If you are like me, sleep is important and it affects your daily life if you’re not well rested. I become lethargic, grouchy and irritable. One question I get quite often as a chiropractor is “what type of pillow is best?” This following blog post will hopefully give you an idea of how to choose your next pillow if you are not satisfied with your current one.
There are a couple of reasons you may not be completely happy with your current pillow. Most common reasons would be waking up with neck pain, shoulder pain or headaches. If you are unlucky, you might even be waking up with all 3.
The current best option, and my personal favorite, is the water pillow. A study comparing the water pillow, roll pillow, and the participant's usual pillow found that the water pillow was the best! The water pillow was associated with the greatest pain relief, increased quality of sleep and decreased morning pain intensity! One of the nicest things about the water pillow is that you determine how stiff you would like the pillow to be. If it is too soft, you just add more water to the pouch, and if it is too stiff, you just remove some of the water. Simple and effective.
However, everybody has their preferences and some do not enjoy the water pillow. So what other options are available? There are two main things you want to take into consideration when buying a new pillow. Height and material.
A study performed in 2015 looked at three different pillow heights. The heights were 10cm and 20cm when the head was resting on the pillow. With each height, the researchers would radiograph (x-ray) each participant and measure the different angles of the spine. The pillow that correlated to the best position for the spine and upheld the natural curvature of the neck was the 10cm pillow. So if you are in the market to buy a new pillow, take a friend with you to the store and pull out that ruler. This may take a little extra work, but your neck will thank you for the time.
Next up, material. A study done in 2010 looked at five different types of pillows. The five types were: Polyester, foam, foam contour, latex, and feather. Now you should know that feather pillows were by far, the WORST pillows. Participants would commonly wake up with stiffness in the neck and have a headache first thing. Three members had to withdraw from the study due to being in so much pain from the feather pillow. So even though they are soft and feel comfortable at the time, don’t do it, do not buy the feather pillow! The best pillow for helping with morning headaches, shoulder, and arm pain was the latex pillow. Participants found relief with all 3 of these areas when using the latex pillow in comparison to the other four types.
So, if you’ve decided that the water pillow is not for you, try to ensure the next pillow you buy is a latex pillow that has a height of 10cm when compressed by your head.
1. Lavin R, Pappagallo M, Kuhlemeier K. Cervical pain: A comparison of three pillows. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1997;78(2):193-198.
Kim, H., Jun, H., Kim, J., Ahn, J., Chang, I., Song, J., & Oh, J. (2015). The Effect of Different Pillow Heights on the Parameters of Cervicothoracic Spine Segments. Korean J Spine, 12(3), 135. doi:10.14245/kjs.2015.12.3.135
Susan J Gordon, P. (2010). Pillow use: the behavior of cervical stiffness, headache and scapular/arm pain. Journal Of Pain Research, 3, 137. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3004642/