Anyone who’s been keeping up to the date with the latest studies on human performance and sleep knows that recent scientific data has shown is even more important than previously thought, with lack of sleep being linked to a whole plethora of increased risk such as increased risk of depression, obesity, fatigue, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, stroke even high cholesterol. Equally as important as the quantity of your sleep however, is the quality of your sleep, constant poor quality sleep will also increase your risk factors for the above conditions.
A critical factor that determines the quality of our sleep is our sleeping position. Generally speaking, there are four main types of sleepers: back sleepers, side sleepers, stomach sleepers, and combination sleepers. The different body positioning of each type of sleeper means that they would have different spinal and neck support requirements. Hence, there are certain types of pillows that are better suited for each type of sleeper. In this article we will go over each type of sleeper and explain which type of pillow would suit them best and why.
The most common of the lot, with some researchers estimating that as many as 69% of people are side sleepers. In the side sleeping position, the head rises highly above the bed, depending on the sleeper’s shoulder width and arm size. Based on this pillow guide for side sleepers, the ideal pillow would be able to provide support that maintains the natural curvature of the neck while keeping the spine aligned. Either memory foam or latex pillows are ideal pillows for side sleepers. Both memory foam and latex provide similar qualities; firm yet easily contours to the curvature of the sleeper’s spine; further these pillows generally do not flatten out over their lifetime unlike other types of pillows. Choose latex over memory foam if you want a slightly firmer and non-synthetic option. Also, if you find regular memory foam pillows to become too hot during the night, opt for shredded foam memory pillows (which allow for greater ventilation) or gel memory foam pillows.
Choose medium to high loft pillows (loft refers to the height of a pillow when it is laid flat on the bed). A recent study conducted by the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found the most comfortable height was four inches off the mattress. Also, opt for firmer options as the support requirements for side sleepers are the highest.
The second most common sleeping position; back sleepers have unfortunately been linked to increased chances of snoring and sleep apnea due to the position putting direct weight on the throat, either via the tongue or from the rolls of fat on the neck (obese people have a much higher predisposition toward sleep apnea). If you are a persistent snorer or serious sleep apnea sufferer, yet can’t sleep comfortably unless you’re on your back, for whatever reason, try using several pillows to prop your upper body up to prevent throat compression. Back sleepers should use medium loft pillows with a medium level of firmness. Memory foam, latex, or synthetic fills are a good choice.
You want something that’s just enough to lift your face from making a drooling imprint in the mattress. Choose the lowest loft pillow possible, and just try not to suffocate yourself.
Many people shift and turn throughout the night; the sleeping position you went to sleep in is not always the sleeping position you wake up in. Kids are known combination sleepers, and going as far as to roll off the bed is not an uncommon occurrence. As a combination sleeper, what you are looking for is a pillow with maximum versatility that is able to shift its shape accordingly to whatever sleeping position you happen to find yourself in during the night.
As such, what you want is a medium firm and medium loft pillow that can be easily contoured just by your shifting body weight. The ideal pillow would be a memory foam pillow, that is basically what they were made for. A natural option would either be a latex pillow or buckwheat hull pillows. Buckwheat (no relation to wheat or any sort of grain) is a type of seed that is used to make buckwheat flour (it’s gluten-free so I’m sure you can find it at your local Whole Foods) while the hulls are processed for use in pillows. They are firm, easily contoured, and do not flatten throughout the night. However, they do make small rustling noises when a sleeper shifts positions so if you are a combination sleeper who is also a light sleeper, you may want to skip this one.