The proper pillow is essential for a good night’s sleep. Tricked-out mattresses get all the headlines, but the wrong pillow or an old pillow can make getting comfortable in bed a real chore.
Today, you can choose from dozens of pillows, based on the level of support you want for your head and neck, and your budget. The most basic and least expensive style is a conventional foam pillow, but there are a growing number of variations including synthetic fill, down, feather and memory foam. Specialty pillow shapes and firmness levels address health conditions, whether a stiff neck or shoulder pain. Pregnant? There are large, contoured pillows marketed to reduce strain on backs and baby bumps and increase comfort.
Pillow replacement seems to be a very individual decision. For hygienic reasons, it’s best to consider investing in new pillows every one or two years. Here are some outward signs to look for, according to the Better Sleep Council: Your pillow is lumpy, looks grungy or no longer feels the way you did when you first bought it.
Temperature-regulating technology. Pillows made with gel, foam or other hybrid materials manage heat and moisture to reduce overheating, which can hinder sleep.
Filling options. Companies are using more types of fillings, often made of natural fibers. Materials include buckwheat, bamboo, wool and silk.
Protect. Always zip a protector on your pillows. Wash the protectors every month or two, or more if you prefer. Some manufacturers make covers that they say protect against allergies, bedbugs, dust mites or moisture.
Wash. Most down or polyester pillows can be washed in a washing machine. This is necessary to clean off dead skin cells, dust mites and stains. Put them in your dryer on low and throw in a few tennis balls to keep them fluffy.
Air out. Refresh down pillows by putting them outside for a few hours and then fluffing.
We asked Renee Robinson, a product manager at Cuddledown, to select three levels of pillows from its inventory. Cuddledown is the Maine manufacturer of more than 35 types of down and synthetic sleep pillows. Check out its pillow-choosing guide at www.cuddledown.com/buyingguides. Prices are listed for a standard-size pillow in a medium fill. All fills of the pillows shown are hypoallergenic and all shells are 100 percent cotton, constructed to prevent leaks, and double-stitched.
Hypoallergenic synthetic fill has the feel and look of down and does not clump. The style is available in four sizes and three firmness levels. The shell is made of cotton fabric that is free of harmful chemicals. $34
Made with premium European duck down from the Pyrenees Mountains. Available in four sizes and four firmness levels. Provides especially good cushioning for stomach sleepers. $99
Batiste 800 Fill Power European White Goose Down Pillow The luxurious quality of the fabric and goose down used in this pillow makes it especially soft. Available in four sizes and four firmness levels. Ultra-lightweight cotton batiste fabric from Germany used on the shell is particularly cushy. $209
1. The Better Sleep Council has a test to see whether your pillow needs to be replaced. Fold the pillow in half and squeeze out the air. When the pillow is released, it should spring back to its original shape and fullness. If it doesn’t, it’s time to replace it.
2. Try out various densities and sizes before you buy. Soft pillows are good for reducing neck strain if you sleep on your stomach or wad up your pillows for comfort when resting. Medium pillows are good if you sleep on your back or side because they support your neck. Firm pillows are recommended for people who sleep on their sides and need extra support for their neck and head. Basic sizes: Standard is 20 by 26 inches, queen is 20 by 30 inches, and king is 20 by 36 inches.
3. If you buy a new pillow, protect your investment with a new pillow protector, too.
Percent of Americans who say a comfortable pillow is important for a good night’s sleep.
Source: Carpenter Co.
The average number of sleep pillows Americans keep on their beds. Men typically sleep with two pillows; women sleep with four.
Source: Carpenter Co.
Percent of pillows sold that are standard size; 30 percent are queen size and 20 percent are king size.
The age in years of the average American sleep pillow.
Source: Carpenter Co.
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