We spend a large portion of our day sleeping, and the alignment of our spine and head during our sleeping hours can have a drastic influence on our health and well-being throughout the day. Many individuals are unaware of their poor sleeping habits, and are not using a pillow that properly supports their body during rest.
However, purchasing a proper pillow can be a daunting task. There is large variety of pillow sizes, shapes, materials, densities, and brands, all of which can be quite overwhelming if you are unsure of what to look for! However, our physiotherapists here at Granville Physio are here to help! We've outlined below a few basic sleeping positions, and the pillow types that are best suited for your individual sleeping style. However, if you would like a personalized assessment of your resting spinal position, and the pillow that will optimize your rest, click here to book in with James, Damien, or Jim today!
1.) The Side Sleeper
This is by far the most common sleeping position, but it can also be quite difficult to ensure that the curve of the neck is well-supported. To test if your pillow is adequately cushioning your head, have somebody look at your spine while you lay down. Your spine should follow a straight horizontal line from the base of the head to the middle of your back. If your neck curves up, your pillow is too low, and if your neck curves down, you require more support.
As a general rule, your pillow should comfortably fill the space between your head/neck and the mattress. Therefore, individuals with broader shoulders also require a higher pillow, as there is a greater gap between the head and mattress when turned onto the side.
2.) The Back Sleeper
If you tend to spend the majority of your sleep on your back, it is important to ensure that your pillow supports the natural curve of your neck. If the pillow is too firm or high, the neck will be craned forward uncomfortably. Conversely, if the pillow is too flat, or lacking support, the head will drop back and compress the neck. Finding a pillow that enables a slight curve, as is natural in the cervical vertebrae, is the best option. If someone were to analyze your posture from the side as you lay on your pillow, your body should be in a similar alignment to a proper standing posture.
However, as individuals age, it is common for a greater curvature to develop in the upper back. This leads to the head and neck protruding forward, and for these individuals a second pillow or folded towel may be necessary to provide sufficient support.
3.) The Tummy Sleeper
Pillow Types and Common Materials
A) Memory Foam
- Pro's: react to body heat and mould to individual shape, can be contoured to fit the head/neck more accurately, very supportive for both back and side sleepers.
- Con's: don't allow for air circulation, can be very hot when sleeping. Low cost solutions often of gas harmful chemicals that can cause headaches.
- Pro's: long-lasting, very firm and supportive, cooler than memory foam, often glue free so no of gassing.
- Con's: can be quite expensive.
- Pro's: very comfortable for the first 5 minutes
- Con's: do not offer much for support, lose shape very quickly
Our FInal Thoughts on Pillow Shopping
Laying down with each pillow on a mattress that is similar to yours is the most important step! Have a person assess your neck and spine alignment, to ensure that you are choosing a pillow with the right height and level of support. While suggested as the ergonomic solution, contoured pillows (particularly those with two bumps), often don't provide a very good fit.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, the physiotherapists at Granville Physio are here to help. Click here if you would like to book an appointment.