Test Your Pillow
If you're trying to determine whether your pillow is ready for replacement, try these tests. If you own a polyester pillow, fold it in half and place a shoe on top. If the pillow unfolds and knocks the shoe off, it is still good. If the shoe wins, the pillow probably needs replacing. If you have a feather pillow, fold it in half and squeeze out as much air as you can. (Leave the shoe out of this contest.) When you release the pillow, it should unfold on its own. If not, its goose is cooked and the pillow needs to be replaced.
Like the choice of a mattress, the choice of a pillow is a very personal matter. Although some people can sleep with their head on a block of wood, most of us are very particular about the type of pillow we use. Your head weighs more than 10 pounds, so your pillow needs to provide you with support as well as comfort.
A good pillow supports you in just the right places. It should keep your head in line with your back and spine. But different sleeping positions require different pillows. If you tend to sleep on your side, you need a firm pillow that supports your head and neck. If you prefer sleeping on your back, a medium to firm pillow will offer you more cushion. Those who sleep on their stomach should choose a soft pillow to ease strain on the neck.
Most pillows are made with synthetic fibers or foam, which are more friendly to allergy-prone people and easy to wash. If you must have a down or feather pillow, make sure it doesn't cause an allergic reaction in your sleep partner before you purchase it.
Other types of pillows include orthopedic varieties that are designed to relieve pain and stiffness in the neck or back. Orthopedic pillows are more expensive than conventional pillows, but medical insurance may cover their purchase if your doctor prescribes them. You can purchase these pillows at a surgical supply store.
Also available are pillows designed to reduce or eliminate snoring. Despite the rather optimistic claims about these pillows, they are rarely effective. It's better to address the snoring problem directly with your doctor rather than muffle it with a futile search for the perfect pillow.
Most importantly, find a pillow that makes you feel comfortable. Just because your Aunt Gladys uses pillows made with hair from the East African two-humped camel, doesn't mean you should. And when your pillow starts to lose its shape or support, it's time to get a new one. Experiment with a variety of types, and stick with the one that provides you with the best night's sleep.
Instead of folding that pillow around your head to drown out noise, take control of your sleeping environment. Find out how on the next page.