Since 1/3 of our life is spent in bed, how can we make the best of that time? Using a good pillow at night is part of the answer. All your life, your neck has been carrying around a 10 to 12 pound bowling ball. 16 hours a day – decade after decade. Only at night do your muscles, ligaments, and spine get a break. Why not then “proactively” support and re-align your neck in the best possible position for those 8 hours in bed? Here are some good principles to follow:
There are a lot of choices out there for pillows. For starters, a standard “medium” polyester fiberfill pillow is a reasonably good choice. (Bed Bath & Beyond, Boscov’s or JCPenney’s). Alternatively, a good quality “contour” pillow is often a better choice, although these can take a bit to get used to. Ask your chiropractor for his/her advice on what makes a good contour pillow. Avoid feather pillows, crushed foam pillows, firm pillows with little give, or overly squishy “memory foam” pillows. The goal is to have your head supported.
When considering a new pillow, you want your eyes to be either perfectly parallel to the bed when lying on your back or perfectly perpendicular to the bed when lying on your side.
Here are some other suggestions. First, if you tend to place your hands under your pillow (while on your side), that is an indication that your pillow is old, too compressed or too short. You are just trying to add some height by stuffing your hands under there. A firmer or newer pillow allows you to keep your arms in a more natural, neutral position. Second, the top of your shoulders should rest right up to the lower edge of the pillow – but be careful that they don’t rest on top of the actual pillow. Unless, of course, you want to buy a new pillow every 60 days!
Do you use 2 pillows? Unless they’re stacked very nicely on top of each other (and stay there), they will tend to act as a “ramp” rather than create good neck support while your head is sunk into the center of the pillow. You are much better off getting one new pillow that matches the height that you are used to.
Finally, if you have the same favorite pillow for 15 years, keep in mind – YES – it can take a bit to get used to a new one. But again, your neck does a lot for you. No one likes the bent forward “look” – even though your head is indeed heavy. Instead, give “Old Man Gravity” your best fight and consider a new pillow for better support!