Choosing the right pillow may seem like a relatively simple task, but it can have a tremendous impact on your quality of sleep and your susceptibility to developing muscular issues over time. Sleep is one of the first things we learn to do as a human being, which lulls many into believing that it is a straightforward, easy issue to contend with. However, sleeping too much, sleeping too little, sleeping in the wrong position, sleeping on the wrong mattress, and sleeping on the wrong pillow can all have significant effects on your quality of sleep and health over time. So how do you determine the best way to get the restful night of sleep you need? The first place to start is by conducting an analysis of your habits as you sleep, primarily your sleeping position, and from there choosing the best sleeping pillow to support your head and neck throughout the night. Below is a guide of the best pillows for sleeping based on the variety of different sleep styles you may sleep in throughout the night.
The Three Main Sleep Styles
When attempting to determine your sleeping style, it is imperative that you understand the three main sleep styles the majority of human beings naturally take as they doze. The three main sleep styles are back sleepers, side sleepers, and stomach sleepers. Each sleep style carries its own benefits and negatives, and understanding the impact of each will help you figure out which sleep style you most often adopt during the night, and which one is really the best for your body and lifestyle. Below is a breakdown of the pros and cons of sleeping on your back, stomach, and side.
- Stomach Sleepers: On average, seven percent of adults sleep in this pose each night, but it is not recommended as the best sleeping pose, particularly for those suffering from neck and back injuries. One benefit of sleeping on your stomach is that it can help prevent and ease snoring and select instances of sleep apnea, but that is generally regarded as one of the only positive attributes of this sleeping style. When you sleep on your stomach, the natural curve of your spine is flattened, which over time can lead to lower back pain. In addition, sleeping on your stomach requires your head to be turned to one side throughout the night, which causes strain to the muscles in the neck and upper back. Sleeping on your stomach may seem like a relatively innocuous choice, but each night it is causing pressure to be applied to your muscles and joints, which can lead to muscle aches, tingling, irritated nerves, and numbness. For those prone to sleeping on their stomach, it is recommended that you use a pillow on one side of your body to slowly train your body to sleep in a different position. This will be uncomfortable at first and may be a very hard habit to break, particularly because many people move and adjust their position naturally as they sleep throughout the night. This investment of time will be well worth it in the end if it saves you a future of neck and back pain, so if you are a stomach sleeper then it is vital to consider other sleeping styles.
- Back Sleepers: Sleeping on your back is a much better pose for your back and neck health, but it can lead to a higher occurrence of both snoring and sleep apnea. The supine position is very closely linked to sleep apnea and for those who experience sleep apnea and are back sleepers, it is often recommended that they switch to sleeping on their side to alleviate or lessen their symptoms. When you sleep at night on your back, the force of gravity causes the base of the tongue to fall into the airway, which can obstruct the airway and lead to the sound of snoring. However, despite these drawbacks, sleeping on your back also carries with it a myriad of important benefits to consider. Sleeping on your back is generally regarded as a much better choice for your neck and back health as it allows the back to remain straight and avoid the problematic contortions it adopts when sleeping on your stomach. In addition, back sleepers experience the full benefits of their mattress as in this pose it can fully support the spine. Back sleepers also experience a lower instance of acid reflux due to the position of the head and neck. Sleeping on your back can also carry a variety of cosmetic benefits as it prevents your face from being pressed against a pillow. This has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time, and for those with eyelash extensions, it can increase the wear time between fills and the curvature and appearance of the eyelash extensions. It is important to keep in mind that choosing the right pillow in this pose is extremely important as using too many pillows or the incorrect pillow can make breathing more difficult, which is particularly uncomfortable for those suffering from sleep apnea or snoring. Despite being a back and neck friendly option, only about eight percent of the population sleeps in this pose.
- Side Sleepers: The vast majority of the population are side sleepers, making this an important sleep style to understand. Side sleepers can adopt different poses throughout the night, with many gravitating towards the fetal position and some remaining straight on their side. It is recommended that pregnant women sleep on their left side throughout the duration of their pregnancy in order to increase circulation to the heart, which helps keep both the baby and its mother healthy during the pregnancy. In addition, this sleep style is recommended for pregnant women because it alleviates pressure on the lower back caused by sleeping on their back. Stomach sleeping is another option off the table for pregnant women due to their protruding bellies. For other side sleepers, sleeping on the left side can also reduce the occurrence of acid reflux and heartburn. Sleeping on your side can also be beneficial for those experiencing back and neck pain as this pose allows the spine to be elongated, thereby helping to prevent back and neck pain due to sleep style. Sleeping on your side also helps prevent snoring and sleep apnea as it allows the airways to remain open throughout the night. Despite these attractive benefits, sleeping on your side also carries a few notable negatives. Sleeping on your side can lead to numbness in your extremities, specifically your arms, which can be uncomfortable and disorienting upon awakening. In addition, this position can exert pressure on the stomach and lungs when sleeping on your left side, though this can be mitigated by switching which side you are sleeping on throughout the night. For those side sleepers who tuck one arm behind their head as they sleep, the muscles and nerves of the arm can be adversely affected by this pose over time. When resting your head or body on a single arm while sleeping on your stomach, you can restrict blood flow and press down on the nerves, which results in the painful pins and needles sensation many people are familiar with. Sleeping on your side causes the majority of your body weight to press down on your shoulder, which can lead to constriction of the neck and shoulder muscles, resulting in shoulder and neck pain over time.
How to Choose the Right Pillow for Your Sleep Style
Each sleep style has its own set of positives and negatives associated with it and being aware of which sleep style you adopt during the night will help you be more cognizant of potential problem areas and will aid you in finding the right pillow to suit your sleep style. Once you have determined your sleep style, the next step is to analyze the pillow options available and determine the right pillow for your sleep style and comfort throughout the night. Below is a guide to choosing the right pillow for your sleep style.
- Stomach Sleepers: Since sleeping on the stomach during the night can cause back and neck pain due to the contortion of the spine, it is important to choose a pillow that minimizes the impact of this sleep style. If you sleep on your stomach, it is important to find a relatively flat pillow that will conform to the curves of your head and neck and will mitigate the pressure that sleeping on the stomach exerts on the head and neck. Finding a natural memory foam or buckwheat pillow that will shape to the head and neck is vital for stomach sleepers as these materials can be relatively flat in shape and cradle the head and neck.
- Back Sleepers: If you primarily sleep on your back throughout the night, it is important to find a pillow that will support the curve of your neck and support your head as you sleep. This will help prevent tension on your cervical spine. By finding a pillow that adequately supports your head, neck, and shoulders, you will be able to reduce tension in your body muscles and have a more relaxed, comfortable posture. Since sleeping on your back can worsen sleep apnea and snoring, it is important to consider the height of your pillow as the angle of your neck will significantly contribute to snoring and sleep apnea. You will need to make sure that your pillow provides enough support to your head and neck that your airway can remain unobstructed and open. When trying to find the best pillow for back sleepers, look for a natural memory foam pillow as this will conform to the curves of the head and neck and offer the support the neck needs to keep the airway open. Essentia’s Comfort pillow is comprised of natural, shredded memory foam made using hevea milk. Instead of being filled with fibers, the Comfort pillow is made out of shredded natural latex and shredded memory foam that is soft, supportive, and naturally, conforms to your sleeping style.
- Side Sleepers: If you are a side sleeper, when selecting a pillow you will want to target a pillow that keeps the head and neck equally supported while allowing the spine to maintain its natural curve and avoid contortion. For side sleepers, a pillow must be breathable and must have a thicker density in order to provide the support needed, which can make finding the best pillow for sleeping on your side a challenge. For side sleepers, a natural shredded memory foam pillow is the best pillow for sleeping on your side as it will offer the breathability, support, and comfort desired. In addition to shredded memory foam, side sleepers may benefit from a buckwheat, or microbead pillow.
- Mixed Sleepers: Many people do not sleep in one sleep style throughout the entire night, these sleepers are actually classified as mixed sleepers since they transition between different sleep styles throughout the night. Finding the best pillow for a mixed sleeper presents a unique challenge as the conditions and positions of the body are constantly changing. To prevent the tossing and turning throughout the night from negatively affecting your health and quality of sleep, it is important to find a pillow that supports your head and neck while also aligning your cervical spine and hips. For mixed sleepers, the best type of pillow available is a hybrid pillow that is made out of a combination of different fillings. The best pillow for a mixed sleeper is a hybrid pillow made out of shredded natural memory foam and shredded latex as this will offer breathability and support throughout the night. Due to the hybrid nature of Essentia’s Comfort pillow, this makes it an excellent choice for mixed sleepers as it allows them to get the rest they need while supporting their head and neck throughout the night.