Pillow Talk

We spend around a third of our lives sleeping and so it makes sense to make sure our pillow is as well suited as possible.
Mattresses obviously play a key role here too but often our pillows are overlooked. Pillows come in many forms and fillings but they don’t last forever. They become “old friends” and we don’t like to change them but when they get too old they can actually help cause or maintain a sore and stiff neck.
Broadly, pillows may be filled with a feather/down mix, synthetic fibre or a latex or memory foam. They may be contoured or just basic. The take home message is that there is NO universal pillow that suits everybody and selection is a deeply personal affair.
To sleep comfortably we need to ensure that our spines are maintained in a neutral position. This means that the natural curves in our spine that we have when standing upright and relaxed (not slumped) are maintained when we lie down. Keys areas of our spine for this are our necks and lower backs.
This means that if a pillow is too thick and we lie on our back our necks are held in too much flexion (chin to chest) if too thin, then our head falls backwards. When we turn onto our sides the space between the mattress and our ears needs to be filled by the pillow in order to maintain neutral spine. Clearly a thicker pillow is needed for side sleeping. Note I am deliberately staying away from stomach sleeping...
Now I have personally done much practical research into pillows (a lot less since having children). My conclusion is that having two pillows, one thin for back sleeping and a thicker one to add to the thin for side sleeping is the way forward. It doesn’t matter what the pillow is made of. The secret is in how you wrangle your pillows during the night. I have two methods:
The first method is to place your head on the thin back sleeping pillow and stand the second pillow up against the headboard. When you turn on to your side just pull the second pillow in to make up the thickness. You will quickly become good at pulling the pillow in and out as you move without waking.
The second method is to arrange the pillows in a triangle with the point of the triangle where the two pillows overlap pointing towards the headboard. When lying on your back your head is on the thinner pillow and as you roll over you contact the double pillow layer for side sleeping. This works well if you sleep predominantly on one side.
Remember that pillows get compressed and need to be plumped regularly. Happy sleeping.
Jeannie Baskeyfield, Osteopathic Natural Health

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