How to choose the perfect pillow: expert advice

Health lifestyle

What is an anatomical pillow? Maybe it’s time to buy a beauty pillow? What material should be inside, latex, bamboo or feather? Now you will know exactly what to look for in the store

Why the right pillow is important

The wrong pillow is more than just a source of discomfort. If your neck is in an uncomfortable position for a long time, it can lead to unpleasant or even painful sensations.

In general, the rule is that when you sleep, your spine should be straight and your neck should not bend – which means that the pillow should fill the space between your shoulder and head (if you sleep on your side) or support your neck if you sleep on your back. If the support is insufficient and the neck bends, the vertebrae will shift slightly, and therefore the nerves in the cervical spine will be pinched. Impaired blood circulation or muscle tension can cause a headache – and even if the pain passes quickly, this signal from the body should not be ignored.

In addition, a poor pillow affects the quality of your sleep. In trying to get comfortable, we toss and turn and wake up more often, and sleep becomes ragged and shallow. Scientists associate lack of sleep with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease [ 1 ] and the development of atherosclerosis [ 2 ]. Not to mention mild nervousness, decreased concentration and inattention during the day.

In general, if in the morning you wake up with a desire to stretch your neck muscles, have a headache, or just systematically do not get enough sleep, it’s time to change your pillow.

What is the difference between orthopedic and anatomical pillows

First, you need to understand that the word “orthopedic” means that the pillow is intended for the treatment and prevention of diseases of the cervical spine, which means that it should be ordered according to the doctor’s prescription. This pillow is specially shaped so that the spine and neck are in the correct position.The anatomical pillow is made of a material that adjusts to the shape of the body, following the curve of the neck and spine, usually latex or memory foam. The plus is that such a pillow will help relieve fatigue and relieve neck muscles. However, when choosing, you should take into account the position in which you usually sleep: for example, the “wave” shape (with a small roller under the neck) will not suit those who sleep on their side or on their backs.

How to choose a pillow size

There are two aspects here. The first is the size of the pillow itself. In Russia, two standards are widespread: square 70×70 cm and rectangular 50×70 cm. It is for such pillows that most manufacturers produce bedding, although square pillowcases are still less common. You need to understand that a square pillow is larger, which means it is more expensive – it requires more filler and fabric to make it. In general, this is a matter of habit. A 50×70 cm pillow is enough for a comfortable sleep. 

The second aspect is height. And here, when choosing, you need to take into account the posture in which you are usually on your back. High pillows are suitable for those who prefer to sleep on their sides: the pillow should fill the entire space between the shoulder and the ear. Measure the length of your shoulder from the base of your neck to the shoulder joint – choose a pillow that is exactly that height.

If you usually sleep on your back, lower pillows with a height of 8-10 cm will be fine. An anatomical pillow with a recessed head may be optimal. If you are comfortable lying on it, it is worth stopping at this option.

For those who sleep on their stomachs, thin, almost flat pillows are more suitable. In this position, the neck is already tense enough, so you need to make sure that the head does not tilt back.



Do you often change your position while sleeping? Either look for a compromise – there are intermediate options – or buy two pillows at once: low and medium. The low one can be removed or, conversely, put.

A good option is a pillow in a pillow, some manufacturers already offer them. Part of the filler can be removed and thus the height can be adjusted.Remember the basic rule: when lying on a pillow, your neck and spine should be straight with a natural curve.

How to choose a pillow filler

The filler is responsible for the rigidity of the pillow, and this point is also very important for people who have allergies. What are the options?

Down and feather

Modern pillows usually consist of a combination of these materials. Down is responsible for lightness and softness, while feathers provide elasticity. When buying, pay attention to the percentage: the more fluff, the softer and lighter the pillow will be.

The pluses of down and feather pillows are natural. In addition, these pillows retain heat well and quickly restore their shape. The downside is that dust mites appear in feather pillows. In general, these pillows are contraindicated for allergy sufferers, because down and feathers are strong allergens. Plus, down pillows are short-lived: they need to be changed about every two years.




Usually sheep and camel wool is used for pillows. Pillows become soft and resilient, keep warm well and are well ventilated. However, this filler can also cause allergies and is short-lived: over time, the wool falls into lumps. In addition, it is an excellent breeding ground for dust mites, and moth loves woolen products. Woolen pillows cannot be washed.





Loose cotton threads are used as a filler. Such pillows are good air permeability, they are hypoallergenic. Usually cotton pillows are quite soft, but they quickly deform and no longer support the neck sufficiently, and therefore need to be changed frequently.




Excellent hypoallergenic material. Such pillows hold their shape well, are light, soft, but elastic enough. They tolerate washing well. The downside is the price. For production, silkworm cocoons are used, so the pillows are quite expensive.




Cheap and durable filler. Sintepon pillows are elastic, soft and light. In addition, the synthetic winterizer does not cause allergies and is easy to wash. Cons – fragility (even with proper care, you need to change it every one and a half to two years) and insufficient rigidity.




Usually used in anatomical and orthopedic pillows. These pillows are tough, firm, and support your neck well. Latex can be artificial or natural, but both materials are hypoallergenic.



Memory foam

Modern artificial material used in anatomical pillows. Hard enough, but softer than latex. The pillow is smooth, without lumps and perfectly follows the contours of the head and neck. The downside is not very good ventilation. Plus, these pillows are quite expensive, but they are definitely worth the money. And if you can afford it, choose pillows with this filling.



Buckwheat husk

Unusual natural material. Buckwheat husk pillows are quite hard, provide excellent neck support and are durable: they last a record three years. In addition, you can easily adjust the height of the pillow by removing or, conversely, adding filler. There are also disadvantages: the husk rustles a little when moving, and for some it interferes with sleep.



How to care for your pillow

In general, care always depends on the filling of the pillow. The manufacturer usually indicates the recommendations for care on the label – follow them to prolong the life of the product. However, there are some general tips.

For example, you should not sleep on a damp pillow or lie down until your hair is dry – in a humid environment, the filler quickly wears out, and if the material is not hypoallergenic, then an environment favorable for the reproduction of microorganisms arises.

Pillows need to be washed or cleaned regularly – again, it all depends on the filler. For example, pillows made of wool or with buckwheat husks should never be machine washed, and a pad made of padding polyester easily withstands such treatment. 

Adult pillows need to be washed or cleaned two to three times a year (again depending on the filler). Baby pillows should be refreshed more often: about once every two months. Also, pillows need to be regularly ventilated to get rid of moisture. It is better to choose pillowcases from natural fabrics – they improve ventilation. It is also worth using special covers with a moisture-proof membrane: this way the pillow will be protected from sweat and moisture and will last longer.



How Often Should You Change Your Pillows

It all depends on the filler, but in general, if your pillow is more than three years old, it’s definitely time to buy a new one.

Latex pillows live the longest – they are recommended to be changed every three to four years [ 3 ]. You should not sleep on feather and down pillows for more than two and a half years, and memory foam pillows serve the same period. Pillows with synthetic filling (polyester, artificial down) should be renewed at most once every two years.

How do you know if your pillow has reached the end of its life?

Here are some signs:

  • the filler has rolled or gathered into lumps;
  • there are stains on the pillow that cannot be washed off;
  • in the morning you feel tension or pain in your neck or shoulders;
  • you regularly wake up with a headache;
  • you constantly have to whip the pillow (we are talking about feathers and downy ones), otherwise it is uncomfortable to lie on it;
  • if the pillow is folded in half, it remains in this position – normally the pillow should straighten.





What is special about maternity pillows?

Maternity pillows are a separate type. These are long rollers with different shapes – horseshoes, letters C or G. The point is that such a pillow helps a woman find the most comfortable position for sleeping and resting, reducing the load on the spine. The pillow can be placed under your back, waist, legs or abdomen. Of course, you can use ordinary pillows, but this is less convenient, and you will need a lot of them.

When choosing, you should pay attention not only to the shape, but also to the material from which the pillow is made. It is best to choose hypoallergenic lightweight materials, for example, holofiber or expanded polystyrene balls (such a pillow also perfectly adapts to the contours of the body).





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