The Fine Art of Choosing A Pillow

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Every day I engage with a patient about “pillow talk.” When you consider the importance of how you spend 1/3 of your day, you can to see the relevance of this discussion.
First, the pillow must fit you! Not the other way around. Second, the pillow you choose will greatly differ from how you sleep. Basically, figuring out what position you sleep in most of the night. The damage that you cause to your neck from a poor or improperly fitted pillow will lead to problems with your spine. A Chiropractor will be able to help you recover from the damage, but stopping the pressure on the nerves must be the first priority.
Here are the basics. You need a pillow that is going to support a neutral posture the entire night. No other decision about a pillow will be as important as how it supports your neck and shoulders. Secondary considerations are allergies to the material and hygiene. Because of the oils in your hair and face, you should replace your pillow once every four to six months. Dust mites and bacteria will build up in almost any material and lead to allergies and poor skin. The oils will also flatten the pillow, changing how it supports you.
If you are a back sleeper, you will need a single pillow with a slight curve in it. This will support your spine while keeping your alignment neutral. Too small of a pillow will stress the lower part of your neck and too many or too large of a pillow will place excess stress on the upper part of your neck. Neither of which is conducive to a good nights rest. An excellent cervical curve pillow may be available from your Chiropractor.
Stomach sleepers, though not recommended, need a very thin pillow that will offer more cushion than support. A thin pillow will prevent excess pressure on the face and shoulders and again promote healthy alignment of your spine.
Finally, the side sleepers are the trickiest to figure out. They need a pillow that is going to fill the space between the side of the shoulder/arm and the neck. A pillow too small or too large with cause the neck to rest at an odd angle and will lead to AM stiffness and pain in the shoulder muscles. I recommend choosing a pillow at the store and keep the costs low ($4-$6), try the pillow out for several nights. If the pillow works well, go back to the store and invest in two or three more pillows of the exact brand and size. Then, replace the pillow once every four to six months to prevent thinning of the pillow due to oils from your skin.
Once you have found a pillow that fits you, always come back to the same pillow. If for any reason the pillow no longer supports you, start the process over and find the right pillow for your body. Again, 1/3 of your life is spent sleeping. Isn’t it worth the investment of time, effort, and money to find the right pillow?

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