Sleepless nights can be caused by many things. We are accustomed to thinking about the affect our working day has on our ability to sleep. Or relationships may be causing distress that keeps you in turmoil. You may even have thought about changing your bed or your mattress. Changing your pillow is a relatively low-cost solution that may not have occurred to you yet.
No-one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow – Lin Yutang
Pain and discomfort
There is a lot of well-meaning rot talked about people’s inability to get to sleep. There could be many reasons for facing sleepless nights. We are not counselors here, so we’re going to focus on some of the physical issues that may be causing you to lose sleep.
Another thing worth bearing in mind when you can sleep is that you may wake up with aches and pains in your neck and shoulders. It’s possible these are caused by a pillow which is really unsuitable for you.
In addition, since Charlotte’s time, there are a lot more pillow technologies available: we have a lot more choices available to us for somewhere to lay our ruffled mind when we sleep.
A ruffled mind makes a restless pillow – Charlotte Bronte
No matter how hard you work (Benjamin, please note), one of the first things to think about when choosing a pillow is your preferred sleeping position. Whether you sleep on your back, your front, your side or in any combination will help determine what type of pillow is right for you. In fact, there are sleeping positions where it’s better to sleep without a pillow.
Not sure which is your preferred position? Over a period of a couple of weeks, make a note of what position you choose to sleep in when you settle down. Make a conscious effort to try different positions before you doze off. See what feels comfortable to you. Then, when you wake up in the morning, write down the position you were in when you woke up. Look for patterns and consistency.
Fatigue is the best pillow- Benjamin Franklin
If you decide you are a stomach sleeper, you’ll probably benefit from a soft, light, flat pillow which helps your back stay in a straight line as you sleep. You don’t want your head tilted back too far.
If you are a back sleeper, you will want a medium-thick pillow to support and ease pressure on your neck. Nothing to deep and nothing too soft.
Side sleepers will need something firmer and thicker to raise your head off the bed so that your spine stays in line. You could also think about something near your knees to help you maintain your position.
If you find no discernible pattern, you are probably a “mixed sleeper” or a combination sleeper. In that case, try something of medium thickness and a little softer than average so that you can be comfortable in several positions.
It could be that your sleepless nights are caused by allergic reactions to what is inside the pillow. Traditional feather or down pillows are not always the best if you develop allergic reactions to them. These reactions may be extreme (sneezing, runny eyes etc) but the symptoms cold be more subtle than that leading to tension in your neck – you may not even be aware you are reacting adversely.
Modern pillows can be filled with memory foam, latex, shredded memory foam, corn husks instead of feather and down. In the same way, the covers can be made of cotton, wool, polyester, latex, memory foam. Latex pillows are breathable and promote better airflow as compared to memory foam pillows.
There are a range of special needs pillows on the market now, ranging from app-connected anti-snoring pillows to pillows shaped like a lower case ‘n’ or long thin sausage pillows. You can buy a cervical pillow which has a mixture of densities within it. Or “cool” pillows designed to draw heat away from your head as it rests on the pillow. Any of these may be of interest to you if you are looking for something to break a pattern of discomfort.
Time for a Change?
Once you’ve found a good solution, how frequently should you change your pillow? One simple test has been dubbed the “trainer test”. Take a clean training shoe. Fold your pillow over in half. Place the trainer on top. If the weight of the trainer, keeps the pillow folder over, it has probably lost its structural integrity and you are due a new pillow.
And just to finish things off, a little more advice from the English poet, William Cowper (who also declared variety to be the spice of life): “The innocent seldom find an uncomfortable pillow”.
William, you are not helping!