Do you wake up feeling refreshed and energized or do you suffer from poor, restless sleep? Do you have aches and pains that trouble you in the middle of the night or do you wake up with a sore, stiff neck?
These are all signs you are not sleeping on the right pillow.
It is during sufficient and restorative sleep that the body has chance to heal itself from the postural, physical and stressful challenges of the day, making it vital you get a good night’s sleep.
The Importance of Pillows
Many of us know the importance of a good mattress to protect your back but overlook the importance of having the correct pillow.
A correctly fitted pillow provides support and maintains correct alignment of the head, neck, shoulders and upper back.
Sleeping without adequate support will not only have a negative impact on your sleep, lying on pillows too high or low will cause the neck to bend abnormally creating strain on the muscles, joints and nerves leading to pain, stiffness and even headaches.
Altering your pillow is an easy adjustment to help alleviate or prevent many common neck, back and shoulder pains.
Choose a Pillow for Your Sleeping Patterns
When lying down your neck needs to remain in a neutral position to prevent excess strain or tension.
Selecting the right pillow for you will be largely dependent on your favoured sleeping position.
Below I will outline the best type of pillow for different sleeping positions and explain how you can check if your pillow is the correct height for you.
If you sleep on your side your pillows need to fit the space between your ear and your shoulder in order to keep your neck straight. For most people this will require two pillows.
The easiest way to check if your pillows are the correct height is to stand with your hip and shoulder against the wall, keeping you neck straight and looking forward. Slot your pillows on top of your shoulder.
If there is a gap between your head and the pillows they are too small, or if your head is being pushed away from the wall your pillows are too big.
When lying on your side I always suggest placing a pillow between your knees. This provides support and maintains neutral alignment of your back, pelvis and hips.
If you sleep on your back, your pillow needs to support your head and the natural curve of the neck. For the majority of people only one pillow will be needed.
To check if the pillow is the right height, stand with your back and shoulders against a wall, looking forwards. Slot the pillow behind your head and if your head remains in its neutral, ordinary alignment the pillow is the correct height.
If your head is being pushed forward your pillow is too big or if the head is tilting back the pillow too small.
To support the spine try placing a rolled up towel behind the neck.
A pillow under the knees is also important to reduce stress on the lower back.
Sleeping on your front is the most stressful position for the back and neck and is not recommended. However, if you do sleep on your front one very thin pillow should be used, as this will prevent the head from rising too much and putting strain on the neck.
I would also suggest placing a pillow under the stomach to reduce strain on the lower back and help the spine keep its natural alignment.
If after checking and changing your pillows you are still suffering from a stiff or sore neck, shoulder and back please do get in touch – there’s lots more I can do to help.