Why Your Pillows Might Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

March 01, 2018

Why Your Pillows Might Be Sabotaging Your Sleep

A vintage Hollywood Regency headboard? There’s nothing more glamorous.

A comfy vintage pillow? There’s no such thing.

Sleeping on a pillow past its prime is the difference between sweet dreams and health problems — à la neck pain, asthma triggers, and insomnia. Given that nearly a third of Americans are sleep-deprived, there’s a good chance you are sleeping on a cruddy pillow.

If you don’t know when it’s time to buy a new pillow or what kind of pillow works best for you, don’t fret. The solutions are as easy as counting sheep.

Below, we break down exactly how a worn-down pillow impacts your health, how to know when yours are shot, and the how to pick the right pillow for your sleep style.

Spine Alignment 

Your pillow should support your head in a neutral position — a straight and natural horizontal line — without strain or stretching.

Poor cervical posture during sleep leads to neck pain and stiffness, obviously. But it also causes headaches and arm and shoulder pain, as the pressure exerted upon the muscles is unevenly distributed. Studies show that most people can not fall asleep with a stiff neck or shoulder muscles that weren’t relaxed.

Another way old pillows affect your sleep is by, well, not staying cool. Pillows’ fibers compact and lose their ability to ventilate air over time, and studies show quality of sleep is strongly related to lowered core and head temperatures. It’s why we love the other side of the pillow so much.

Dust Mites

Your old pillow is a hot bed of dust mites, which are a common cause of asthma in children and congestion in adults, as about 20 million Americans are allergic to dust mites. A dust mite build-up will aggravate your breathing as you sleep, causing snoring and wheezing.

As snoring disrupts your sleep, your body is disrupted from entering stage 3 sleep, which can cause you to wake up still feeling tired after a full eight hours.  

Dust mites can also irritate your skin and cause facial redness, which is just a bit of a bummer. You can combat dust mites by washing and drying your pillows on high heat and replacing them regularly.

Sleeping Position 

How you sleep affects what kind of pillow you need. According to a national sleep study, 74 percent of people sleep on their side while 10 percent sleep on their back and 16 percent sleep on their stomach. 

To support the spine, side and back, sleepers should use firmer pillows, such as our Mia Gusseted Standard Pillow. The gusseted panel allows for additional padding and support to give you a pillow that’s still tall and perfectly fluffy but won’t misalign your cervical posture.

How Often To Buy New Pillows

The Sleep Foundation’s official recommendation is that you change your pillows every two years.

Having a large pile of old pillows is not the solution to poor cervical posture. It’s about quality over quantity, as a pile of pillows can strain the muscles of your neck and shift during the night. You can get a bit longer out of a higher-quality pillow, but should update them more as you get older and are more likely to suffer from poor sleep.

Here’s three simples ways to tell if your pillows are past their prime:

The Fold Test

Take your pillow and fold it in half. Your pillow should quickly spring back to its original shape; if it stays folded, it’s time to replace it.

The Fluff Test

A good pillow shouldn’t need fluffing. Lay your pillow down on your bed and examine its shape. Is it lumpy? Is there an indention from where you lay your head every night? If so, it’s time to go.

The Aches Test 

Simply said: if you wake up with neck or shoulder pain in the morning, you need to get new pillows. It’s a simple fix for a home good you need every night — and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a chiropractor.