How to choose the right pillow for your needs


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Selecting a pillow is like selecting the right candidate for a job. Which means, you need to sift through several pillow profiles and pick the one that suits the job description the most. In this case, your pillow should support the natural curvature of the spine so you can breathe better and wake up without pain(s).

Investing in right sleep products such as pillows was always deemed wise but it’s become necessary more than ever. According to a report, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the sleeping woes in the UK as one in three Brits, that’s 33%, are sleeping less than before.

In this article, WhatASleep will tell you how to buy a pillow to suit your requirements because every body is unique and deserves special TLC.

how to choose a pillow UK
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Factors to consider while buying a pillow

Just like HRs have a checklist of parameters that a job candidate should meet, every sleeper should have a list of things they want and don’t want from their pillow. Like this one. 

  • What’s your sleeping position?
  • Does the pillow prioritise neck support? 
  • What is the size of the pillow?
  • What is the pillow filled with?
  • Does the pillow breathe and stay cool?
  • Can the pillow be washed easily?
  • Are there pillows for special needs such as pregnancy?

There’s a pillow for every sleeping position

You might not realise but the requirements of a side sleeper differ vastly from somebody who likes it all – side, back, and front. So, the first thing one should determine while looking for a pillow is, one’s preferred sleeping style.

  • Side sleepers: If you like to sleep sideways, choose a high loft and firm pillow. The other option is to get a pillow that’s lighter but thicker, as thick as the distance between your ear and outer shoulder.

  • Stomach sleepers: If you sleep on your tummy, go for a low-loft soft pillow so it doesn’t crush your face. But if you have back pain, insert a pillow under your stomach and pelvis to give your spine a lift and keep it comfortable.

  • Back sleepers: A pillow with both medium firmness and thickness will do good to back sleepers. In terms of function, it should mould a little around your head and neck and keep them aligned through the night.

  • Combination sleeper: If you like to sleep in varying positions, you need a pillow or a pillow combination that’s versatile. Choose a medium thick pillow or stack two softer pillows to sleep non-stop.
Choosing the right pillow loft/firmness based on sleeping positions

Pillows with additional health benefits

Pillows can do more than what you think. They can bring relief from snoring all the way to pregnancy pain. Read along.

  • Anti-snoring pillows: It’s found that snoring generally stops if a snorer sleeps on his/her side. That’s why, anti-snoring pillows are designed to keep you perched sideways and comfortably so.
  • Sleep apnea pillows: These keep your head elevated and reduce pressure on your cervical spine. In turn, these can help open your airway and alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea (a sleep disorder marked by erratic breathing).
  • Neck pain pillows: These provide better neck and spine alignment.
  • Back pain pillows: As the name suggests, these lend better lumbar (lower back) support to relieve sore backs.
  • Pregnancy pillows: These are designed to provide overall support to pregnant bodies, cradling the back, knees, belly and other stressed spots. Using one during the second and third trimesters can make expectant mums sleep better and wake up without aching bodies.

Size does matter

Pillows come in different sizes and the most common ones are: standard (20 x 26 inches), queen-size (20 x 28 or 30 inches), and king-size (20 x 36 inches).

For starters, the size of the pillow should correspond to the size of your bed. That is, buy queen-size pillows for your queen-size mattresses and king-size pillows for your king-size beds. Smaller pillows are good for side sleepers as these can be placed between the knees for greater comfort. 

Then there are pillows for extra needs. Get a body pillow (around 20 x 50 inches) to provide back support to your pregnant or recovering bodies. Or, throw in square-shaped Euro pillow (26 x 26 inches) for décor and bed-time reading.

Mind the height

To ensure your pillow does its job well, it should be of the appropriate height. If you have neck pain, go for a flatter pillow. A higher pillow can exert more pressure on your neck and make your pain worse. 

Check the filling inside

Just like a cream filling makes a cake more delicious, the right filling can make your pillow many times effective. Here are the popular options on the market. 

  • Memory foam: Memory foam cradles and contours according to your weight and body heat. Hence, it works best for people with head and neck pain.
  • Wool: Wool wicks away moisture from your head and neck regions and is naturally hypoallergenic and resistant to mould and dust mites. It also regulates the temperature, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. A bit firm, wool pillows will serve the side sleepers well.
  • Cotton: If you are allergic to wool or sensitive to chemicals, cotton pillows are a good alternative. These are mostly firm on feel and flatter in height but also hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites and mould.
  • Latex: These pillows are firm and hold their shape. And so, they are used to provide extra support or limit excess movement during sleep. Yet they are comfortable and mould-resistant.

Test the pillow

No satisfaction is bigger than trying a product and then putting money on it. Thankfully, some brands let you try their pillows in your bedroom for more than six months! Eve Sleep offers a 14-night trial. It’s 30 days in the case of Tempur and 60 days for Dormeo Octasense. Pinch yourself if you want but brands like Emma provide a 200-night trial period to test their pillows!

Just like job candidates are put to tests, you can do that with pillows too. Order them, sleep on them as you would usually and see if you feel comfortable the next morning. If you like it, hire it. If you don’t, fire it and have it returned.

Summing up…

Whatever be the size or height or filling of your pillow, it should first and foremost keep your spine aligned all through six or eight hours of sleep. We hope this guide has cleared your doubts about pillow shopping. Still, if you have a query, write to us in the comments section below. But if you are feeling confident already, check out our reviews of the UK’s Best Pillows of 2020.

Happy sleeping, folks.


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