We live in a fast-paced, high-pressure and high-demanding world, where almost on a daily basis, we are subjected to mental and physical stressors – be it from work, home-life and even in recreation (think pounding the pavement, lifting weights or undergoing High Intensity Interval Training for example)!
Our kids face similar stressors through their schooling, sporting and extra-curricular endeavours.
It is for these reasons that getting ample quality sleep is important in maintaining a healthy body and in keeping well, so that we, along with our kids, can get up the following morning to do it all over again – with energy and vigour! Thus, ensuring good sleeping conditions is a crucial step in developing good sleeping habits.
The Role a Pillow Plays in Your Sleep
In order to optimise your sleep and enjoy the full benefits of your recuperative time, choosing the ‘right’ pillow that fits your needs as well as the needs of your children is key. Resting our heads on a good pillow is not only comforting, it also plays a vital role in supporting the intricate soft-tissue and bony structures of the head, neck , shoulders and spine as a whole1.
Used well and correctly, our good choice of pillow can help us and our children to not just have a good restful sleep, but also alleviate, if not prevent, many common symptoms of neck and shoulder pain, joint stiffness and pins and needles. Many of us don’t realise it, but our pillow choice often has considerable impact on our overall quality of sleep, recovery and well-being.
Your Pillow Choice
We are often bombarded with so many choices – foam, feathers, contours, latex, space-aged materials…the list goes on.
Let’s keep it simple.
Our pillows serve two functions.
1) they keep our upper bodies in alignment during sleep
2) they absorb pressure, counterbalance tension and support our necks and upper backs to allow for a better level of comfort
What to Look For in a Good Pillow
Comfort is subjective, because we are all physically different – in size, sleep positions and certain health conditions – or lack thereof.
Choosing a good pillow – the ‘right’ one – for you and your kids will largely depend on the position you and your kids assume most frequently while asleep.
Back Sleepers – choose a pillow that supports the natural curvature of the neck, that is, the pillow should hug the natural curve of the neck
Side Sleepers – choose a pillow that will keep the neck straight where the pillow should ‘fill’ the gap between the neck and mattress (next week’s topic!)
Stomach Sleepers – while this position is not ideal, a thin pillow may be best
Just bear in mind it is the filling of pillows that vary in their level of support1.
A Study by Gordon et al in 2009 analysed and compared sleep quality, pillow comfort, waking and neck pain with respect to subjects’ usual pillows and study pillows, pillows with differing content, and finally, foam pillows of differing shape2.
It was found that the orthopaedic pillow with polypropylene inserts was the superior pillow, providing the most comfort due to good spinal alignment2.
The other two pillow types were the contoured memory foam made of polyurethane and the feather pillow made of 100% goose down.
There was no evidence to suggest that the use of a contoured foam pillow had any advantages over a regular-shaped pillow2. The down and feather pillows gave almost zero structural support and was not recommended2.
At the end of the day, the ‘Best’ pillow is not necessarily the most expensive one (nor the best marketed)! Picking a good pillow comes down to the one that will provide the greatest amount of support in the position you and your kids assume in sleep the most. The more support your head and neck has, the more comfort you and your kids will enjoy and therefore experiencing an overall improvement in sleep quality, not to mention keeping morning aches, pains and stiffness at bay.
Yours in Optimum Health,
Dr. Will Duong, Chiropractor at The Triumph Institute
- Gordon SJ1, Grimmer-Somers K, Trott P. Man Ther. 2009 Dec;14(6):671-8. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2009.02.006. Epub 2009 May 7.