Buying Pillows: 4 Must-Know Facts

April 07, 2013

Buying Pillows: 4 Must-Know Facts

The perfect pillow is worth fighting for! According to a survey from the National Sleep Foundation, 9 out of 10 people rank pillows as important for a good night’s sleep. Want to make sure you’ve got the right one for you? Here’s what you need to know about pillows.

Fact #1: The right pillow matches the way you sleep

Experts say that purpose of a pillow is to provide support and keep your head in “neutral alignment” when you sleep. So according to this line of thinking, the type of pillow you need depends on your sleeping position. If you sleep on your back, for example, sleep gurus say you need a thin pillow, while if you sleep on your side, you need something thicker, to fill in the area between your neck and chin. Stomach sleepers need a soft pillow, to prevent neck strain.

Fact #2: Pillow makers try to make things easy

Fortunately, there’s no need to over-think this, as pillows often come labeled as being suitable for back, side, or stomach sleepers. In other words, if you know your sleep style, it may be fairly simple to select a pillow. However, the pillow that you’re “supposed” to like may not be the one that’s right for you.

Fact #3: What the pillow is filled with makes a difference

The label that describes the pillow’s fill will provide important clues in your search for the just-right pillow. Pillows are most commonly filled with down, synthetic, and foam. Which material your pillow is made of plays a role in whether it’s fluffy or firm.

  • Down pillows are filled with at least 75 percent down (the soft insulation underneath the feathers of geese and duck) and no more than 25 percent feathers. They tend to be on the pricey side, but they also last the longest. They may not be a good choice for people who suffer from allergies.
  • Down alternative  pillows, are filled with polyester that has been coated with silicone, giving it a similar feel to down without the allergy issues.
  • Memory Foam pillows are dense, sponge-like pillows that mold around your head and neck. Fans of firm pillows may like this type. People with neck and spine issues may appreciate the extra support.
  • Synthetic pillows are usually made of hypoallergenic polyester. If you don’t want soft and fluffy, this may be the right pillow for you. These can be the least expensive of pillow types, but they should be replaced at least every two years. Their firmness varies.

Fact #4:  There may be no substitute for hands-on testing

If you can’t tell by the label or the look of the pillow whether it will be firm or fluffy enough for you, you can try to test it in the store. Consumer Reports recommends comparing the firmness of pillows you’re considering by placing pillows on a flat surface and compressing them with your palm to about half of each pillow’s original thickness. The more pressure you have to apply, the firmer the pillow.

After your search is over, it’s time for a pillow fight (and then, a nap)! Hopefully, you won’t have to count many sheep until you head off to dreamland, secure in the knowledge that you have many nights of good sleep to look forward to.

Kate Kelly

What’s the most important thing about a pillow for you?

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