If you’ve ever woken up with a stiff neck or felt like you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, you’re not alone. Around one in three Australians complain of neck pain. In some cases, your pillow could be the prime suspect.
According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association’s (APA) Member Marcus Dripps, "selecting the right pillow will help ensure you sleep well, and wake up feeling rested, without pain or stiffness."
Your pillow should provide enough support to keep your neck and back correctly aligned. A 2010 study of different pillow types found that latex, or ‘memory pillows’, performed consistently better than feather pillows in reducing headaches and pain upon waking.
From a hygiene perspective, it turns out that the average pillow is full of dust mites, oil, bacteria, and fungi comments Koala Product Manager Stephanie Roberts-Baxter. In fact, a 2005 study by the University of Manchester found that of 10 pillows between 1.5 to 20 years of usage each pillow contained at least 4 to 16 types of fungi.
It’s thought that these pillows worked better because they’re designed to contour to fit into the natural curve of your neck and shoulders.
How to choose the right pillow for you
Pillows come in different shapes and sizes. A pillow that’s too high or stiff may cause your neck to ‘flex’ and lead to pain and stiffness in the morning.
Your sleeping position can also influence your choice of pillow:
If you sleep on your back, a flatter pillow with a lower contour will probably be more comfortable.
For side-sleepers, a pillow with a higher contour is usually recommended. This is a more comfortable style for your neck and shoulder.
Experts advise against sleeping on your stomach. This position causes your back to arch and your neck to turn to the side, leading to strain in these areas. If you have a neck or shoulder condition, you should speak to your physiotherapist about your options.
How often should you replace your pillow?
A worn-out pillow is not going to provide you with the support you need to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. But how long can you go before your pillow needs replacing?
Considering a 5-year-old pillow contains double the mould of a 2-year-old pillow, the sweet spot of how often you should replace your pillow relies on what type of pillow you have, and how you maintain it.
These are the tell-tale signs you should replace your pillow:
- Discolouration – Is your pillow a different colour from when you bought it? Or has it developed discolouration spots?
- Shape – Has the pillow altered shaped so your once plump pillow closely resembles the pancake you had for brekkie? Or perhaps even worse, it’s gone lumpy?
- Pains – Are you waking up with neck pains, or tension headaches
- Materials used - According to Michael Breus the author of Good Night, “if you have a plain-old, inexpensive polyester pillow, you should be replacing it every six months. But if you have a memory foam pillow or any one with structural integrity, it’ll last you anywhere from 18 to 36 months.”