Failing to try before you buy & other key mistakes to avoid when pillow shopping
Pillows date back to a time when prehistoric humans walked upright on two feet, they sought to support their head and neck in various ways, whether it was on a block of wood or a stone. Not so comfy, right?
Fortunately, pillows have evolved a lot over the last few thousands of years. The earliest recorded ones can be traced to Mesopotamia approx.. 7,000 B.C. Back then, only the upper class folks used pillows – showing off their wealth by piling their pillows up high. Again, not super comfy.
We can credit the Roman and Greeks with coming up with a kinder, softer pillow, filled with reeds, straw or feathers. Not great, but a definite improvement. The feathers idea caught on and has enjoyed a great deal of popularity ever since. Today there are types of pillows ancient people never even dreamed of, from high-density foam to buckwheat and micro beads.
Pillow choices are so numerous that it’s downright dizzying. Have no fear. Your perfect night of sleep with your head perfectly propped is within reach. We’ve distilled pillow shopping down to a few key questions so you can find the one that’s ideal for you.
1. What’s your go-to sleep position? The perfect pillow for you comes down to good sleep posture. That means a body in alignment, from knees and hips, from spine to the chest and up to shoulders, head and neck. If your neck and shoulders aren’t getting the support they need, you likely wake up with sore, courtesy of all the straining and discomfort.
While there are no strict rules for what kind of pillow you should have since sleepers often change positions throughout the night, there are some basic guidelines.
- Side sleepersshould choose pillows that are firm and thick.
- Stomach snoozerscan skip pillows period or opt for a soft, thin one.
- Back sleepers require flatter, supportive pillows to keep head and neck where they should be.
2. What’s your mattress like? Mattress and pillows go together like salt and pepper, so you need to make sure they work well together. Sleep doctor Dr. Michael Breus says that if you use a firm mattress, then a softer pillow may be better, because the pillow is lying on a firm surface and needs to adapt to the pressure of the weight of your head in your starting sleep position. With a softer mattress, a firmer pillow will help keep your head and neck aligned.
“Pillows are such an important element of your sleep environment and having the right one under your head can make for more comfortable, restful nights.”
3. How do you sleep—hot or cold? If you’re the type of sleeper that throws off the covers on a regular basis because you’re too warm, then you’ll want to choose your pillow type carefully. Memory foam is wonderful for many types of sleepers, but if your body temperature runs hot, it may not be the best option for you. Think down-filled ones, or even a pillow with a water reservoir inside, which can cool you down nicely.
4. How much do you want to spend? Down pillows are lovely and fluffy but tend to be more expensive than synthetic-filled or down alternatives. If you want down, you’ll be rewarded with many years of use. Don’t bother buying cheap versions. One squeeze and you can feel sharp feathers and a lump texture. A good foam pillow is in the middle of the spending range, depending on material used. If you don’t want to shell out a lot of money for a pillow, be prepared to use and ditch.
5. Is it time to replace your pillow? Give it a good sniff. If it’s smells off, then it’s time to wash or trash. And if it’s lost its springy and fluffy quality, doesn’t bounce back well or feels lumpy, then it’s time to say goodbye. Or try folding your pillow in half. If you can do that and it stays that way, you and that pillow need to break up right away. Keep in mind that most people hang on to their pillows too long. Replacing them every two to three years is a solid goal.
6. How much effort are you prepared to devote to caring for your pillow? Cleaning your pillow is easier than cleaning your mattress. Some pillows can be tossed into the wash machine to remove icky stuff like stains, dirt and dust mites. Just be sure you check the manufacturer’s care label before you attempt to launder. Some suggest dry cleaning only, while others are fine to toss into the laundry or just to spot treat only. Experts say that washing pillows two to four times a year will help them last longer. Your best bet is to invest in a pillow protector to keep pillows cleaner longer and to boost their longevity.
7. Do you have allergies? Naturally, if you have an allergy to feathers, then skipping down pillows is a smart strategy. You can, however, enjoy down-like fluffiness and comfort with allergy-free variations that use hypoallergenic fill. Dust mites might also be a problem so choose pillows that use a micro-weave cover, which makes it tough for those little pests to burrow, hang out and cause you problems.
We hate to nag, but…. a pillow protector (just like a mattress protector) really can be your best friend and help you breathe easier.