Before you start shopping, determine what your sleep style is. Generally, there are side sleepers, stomach sleepers and back sleepers. The position in which you usually sleep is important because it determines which type of support you require from a pillow, which could help to prevent neck and back pain.
Here's how to choose the right pillow style depending on your sleep position:
- Side sleepers: Those who sleep on their sides should choose the thickest pillows possible in order to prevent the head from dropping down toward the shoulder. These types of high pillows will fill in the gap between the head and neck, creating a support system for the head.
- Stomach sleepers: Choose a thinner pillow, as this will help to keep your neck properly aligned while sleeping face down. Thinner pillows are also less invasive than thicker pillows, which is important for someone who sleeps with their face directly on the pillow.
- Back sleepers: A back sleeper should choose a pillow with thin to medium thickness in order to support the head. Because you're sleeping in a similar position to the way your body would be aligned while walking or standing, you don't require too much added support.
If you're a combination of multiple sleep styles, go for a medium-thickness pillow. Ideally, the thickness or thinness of your pillow will keep your neck aligned with your spine. Therefore, slight variations on this pillow selection guide might be needed depending on your size and shape.
In addition to the thickness of your pillow, you'll also want to consider the fill type. "Fill" refers to the material that the pillow is filled with, which almost entirely affects how the pillow feels, how supportive it is, and other important comfort factors.
Here are the most common fill types in pillows today:
- Down: This traditional pillow filling is often seen as the most luxurious (and, consequently, it's often the most expensive). "Down" refers to the soft, tiny feathers on a goose or other bird, which are cleaned and stuffed inside of a pillow to offer support and comfort. While many styles of pillows become flattened over time, down pillows are very resistant to this kind of wear. If you suffer from allergies, down is not a good choice, as it often irritates allergy sufferers.
- Down alternative: This type of filling is for those who want the look and feel of down filling, but don't want the irritating allergies or the added cost. Down alternative also doesn't have the sharp ends of the feathers that down or feather pillows have, which can often poke through the pillow case.
- Memory foam: In recent years, many companies are touting the benefits of memory foam in mattresses and pillows. The benefits of these styles of pillows include their customizable nature, which molds to the shape of your head and neck to create an individualized fit. The Cool-jams dough foam with cooling gel are a great choice.
- Polyester: Polyester-filled pillows offer the same type of support as memory foam pillows, but without the bulky weight or the added heat. They're also significantly less expensive, and they hold their shape fairly well, even after years of use.
- Latex: If you like the feel of memory foam, but don't want the heat, try a latex pillow. The latex folds to your head and will stay cooler than other types of pillows.
While it's not quite as important as your bodily needs, your bed size should come into consideration when choosing a pillow. For example, if you choose Euro size pillows but you own a King-sized bed, it will look pretty silly. Choose pillows that correspond with the size of your bed, or mix and match smaller and larger pillows to create a stylish, designer-inspired look.
Depending on your unique needs, you may want to seek out pillows with certain features, such as:
- Hypo-allergenic materials
- Machine-washable care instructions
- Multiple size options (standard, queen or king)
- Temperature-regulating technology
While you're shopping for the perfect pillow, don't forget to check out any accessories you might need, like pillowcases and pillow covers. With this information at hand, you're ready to buy a pillow that helps you get a good night's sleep night after night.