The proper pillow is an investment in your health

SOFT OR FIRM; feather, foam or down: How do you choose the best pillow? If you wake up with a sore neck and back, if your pillow is so flat you have to bend it, if your last pillow came from the bargain bin, you may need a new pillow.

First, the job of a pillow is to support your head, neck and back, pillow experts say. A better pillow can mean a better night’s sleep. You can spend $5, $100 or in between. A good pillow might last for up to 20 years, while a less expensive pillow may need to be replaced after three years. Keep in mind, you’re investing not only in a good night’s sleep, but also in your health, as national studies have linked poor sleep to a variety of health issues.

A proper pillow isn’t always the largest one on the shelf. The average consumer views bigger as better. A pillow can be very large and fluffy and not be correct for the type of sleeper you are.

How you sleep helps determine the best pillow. About 70 percent of people sleep on their sides, 20 percent are primarily back sleepers and 10 percent are stomach sleepers.

A side sleeper requires the most support and an extra-firm pillow, while a back sleeper can go for a medium-firm to firm pillow and a stomach sleeper might opt for a mediumdensity, flatter pillow. Since more people are side sleepers, a firm pillow is a good choice for a guest room. If you talk to people, you’ll hear them say, I bend my pillow in half to double it up. They’re so used to buying a pillow and bending it. The truth is, the pillow is not providing enough support.

If you have allergies, you’ll want to get a hypoallergenic pillow. While all synthetic fills are allergen free, you can also get down and feather pillows rated hypoallergenic. There are a lot of consumers who feel they are allergic to down and feathers when in fact they are allergic to improperly washed down and feathers.

A memory foam pillow will mold itself to the contours of your body. Open-cell memory foam pillows are designed to keep air flowing. A lot of people, as they’re sleeping, find their pillow gets hot, customers that they don’t feel hot on opencell memory foam] pillows.

Taking care of your pillow is important to extend its life span. You definitely want to protect it from oils and dirt. To wash or not to wash? Check the tag. In most cases, a pillow that can withstand washing is higher quality. The stitching will be more durable. The fill will be good so it can withstand washing. Due to the material it is made from, memory foam cannot be washed.

Whether or not your pillow is washable, you can extend its life with zippered pillow protectors in addition to pillowcases.

Take time when buying your pillow. People’s tastes in pillows vary greatly—it’s a very personal decision.

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