More pillow talk – tips for choosing the right pillow

After my rave review of my silk pillow yesterday, I thought I should explain how I came to find my wonderful pillow. It wasn’t just luck. I undertook a pillow-testing exercise, which led me to my perfect pillow.

If you’re thinking about investing in a new pillow – perhaps because your existing pillow sounds a little too similar to the hard, flat and lumpy pillow I described yesterday – there’s two things you need to bear in mind:

Firstly – it’s so obvious it almost goes without saying, but it’s so important that I will anyway – ensure that your new pillow is comfortable to sleep on. Unless you think it’s the best, most comfortable place to rest your weary head, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get the best night’s sleep on it.

Secondly, your chosen pillow should help you to maintain the “midline position” whilst sleeping, i.e. keep your head, neck and spine aligned as straight as possible, otherwise you could find yourself in a lot of pain. Two factors will help you to decide which pillow to purchase to achieve the all-important “midline position”. These are: (a) the width of your shoulders in relation to your neck; and (b) your preferred sleeping position.

So, if the ratio between your shoulders and neck is small, a shallower pillow is usually recommended. Someone with a larger shoulder / neck ratio may need a thicker pillow, or may wish to add extra pillows to increase pillow height, in order to achieve alignment.  Pillows that tilt the head and neck forwards or backwards, and therefore out of the midline position, are to be avoided – unless you’re seeking a sore, achy neck or back pain, that is.

Your sleeping position must also be taken into consideration. So, for example, if you prefer to sleep on your side (as I do), it’s important to choose a pillow that will fill the gap between your head and shoulders and therefore support your neck (which, by the way, my soft, squishy silk pillow does perfectly). If you sleep predominantly on your back, a flatter pillow is usually recommended to keep the head and neck aligned with your back. Those who prefer to sleep on their front may not need a pillow under their head at all. Whatever your preferred sleeping position, it may be necessary to strategically place additional pillows to keep the head, neck and spine aligned and minimise strain – such as under or between the knees.  (For more detailed guidance about sleep positions and pillows, check out this guide: “Sleep Positions Part 2 Pillows”)

Taking all of this into consideration, I embarked on a process of pillow testing and elimination. I tried memory foam pillows (too high for me and not squishy enough for my liking), an organic millet pillow (the millet husks provide an unusual, but comfortable, texture but this pillow was a little too shallow for me and it didn’t fill the gap between my head and shoulders), and an alpaca wool pillow (very comfortable and the ideal height and texture, but just not quite as perfect as my silk baby).

If you’d like to carry out your own pillow testing exercise, of all the pillows mentioned above (and more), I’m thrilled to tell you that you can! Well, in a few weeks time, anyway. Here at We Love Sleep, we are busily preparing for the opening of our first Sleep Solutions Centre in the heart of Sheffield City Centre.  Our Sleep Solutions Centre will be open for FREE private appointments 7 days a weeks, to offer tailored sleep advice and tips and provide an opportunity to test our full range of high quality, innovative sleep products in complete privacy. Look out for more details to follow soon!

UPDATE November 2010: The Sleep Geek has written a new blog post on the art of buying the perfect pillow, as a follow-up to his recent discussion about the topic on BBC Radio Sheffield. You can read it by clicking here.

Also, I think I’ve found a pillow that’s even more perfect than my silk beauty. I didn’t think it was possible until I tried We Love Sleep’s brand new latex pillows. Soft yet supportive and wonderfully malleable, I actually can’t wait for mine to need replacing!