Pillows have been used for over generations though the belief of the benefits that pillows can bring has since changed. Once upon a time, it was accepted in China that the use of pillows made of stone, wood, jade or other hard materials can ward off evil. This was when nightmares were believed to be demonic attacks.
Medival Europe however had a different perspective. While soft pillows made of mainly feathers and straw were popular then, the men of Medival Europe refused to use pillows as it was taken to be a sign of weakness. It is understandable that a show of strength was important in times of war. The soft pillows remained a best-seller among the women only.
Studies in recent years have shown that the use of pillows enhances one’s sleep in many ways. The differences between having a good night’s sleep and a bad sleep are staggering (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm).
Believe it or not, pillows were considered a luxury in the past. Most people could not afford one and would resort to using straw or something soft to compensate for the otherwise hard surfaces of their beds. Now, pillows can be found in almost every household.
There are various types of pillows available in the market. It is important to know the material that is used in the pillow that you are purchasing as each material will generally provide a varying level of comfort to an individual.
Modern day pillows are generally made using the following substances :-
Feather pillows are extremely common in the market.
When choosing feather pillows, try not to choose one which is too soft as it can cause the straining of the neck.
Pros: Easy to find, cheap and comfortable. Best option for pillow fights.
Cons: May be too soft to provide good support for your head, neck and spine.
Down are fine feathers found at the belly of ducks or geese. Down pillows are considered the more luxury or expensive range of feather pillows.
Down pillows can last for a very long time. Some can even last for up to 15 years!
Pros: Comfortable. Luxurious.
Cons: Expensive. May be too soft to provide good support for your head, neck and spine.
If you find yourself sneezing all the time or you have trouble breathing at night (in the worst cases), try to avoid feather and down pillows. Foam pillows are often recommended to those who have allergies to feathers as many of them are hypoallergenic.
The most popular type of foam pillow is the memory foam (or vico-elastic), made from materials first developed by NASA. The memory foam pillows is popular for its ability to revert its original shape almost immediately after your weight is removed off of it.Memory foam pillows are excellent for a good night’s sleep, though they are rather pricey.
Pros: Excellent support for head, neck and spine. Long lasting.
Cons: Expensive. Chemical odor may be present in certain pillows.
Made of man-made fibre (synthetic). These pillows are a cheaper alternative to feather pillows and are much easier to clean. This could be the reason why polyester pillows are extremely popular in the United Kingdom. Personally, I couldn’t tell the difference between feather and polyester pillows. However, polyester pillows do not last as long due to the chemicals used to create the fibre.
Pros: Cheaper alternative to feather pillows.
Cons: Doesn’t last very long. Might be too soft to provide good support for your head, neck and spine.
Latex pillows are becoming popular due its generally positive reviews. Many owners have claimed that they have noticed a reduction in neck and shoulder pain after prolonged use of latex pillows.
Latex pillows are comparable to memory foam pillows in terms of their price and quality. Both are long-lasting though rather pricey.
Pros: Good support for head, neck and spine. long lasting.
Cons: Expensive. Rubbery smell may be present on some pillows.
Water pillows are actually fairly cheap.
As you have to fill the water into the pillow by yourself, you are granted the flexibility to adjust the softness or firmness of the pillow depending on your preference. I have tried a few water-based pillows and have found them to be quite comfortable.
Pros: Firmness easily adjustable. Cheap. Good support for head, neck and spine. Feels cooler than other pillows.
Cons: Filling or replacing the water in the pillow can get messy.
Made from silicone or polyurethane materials, gel pillows are widely used for its cooling properties and pressure relief.
Pros: Economical and cooling. Easily molded to give you the support you need.
Cons: May have some odor. Considerably soft which will not provide sufficient support for people with shoulder or neck pain.
Buckwheat pillows are heavier than other types of pillows. However, this should not be a concern unless you are intending to use them for pillow fights.
Otherwise, buckwheat pillows provide superior support for your head, neck and spine. Buckwheat pillows are very expensive due to being all-natural.
Pros: Long lasting. Great support for head, neck and spine.
Cons: Heavy and expensive.
Microbead pillows are a cheaper alternative to buckwheat pillows. The synthetic pillows are intended to mimic the benefits of buckwheat, at a lesser cost. However, be prepared to change these pillows often as they do not last very long compared to their all-natural buckwheat counterpart.
Pros: A cheaper alternative to buckwheat pillows.
Cons: Do not last long as long. Odor may be present.
Comfort should not be the only factor in choosing the right pillow for you. Without proper support, your pillow will only cause you more harm than good. This may lead to restless nights, body aches, headaches, and snoring episodes, to name a few. Using the wrong pillow can also affect concentration, posture, breathing and your mood. Scoliosis, which is the deviation of the spine, is a common problem among those with bad posture. Restless nights will inevitably lead to the sleep deprivation which raises your levels of stress and anxiety. In a gist, a bad pillow will damage your health over time, slowly but surely.
There are a few things that you should look out for in a pillow to ensure that your pillow is giving you the right support to your neck and spine. Your pillow should be large and wide enough to be able to comfortably support not only your entire head, but your neck as well. Many people have the habit of resting their head on the pillow in a way that a gap is left in between the head and shoulders where the neck is exposed to air. Bear in mind that it is important to keep your neck and shoulders warm to avoid neck ache and stiffness. Tilting your head forward too much will also put a strain on your neck and upper spine.
A good pillow should ensure that you are able to maintain the right posture when you sleep. People often wonder why they have problems sleeping without first tossing and turning in bed for a long time before they fall asleep. This behavior compromises hours of precious sleep every night. Fortunately for these people (and perhaps you too), the solution to this common problem is really simple. Change your pillow! When you are using a pillow that does not allow you to maintain a good posture, there will be discomfort, however slight or unnoticeable it might be. This subconsciously raises your need to toss and turn until you find a more comfortable position. This is usually the position whereby your posture finally becomes proper. By using the right pillow, you will be able to fall asleep a lot faster without having to go through this arduous process every single night.
Experts have often advised that the right posture during sleep is when your head is facing upwards. One of the core reasons for this is to prevent the narrowing of the air pipes which obstructs breathing. The narrowing of air pipes is actually also the main cause of snoring. If you enjoy sleeping on your sides or belly, then it would be advisable for you to find a softer pillow so that your head can be in line with your neck and spine. If your pillow is too thick, your neck will have to be bent upwards as you sleep. Aside from breathing problems, this can cause neck aches and even headaches. Additionally, for side sleepers, consider using body pillows or knee pillows which are firm as it keeps the spine in a neutral position, thus preventing back problems.
Personally, I’ve only started using pillows when I was 30 years of age. It was then that I began realizing that I was constantly feeling sleepy at work, even after I have had a full 8 hours of sleep on a daily basis (you might need more depending on how old you are) and despite having only light meals for lunch. Things got worse when I started having backaches, neck aches and the occasional headache. A friend suggested that my sleeping conditions might not be ideal, thus causing these constant problems.
I heeded his advice and went on researching and experimenting on different types and brands of pillows before finding one that fit me perfectly well. I try sleeping facing upwards as much as I can, but I usually find myself waking up on my sides so the memory foam pillow was the best choice for me.
Over the course of 2 weeks since I switched from a feather pillow to a memory foam version, the results were extremely convincing. It always took me at least 15 minutes to fall asleep regardless of how tired I was because of all that shifting, and tossing and turning in bed, but now it never takes me more than 5 minutes.
I find myself waking up refreshed instead of feeling groggy throughout the whole morning like I used to. My energy levels have since improved substantially too. All this, from a simple change of pillow.
During my journey, I’ve also realized that expensive pillows are not necessarily beneficial. It is the specific type of pillow that matters, not the price. Each individual should really find the RIGHT TYPE of pillow that suits him or her before considering the price factor. If you experience constant sleep disturbances or aches of any kind, I would highly suggest that you look for another pillow that better suits you.