy a medium-loft pillow because it will give you the right amount of support and softness, while keeping your neck at the proper angle. When you sleep on your side, your head ends up further from the surface of your bed. Consequently, a medium- or high-loft pillow may be more suitable to side sleepers. Stomach sleepers lie face down, closing the space between their head and the mattress, and so usually don’t do as well with high-loft pillows. If you sleep on your stomach, a low- to medium-loft pillow (or none at all) would probably make you most comfortable.
Body weight. Heavier-weight sleepers tend to sink further into their mattress and as a result, the distance between their head and the mattress is shorter – a low- to medium loft pillow may be best. On the other hand, sleepers who are on the lighter side won’t sink into their mattress as much, so their heads will be farther from the surface of their mattress. A medium- or high-loft pillow will close the gap and provide better support.
Mattress type. Generally, the firmer your mattress the less you will sink into it. How far you sink into your bed will change the distance of your head from the surface of the mattress. Latex and foam mattresses typically conform more to your body, so you may need a higher loft pillow to make up the distance between your head and your bed. Innerspring mattresses and hybrids may not compress as much under your weight and so low- or medium-loft pillows should give you the support and alignment you want.