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Choosing the Best Pillow for a Healthier Night’s Sleep

November 2, 2012

Most people will spend money on a high quality mattress but then buy pillows that don’t support the head and neck properly. It makes sense that sleeping on the wrong mattress can quickly lead to a backache but did you know that poor alignment of the neck and upper back during sleep can lead to other chronic painful spinal problems?

If a person’s head is supported by the pillow at a level that’s either too high or too low relative to the rest of the body, the neck and upper back can be placed under stress.  Similar stress can also occur if their upper back is not supported along with the neck (so that the head tilts forward), or if the head is allowed to roll sideways when the person is sleeping on his or her back.  Symptoms include snoring, insomnia and waking up with a headache, stiff neck or numbness in the arms and hands. If you’re experiencing these sorts of symptoms, you may be sleeping on the wrong pillow.

Choosing a pillow is a very personal decision. The pillow that’s right for someone else may not be right for you. Here are some simple guidelines that will make it easier for you to choose the right one. The right pillow should:

  • Support your head at the proper height whether you’re sleeping on your side or on your back. A good way to check your alignment is to make sure your nose is in line with your sternum (the little divot or notch between your collar bones)
  • Support both your head and neck in a neutral position while you’re sleeping on your side (Make sure there is no gap between the pillow and your neck!).
  • Provide adequate support for both your neck and upper back while you’re sleeping on your back.
  • Keep your head tilted in the proper neutral position while you’re sleeping on your back.
  • Prevent your head from rolling sideways while you’re sleeping on your back.

In general, you’re looking for a pillow that supports your neck, cushions your head and keeps your spine in alignment. Usually a good supportive pillow has a curved edge that can sit between your ear and your shoulder when on your side. Memory foam pillows can be manipulated to fill in the space between you head and neck.   Have your chiropractor check your current pillow to see if it is correct for you. A small change in your pillow can make all the difference for a better sleep and less discomfort. Your spine will thank you for it!