Did you know that your pillow could be causing at least some of your neck pain? It can also cause neck tension which develops into headaches. Not having the right pillow can also make you snore, which might wake you up during the night and leave you tired throughout the following day; or it might just annoy your partner.
The position you sleep in will be a primary factor in choosing the right pillow for you. Optimal pillow height will be highest for side sleepers and lowest for tummy sleepers. No matter how you sleep, you want both your head and neck to be supported and in their natural alignment.
If you sleep on your side, this means your neck is straight; your head is not tilted up towards the ceiling (too high) or down toward the mattress (too low). Back sleepers should make sure that the pillow supports their neck as well as their head. And tummy sleepers want to make sure to minimize the amount that the neck is turned throughout the night.
A few more tips:
Side sleepers – If you roll forward while laying on your side, your pillow is too flat. To get you through until you can buy a new pillow, try folding the pillow in half or adding a folded bath towel to the pillowcase to increase the height. Likewise, if you roll backward, your pillow has too much height.
Back sleepers – If your head bends forward, bringing your chin toward your chest, the pillow is too high. If you’re uncomfortable when your head is in line with your body (or your ears are in line with your shoulders), that means that the muscles in the front of your neck are shortened and the ones in the back are stretched. Getting massage to release the over-tight muscles and slowly lowering your pillow height will help normalize your neck muscles and will help bring your head and neck into better alignment. To lower your pillow height, you’ll want to start with a flatter pillow than you currently use and add some folded bath towels to the pillow case. Every couple weeks, unfold or remove one of the towels until your neck is in an aligned position when you’re sleeping.
Tummy sleepers – Try placing your pillow under your body, folding both arms above the head in such a way the you can lay your forehead on your forearms. This should allow you to have only a slight tilt to your head, rather than having it turned all the way to one side or the other.
There are all kinds of pillows out there and the best one for you is the one that is the most comfortable. That said, a few that are definitely worth looking into are:
Down – These are the easiest to mold into the shape that’s most comfortable for you. Down pillows are especially beneficial to those who sleep in more than one position throughout the night, such as back and side.
Water – Newer water filled pillows let you customize the size and support of the pillow. These are best if you sleep in only one position.
Memory foam – These have been around for a while and come in two varieties; contour and regular. Contour pillows have either one or two neck support contours and are most useful for back or side sleepers. Regular memory foam pillows conform to your body for maximum support.
These are just some general guidelines. Very rarely will pillow height be the only factor in neck pain, but it is one of the easiest to do something about.