Posture and Pillow choices

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Most people don’t think too much about their choice of pillow unless they sleep badly or suffer from pain (usually neck or back pain), but the right pillow can make a big impact on your quality of sleep, your health and your well being.

A pillow is designed to fill the gap between your head, neck and the mattress to maintain the spine in natural alignment and a good pillow should dynamically assume that shape during position changes as you sleep. If the height of the pillow is too high when sleeping sideways or on the back, the neck is bent abnormally forward or to the side, causing muscle strain on the back of the neck and shoulders. This type of position may also cause narrowing of the air pipe, resulting in obstructed breathing, and sometimes snoring, which can hinder sleep.

canstockphoto72658811Conversely, if the height of the pillow is too low, the neck muscles can also be strained.

Most pillows are made with synthetic fibres or foam, which are more friendly to allergy-prone people and easy to wash. If you must have a down or feather pillow, make sure it doesn’t cause an allergic reaction in your sleep partner before you purchase it. Other types of pillows include orthopedic varieties that are designed to relieve pain and stiffness in the neck or back. Orthopedic pillows are more expensive than conventional pillows.

The most common fills for pillows are down feathers, synthetic/polyester fibres and foam. Natural goose down feather pillows are long-lasting and excellent in terms of comfort but they can be a bit pricey. A more cost-friendly option would be synthetic/polyester fiber pillows, which are generally hypoallergenic, feels like down and are machine washable. For firmer support, spongy memory foam pillows are the way to go. But foam pillows are known to retain heat, so if you sweat easily I suggest you shy away.

There is no single pillow that’s great for everyone. We are all different shapes and sizes and have different sleeping styles and so need to choose a pillow which is suited to each of us. Determining your sleeping style will play a huge role in the type of pillow you choose:
Do you mostly:

If you are a side sleeper, you should try putting a soft, low-density pillow between your knees (especially for women). You might find this unusual, but it helps to align your hip properly, taking the pressure off your spine.

Lastly, test your pillow. If you own a polyester pillow, fold it in half and place a shoe on top. If the pillow unfolds and knocks the shoe off, it is still good. If the shoe wins, the pillow probably needs replacing. If you have a feather pillow, fold it in half and squeeze out as much air as you can (leave the shoe out of this contest.). When you release the pillow, it should unfold on its own. If not, its goose is cooked and the pillow needs to be replaced.

Information compiled by: Jacqueline McWade

Contact Jacqueline on train@fit4u.co.za