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Tips For Finding the Perfect Pillow

Here at ESC Mattress Center in Everett, we believe in the idea of sleep systems. A sleep system isn’t just your mattress, it’s all the pieces that work with your mattress to get you a better night’s sleep and help you wake up feeling great. One important and often overlooked part of that sleep system is your pillow. Some estimates suggest a pillow accounts for anywhere from 18-30% of the support your spine gets out of your sleep system. We believe being fitted for a pillow is not only important, it’s a necessity with a new mattress. We spent the better part of the first two months we were open trying to find the pillows that we felt were the best value, offered the best support, and were comfortable to use. After all this research and trial, here are some tips for selecting a pillow. Consider what position you sleep in (side, back, stomach, or some combination of these). The position you sleep in hugely effects what type of pillow will work best for you. Side sleepers (the most common sleeping position) need a pillow with a little more fill then a back sleeper. In our experience stomach sleepers tend to use a very flat pillow, or even no pillow at all. As a back sleeper you want to have your head supported but not tilted too far forward or back.

As mentioned above most people are side sleepers (at least part of the time), for this reason shoulder width is important for choosing a pillow. With broad shoulders you want a tall firmer pillow that won’t give too much while lying on it. For a more petite frame a shorter profile tends to fit better.

Does your head or neck get too warm at night? There are many ways pillows try to cool you down; Gel, Phase Change Material, and Ventilated Air Holes are some of the most common. By using one or more of these technologies you may find a little relief from excessive heat build-up. Gel is cool to the touch and in some cases will not get warmer than your bodies temperature. Phase Change material works to draw your excess heat away from you. Ventilated Air Holes allows for your excess heat to escape the confinement of your pillow by going down and out.

What you find comfortable is a very important aspect of picking the perfect pillow. It can also be directly correlated to what mattress you are on. If you’re happy with your mattress and come in looking for a pillow tell the salesperson what kind of bed you have and try pillows on something with a similar feel to what you have at home. When looking for a new mattress if the bed feels good (shoulders, hips, lower back) but the pillow doesn’t (neck) tell the salesperson, a different pillow may be in order.
There are many materials that pillows are made from here’s a brief overview of some of the most common constructions.

  • Memory Foam is a conforming foam that sinks in and settles at a point that keeps you from being too high or too low. It comes in a variety of feel and firmness options. Memory Foam pillows can also be either cluster foam (shredded), or solid sculpted foam (which comes in a variety of shapes and sizes).
  • Latex pillows are most popular with people that enjoy feeling a little spring back from their pillow. Latex conforms similarly to memory foam but gives a little push back. We like to say it’s the most noticeable support because it is always there pushing back up at you.
  • Fiber fill pillows are a catch all, because there a lot of types fibers used of varying qualities. A lot of what you see in the $5-25 range tends to fall into this category. Similar to cluster Memory Foam in construction but made of other materials.
  • Down comes from under the firm outer feathers of a bird, typically geese, and has very fine almost un-noticeable quills. What is sometimes marketed as “down” is instead the rougher exterior feathers. Down pillows have a soft and luxurious feel that offers support while cradling the head.

When someone is considering a pillow a common question we get is “how long should a pillow last?”. A pillow’s lifespan will largely depend on the quality of the materials used in its construction. Some pillows will start to lose their support in less than a year, while others will last five or more years. If you are waking up with neck pain and have not changed other things in your lifestyle it might be time for a new pillow. To test if your pillow is still supportive you can squeeze it to almost flat and see if it rebounds like it did after you first got it. If your pillow stays flattened out or clumped up instead of puffing back to its original shape it’s not going to be able to support head and neck.

Once you find the perfect pillow here are some tips to help break it in and adjust to something new in your sleep system.

  • Take the pillow and roll it up like a sleeping bag 2-3 times a night
  • Sleep on it for two weeks and if your neck hurts after those two weeks take a break from your new pillow for two weeks using your old pillow.
  • While sleeping on your old pillow, sit on your new pillow while eating dinner, watching TV, or even driving to work.
  • After two weeks go back to sleeping on your new pillow for another two weeks.
  • At this point you will know if the pillow will work for you or not. We have a very high success rate of people easily adjusting to their new pillow using this process.

Most people don’t put enough thought into their pillow; it is a VERY important part of your sleep system and we at E.S.C. Mattress Center always try to start each mattress consultation with a pillow fitting before we start having you compare mattresses.

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