There’s nothing like the perfect pillow to ensure a sound night’s sleep. Some of us are so attached to our pillows that we travel with them. In addition to being comfortable, the right pillow can also provide important support to the neck and spine by propping up the head, neck, and shoulders to keep your body in alignment and relieve pressure. For optimum support, there are some characteristics that you should look for when you select a pillow.
- A design that keeps the spine in natural alignment. Our neck curves slightly forward to sustain the weight of our head. Our pillow should maintain this curve when we are in a resting position. If the pillow is too high, our neck may be bent abnormally forward when we sleep on our back, or too far to one side if we sleep on our side, causing muscle strain or obstructed breathing. The preferred pillow maintains a height of four to six inches.
- A feeling of comfort. Personal preference plays a large part in the definition of a good pillow. When we are comfortable, it is easier to relax into sleep and wake well rested.
- An adjustable shape that conforms to the body. Most of us adjust our position as we sleep, so it’s important to have a pillow composition that conforms to our unique shape, adjusting as we change position. For people who sleep on their back, the pillow should support the natural curvature of the cervical spine—some people find it helpful to sleep with a pillow under their knees as well. Those who sleep on their side need a slightly higher pillow that supports the spine in a straight and natural horizontal line, and helps to keep weight evenly distributed without pressure.
Remember that even the best pillows will eventually lose their firmness. When a pillow no longer supports your neck and spine, it should be replaced. A good pillow results in a good night’s sleep, and gives your spine gentle support to avoid strain or injury.