do pillows make a difference in sleep?

Do Pillows Make A Difference In Sleep? – How Pillows Affect Your Sleep

Maybe you are one of the people (like me) who are sleeping on the same pillow for years. Now that you are used to it, you see that some say a good and fresh pillow makes all the difference in sleep quality. So, the big question is: Do pillows make a difference in sleep?
And if they do, how much of a difference is it? And when should you replace yours to keep your sleep as good as possible.

In this post, we’re going to cover

  • Do pillows make a difference in sleep?
  • What is a quality pillow? – How to pick one that suits your sleep type
  • When should you replace your pillow?

So let me introduce you to the power of pillows.

The quick answer: Yes, pillows make a tremendous difference in sleep. A quality pillow makes you sleep deeper and better and you will wake up more refreshed than anyone else. In contrast, a bad pillow can cause you a lot of sleep troubles. Even if you don’t connect your sleep problems to your pillow on the first glance, a good pillow is a real game changer.

That was the quick answer, but you still don’t know the exact difference a pillow makes for sleep, how you can find a quality pillow that suits your type and whether you should keep your old pillow or get a new one. So let’s dive into the details!

Why I sleep on 3 different pillows every night

Personally, I am one of the guys, who are using the same pillow over and over again. I never actually thought about replacement. However, when I moved to a new apartment in another city, I needed to get a new one. The bed in my hometown stayed in place and I still sleep there sometimes. On top of that, I often sleep at my girlfriend’s house, where I have yet another pillow. Summed up, I am sleeping on three different pillows in three different beds every week. And after I started sleeping here and there, I noticed the massive difference a simple pillow can make for your sleep.

Do pillows make a difference in sleep?

The right pillow makes a massive difference in sleep quality compared to a bad pillow. Here are a few points that a good pillow does to your sleep.

The right pillow improves your spine posture

The right pillow adapts to your spine posture and releases pressure points and muscle tension. As a result, waking up with neck pain becomes incredibly unlikely. For back and side sleepers, a thicker pillow to support the spine must be chosen than for stomach sleepers. But we’ll discuss that later on. I often wake up with tenseness in the neck area depending on whether I sleep on a thin and firm pillow or a big, really soft pillow. As I am a stomach sleeper, the thin and firm pillows keep my neck relaxed much more.

natural sleep program long

A good pillow makes you sleep deeper

Whenever you get a new pillow that fits your sleeping style, you’ll notice that your sleep quality gets dramatically better. According to sleep scientists, a bad pillow can decrease sleep duration up to one hour. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist and psychologist, says that a decrease of just one hour of sleep makes your body feel like you missed 90% of sleep at night. That’s because the most important sleep phase is at the very end of your 8 hours of sleep. If you cut that hour off, the most important restorations and sleep processes are interrupted. And if you interrupt the most important phase of your sleep every night, you’ll feel like a piece of mud every single morning.

A good pillow is an investment in your health and worth every dollar

Right now it’s like this: You’ve already adapted to bad sleep. Your body feels bad every morning. But you only accept it, because you forgot how real refreshing sleep feels like. When you wake up in the morning and actually feel good. Fewer and fewer people experience refreshing and healthy sleep. While nearly everyone else adapted to a bad sleep pattern.

A pillow, therefore, is an investment, that pays out quickly and is great for your health and wellbeing. A good pillow costs about 50-100$, which sounds like a lot at first glance, but if you remember you’ll use it for (let’s say) 5 years, that makes it just 0.02-0.05$ per day. I don’t know any other sleep aid where you can get so much benefit out of so little money.

Good Pillows Cool Down Your Head

You most likely know these hot summer nights where you feel like you are trying to sleep inside a sauna. And you can’t fall asleep because your pillow gets hotter every second. Having to turn your pillow over keeps you awake and prevents you from finally falling asleep.

Good pillows don’t absorb heat as bad ones do. Some even have built-in layers to absorb and distribute the heat from your head. That’s a blessing for your sleep quality and your health.

New pillows are clean and fresh – Prevent allergies

Old pillows carry a lot of moist. Often, but not always, you can see a light yellow staining caused by sweat accumulation. This causes bacteria to grow on your pillow (and other little monsters you don’t even want to know about).

This doesn’t cause serious problems for everyone. Most will just find the smell and moist feeling uncomfortable. But for some people, this causes the development of allergies and attacks the immune system. 

A new pillow is always clean and fresh so there’s nothing to worry about. Or if you like your old pillow, a thorough wash would be a great improvement. Also, the smell and feel of a fresh pillow make all the difference in feeling comfortable at night.

If your pillow is too stained, just get a new one. However, if you feel it’s still good, wash it. Who doesn’t love freshly washed bed linen?

What is a quality pillow? – How to pick one that suits your sleep type

A quality pillow fulfills the following quality criteria.

Criterium 1: Quality pillows last long

I can’t remember when I bought my last pillow but it’s definitely years ago. You don’t want to be spending hours in the pillow store every few months because the last pillow you bought is used up. A good pillow keeps it’s size and shape and does not deform after sleeping on it over and over. Bad pillows “break down” after using them a lot and lose their supportive function.

This pillow lasts me for years and shows no signs of breaking down yet – awesome!

My girlfriend has one of those pillows which looks big and fluffy, but after you put your head on it, you sink down all the way to the way to the bottom, which feels like there is no stuffing at all.

Criterium 2: Quality pillows don’t squeak

Every time I’m in a cheap hotel I get a bed with sqeaky pillow that makes noise every time I move my head. These are annoying as hell and you want to avoid them at all cost.

Quality pillows don’t make any noise.

Criterium 3: Quality pillows are washable

It’s important that it’s washable, simply because a washable pillow can be used for much longer than other pillows. You’ll get more for your money.

Cheap pillows are often not washable, because their stuffing will become sticky and lumpy. If you see a pillow you can’t wash, it could be an indicator that it’s not the best quality.

However, it’s not a clear sign, because some of the highest quality pillows with down inside are not washable as well.

Master Criterium: Quality pillows prevent neck pain and headaches

This is the single most important aspect of chosing a pillow. Especially, if you already experience neck pain or headaches every morning, the reason is most likely that it’s your bad old pillows fault. Though, a lot of people mistakenly think that the reason for their early-morning pain is a bad sleep posture.

A good pillow decreases the stress on your neck muscles which causes a release of headache and neck pain.

Any pillow that fulfills these criteria is already a huge step ahead of bad quality, deforming and annoying hotel pillows.

How to pick one that suits your sleep type

The right pillow is not only of high quality, but it must also suit your sleep type. Side sleepers need entirely different pillows than belly sleepers. Depending on which category you belong to, here’s what you need.

Which pillow suits me as a side sleeper?

As a side sleeper, you need a pillow that keeps your head in line with your spine. If it’s too flat, your neck will bend and cause serious stress on your bones and muscles. You can save yourself all of that pain and get a pillow designed for side sleeper that keeps your head in just the right position.

Here is the single best side sleeper pillow on amazon:

  1. Sleep Artisan Luxury Side Sleeper Pillow: (special side sleeping design) Has a shape that’s specially designed to fit around your shoulder so your posture stays straight. Also, you can adjust the height by removing the filling inside (which is not possible for a lot of pillows),

Which pillow suits me as a back sleeper?

Back sleepers are best supplied with a pillow that keeps your head on a light angle without too much bending. A low-quality pillow can overbend your spine which causes neck strain. There are some exceptionally good back sleeper pillows out there that provide a well-balanced height.

Let me list the two best pillows for back sleepers here.

  1. Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow (incredibly high rated). With over 5,000 buyer ratings, you can’t go wrong with this one. 
  2. KLOUDES Adjustable Pillow: People say it’s the best pillow they’ve ever slept on and it relieved all their neck pain. For its size, it comes in a tiny little vacuum packaging (you can shrink pillows by pulling the air out). You’ll have a lot of fun unboxing it! And because it’s adjustable, you remove stuffing that’s too much or if you want some more height, the seller will supply you with some free extra filling (at least that’s what a lady wrote in her review)!

Which pillow suits me as a belly sleeper?

The final group of sleepers is the belly sleepers (and I’m personally one of them too). If you are a belly sleeper, you definitely need a flat pillow that doesn’t hold up your head too much. The reason is, again, stress on your neck and muscles. Personally, I’ve been sleeping on bad pillows way too often and I can definitely confirm that sleeping on big pillows is a big no for belly sleepers. Every single time I’ve slept on a pillow that’s designed for back sleepers or side sleepers, I’ve had headaches and tense muscles the next day.
Here is the best pillow for belly sleepers.

  1. Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow for Stomach and Back Sleepers: This pillow eliminates neck pain that even chiropractic treatments couldn’t. It is one “solid” piece of foam instead of loose stuffing. Therefore it will never get lumpy and there’s no stuffing inside that can stick together. It is pretty flat because it’s made just for back sleepers. In case you change positions at night you can easily fold it over itself so you get some extra height.

I have carefully looked up these pillows for you and I’m sure they will be the right choice. Remember, a pillow is the number one investment in your sleep quality and makes a dramatic difference in your wellbeing. I’ve only listed pillows that will last you a long time and are worth every dollar.

When should you replace your pillow?

Pillows get worn out after some time. They can even start smelling or change color. I’ve had pillows that I used a lot which go a little yellow after a few years. The change in color is usually caused by sweat and moist and is difficult to get rid of. That’s a sure sign you want to replace your pillow with a new one. Especially, if you remove the pillowcase and take a look at how the pillow looks like, you can get good insight.

If it’s white and looks like new, everything is fine. But if there are changes in color that occurred even though you’ve used a pillowcase, think of replacing it. Moist, sweat and dirt in pillows can cause allergies and are usually not that healthy.

Here’s how one of my pillows looks like. As you can see, the pillowcase got slightly yellow, so I definitely need to replace it. Still, the actual pillow inside looks just fine, so I can safely keep it.

Take care of your pillow

As long as there’s no discoloring yet, you are probably just fine with simply washing the pillow every now and then so it keeps its fresh smell. Depending on which kind of pillow you are using, you can put it in the washing machine as a whole or you can just wash the pillowcase. Actually, it doesn’t matter because the smell usually sticks to the surface of the pillow.

As long as you are feeling comfortable with your pillow, there’s no need to replace it. You’ll definitely notice when to replace it when the time has come.

I’ve had pillows that got a little sticky and lumpy after using them every night. If you have a pillow like this, definitely dispose of it. Not only does it feel bad and uncomfortable to sleep on a lumpy pillow, but it can also displace your posture and cause serious headaches and muscle strain the next morning.

The Outline – How Important are Pillows for your Sleep?

As you now know, having a good pillow makes a big difference in your sleep quality and reduces your muscle tension. Even if you get a pillow that makes just a little difference of for example 5% higher sleep quality, it causes you to feel 50% better. For example, the difference in tiredness when you sleep for 6 hours vs. 7 hours is huge. Even though it’s just a reduction of about 14% of your sleep time, you’ll feel so much worse than just 14%.

That’s a phenomenon you see very often in life. Things are not linear. Just as adding salt to your food. As soon as you add just a gram too much of it, your whole meal is ruined.

Just like this, very little changes in sleep can have a big impact on your everyday energy-level.

Your pillow is like a gram of salt. It can make your sleep so much better, but with a bad pillow, you completely destroy your sleep quality.

Don’t try to save money on pillows

Pillows are an investment that looks expensive on the first glance, but as soon as you break it down to the everyday cost, a good pillow costs you just a cent per day (because you’ll use it for years).

If you want to find out more on how you can improve your sleep with simple tweaks like using earplugs, timing your sleep right or reading books, go and check out all the other helpful sleep guides you can find here. I’m sure there’s something for you.

I even answer questions that sound weird in at first but make a lot of sense after you think about it a little. Here’s one of them: Is it dangerous to sleep next to a fridge?

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