Finding the right pillow for you can help in many ways.
- Prevent headaches caused by neck and upper back pain
- Assist in developing better breathing patterns by keeping your body aligned
- Relieve back and neck tension
- Offer comfort, which is part of getting a good night's sleep
I began to appreciate the value of a good pillow at college. The flat piece of foam in the dorm didn't do much for my neck. I adjusted by folding it in half--and sometimes in half again. This less than satisfactory sleeping situation actually made my first trips home even sweeter. Since then I've learned that a pillow is more than a place to rest the head--it can also help prevent and alleviate back and neck pain. Pillows, however, are not one-type-fits-all, so it's important to find one that's right for you. Here's how.
First, find out if your current pillow is doing its job. If you prop it with your arm or bunch it up to fall asleep, you probably need to replace it.
Next, evaluate your sleeping position. If you sleep on your side, your head and neck should be level with your body so your nose lines up horizontally with your belly button. Back-sleepers' ears should be in line with their shoulders and hips, and their heads shouldn't rest at a tilt. Avoid sleeping on your stomach; it puts stress on your neck.
Your Support System
Your neck works hard to hold up your head, which weighs about 10 pounds. Poor posture can strain your neck, making the support of a good pillow that much more important. Steer clear of mushy pillows that quickly lose their shape. Instead, opt for a firm material that presses back against your head. Natural materials such as down and feathers conform easily and are quite durable. Cotton and synthetic fills (more affordable choices) work especially well for allergy sufferers.
It doesn't matter which type of pillow you choose, as long as you get the support you need. Back-sleepers need medium firmness while side-sleepers benefit from firm support. If you can't avoid sleeping on your stomach, use a soft pillow.