FINDING THE PERFECT PILLOW
The importance of finding the right pillow.
Sleeping on the right pillow can be the difference between waking up feeling fully refreshed and ready to take on the world, or waking up feeling tired, sore, stiff, and not looking forward to the day ahead.
Knowing what to look for is key.
Everyone has unique needs and preferences when it comes to their pillow, but finding the right one for you could be as simple as answering a few questions. Below is a list of questions to ask yourself, and what your answers might mean in relation to choosing a great pillow option for you. What weighting you put on the importance of each question and answer is completely up to you, but adding a weighting to each question will allow you to prioritise the needs and preferences that are most important to you.
Q1. How would you describe your current quality of sleep?
GOOD: If your answer is good or great, this suggests that your current pillow is both comfortable and supportive, and therefore you should be looking to find a pillow that is the same or very similar to your current one. If you can’t remember exactly what pillow you currently have, start by looking at the care label which may contain the brand and a product name. If not, take note of how high and firm the pillow is, and what it’s made of, which should also be listed on the care label.
BAD: If your current quality of sleep is poor or bad, it MAY be your pillow. If the quality of your sleep was good and has gotten progressively worse, and you think your bedding might be the cause because nothing else has changed (for example you changed your mattress, sustained a neck or back injury, or you have you lost or gained weight), you could consider getting a new version of the same pillow that you have, or try to get one with more support, height or both. If you have an old mattress, just take note that this can have a big impact on the performance of your pillow.
For example, a medium pillow used on an old saggy mattress might feel the same as a high pillow on a nice new mattress which is much tauter. If you’ve never found your current pillow comfortable and supportive, or if something else has changed that might mean that the old pillow type is no longer your best option, like an injury for example, maybe it’s time to look for a pillow that’s different from the one you have.
BONUS TIP: If you think your mattress might be past its use-by date, try buying a mattress topper and see if that helps improve your quality of sleep. If it does, it also might help you get a little more life out of your tired old mattress.
Q2. Does your pillow ever cause you to wake up in the middle of the night and need adjusting?
YES: If your answer is yes, try to determine why you’re waking up, is it because you are too hot, too cold, or because you’re in pain or you’re just uncomfortable. Understanding why you’re waking up will give you a strong indication of what to look for in a new pillow, for example, if you’re waking up because you’re too hot, avoid pillows that retain heat, like memory foam pillows for example, and look for pillows which have cooling properties, like moisture-wicking covers for example.
NO: If your current pillow doesn’t cause you to wake up at night, and your general quality of sleep is good, it’s safe to look like a new version of your current pillow.
Q3. Would you describe yourself as a hot sleeper?
YES: If you are a hot sleeper, there are some pillows with cooling properties that may help you get a better and more comfortable night’s sleep. The types of cooling options are many and varied but generally fall into three categories, cool touch, moisture-wicking and heat absorbing and releasing technologies. Without going into great detail, cool touch options are designed to help you get to sleep, but the parts of the pillow that come into direct contact with your skin don’t stay cool for very long, moisture-wicking options wick sweat away from your skin to dry more easily, helping to keep you feeling dry as well as cooler, and heat absorbing and releasing options absorb your body heat when you are hot, and release the heat again to help you stay warm when your body cools down.
NO: If you don’t consider yourself to be a hot sleeper, that’s one less thing that you need to factor into your pillow choice.
Q4. How long have you slept on your current pillow?
0-2 YEARS: If you’ve been sleeping on your current pillow for less than a year, it is still relatively new and should still be performing OK if it’s of good quality. If you find that it’s not performing, and there’s nothing else that could negatively impact your quality of sleep, look for a different type of pillow, one of superior quality to your current pillow, or one that is made to perform better over a longer period of time, like a latex or memory foam pillow for example.
2-5 YEARS: If you’ve had your current pillow for between two to five years, and it is a polyester or cotton type pillow, there’s a good chance that your pillow is approaching or has exceeded its “normal lifespan”. If you have a latex or memory foam pillow, and it is of good quality, it should still be performing well.
5-10 YEARS: If you’ve had your current pillow for between five to ten years, and it is a polyester or cotton type pillow, there’s a very good chance that your pillow has exceeded its “normal lifespan” on is no longer providing the level of support and comfort that it did when it was new. If you have a latex or memory foam pillow, and it is of good quality, it could still be performing well but is likely approaching the end of its “normal lifespan” too.
10 YEARS PLUS: Replace your pillow.
Q5. Would you describe your current pillow as soft or firm?
SOFT: Soft pillows are considered more comfortable because your head and neck sink into them easily. Generally, the softest pillows are made with feather and down, the next softest are polyester and cotton filled pillows, followed by latex pillows and then memory foam pillows, which are generally considered the hardest. The only disadvantage with really soft pillows is that they may not offer the support you need to keep your posture in the correct alignment. If your current pillow is soft but you’d like more support, look at pillow options that are higher, or have alternative constructions to your current pillow, for example, a high and firm pillow, or a pillow made from latex.
HARD: People who choose hard pillows are typically those with larger frames, or have neck or back pain which can be positively impacted by a firmer, more supportive pillow. If support is your number one priority, look to memory foam pillows with a height that matches most closely with your shoulder width (assuming you’re most predominantly a side sleeper). If memory foam is too hard, try a latex pillow or a firm polyester or cotton pillow.
Q6. Would you describe your current pillow as high or low?
HIGH: High pillows are most suitable for people with broad shoulders that sleep predominantly on their sides. If that’s you, choose a pillow that is suitably high, but keep in mind that soft pillows will allow your head to sink into them excessively, so make sure the pillow can support your head at your preferred height.
LOW: Low pillows are most suitable for people with narrow shoulders that sleep predominantly on their back or sides. If that’s you, choose a pillow that is suitably low, but also be mindful that the pillow is not too soft.
Q7. How long have you had your current mattress?
0-10 YEARS: If your mattress is less than 10 years old, and it’s of reasonable quality, it still should be performing well. If it has begun to sag, just be aware that this may affect the way that your pillow performs. If your mattress has begun to sag excessively and has lost some of its supporting qualities, consider fitting a mattress topper to your mattress to restore the support and extend the life of your mattress.
10 YEARS PLUS: If your mattress is older than 10 years old, there’s a good chance it’s reaching or has reached the end of its useful life and should be replaced. If it is still comfortable and offers you a reasonable level of support, but you want to improve it without buying a new mattress, consider fitting a mattress topper. If you do purchase a new mattress or mattress topper, also consider changing your pillows to new ones.
Q8. Would you describe your mattress as hard or soft?
HARD: If your mattress is hard, your body is unlikely to sink too much into the mattress, so low, medium and high pillows should perform as described.
SOFT: If your mattress is soft, your body will sink into the mattress, so low pillows may act like medium pillows, medium pillows like high pillows and high pillows like extra high pillows, depending on how soft or firm the pillows are.
Q9. Do you mostly sleep on your back, side or tummy?
Most people switch sleeping positions regularly throughout the night, with 70% of people spending most time sleeping on their sides. If you fall asleep on your side and sleep mostly on your sides, choose a pillow with a height that matches closest to your shoulder width, and supports your head so it doesn’t sink too far into the pillow.
If you sleep predominantly on your back, choose a lower pillow with the correct level of support for you. If you sleep on your tummy, you’ll generally prefer a very low and very soft pillow.
Q10. What’s your budget?
How much you spend on a new pillow is a personal choice we all make. Our advice here is to simply buy the best quality pillow that you can afford.
Understanding Your Preferences
Your needs in a pillow are very important, but so too are your preferences. Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help find the right pillow even easier.
Does your current pillow have any special features that you really like? If it does, take note of what they are and check the options available that have those features as well as meet the needs that you’ve identified above.
Do you or the person using this pillow suffer from allergies or asthma? Asthma and allergy sufferers are well catered for in pillows and bedding, in general, these days. For maximum protection against dust mites, which are a major trigger of allergies and asthma, look for Anti-Microbial options that inhibit their growth or even kill them on contact. Most treatments that are asthma and allergy friendly are (safe) chemical-based, but there are now a growing number of options that are plant-based, which are great for those who prefer more natural options.
Do you prefer your bedding to be machine washable? Some pillows aren’t safe to wash regularly or are dry clean only. If being able to wash your pillows at home in your domestic washing machine is important to you, there are plenty of great Tontine options available.
Do you have any preferences between natural and man-made fibres and materials? Natural materials commonly used in pillows include wool, cotton, (natural) latex and feather and down, while the most common man-made materials include polyester, man-made latex and memory foam.
Do you have any preferences between Australian made and imported bedding? When it comes to pillows, many options available today are made overseas, but for those that prefer to support local businesses and local jobs, there are lots of Australian made options available to choose from. Some types of pillows, such as memory foam and latex, don’t have many Australian made options available, but when it comes to wool, polyester and even feather and down pillows, there are some great Aussie made choices around.
Is your highest priority head and neck support, or comfort? Most people want both comfort and support, where comfort generally equals softness. Understanding which of these is a preference for you will help you choose the right option for you.
How long would you like your new pillow to last? Cotton, wool, feather and down and polyester filled pillows generally perform at their best for between 2-3 years. Memory foam and latex pillows often perform well for between 5-10 years, depending on their relative level of quality and the grade of material they are made from.
Would you like your pillow to have features like being waterproof or stain-resistant? Some pillows have extra features like stain resistance or being waterproof, but if you find a pillow that is perfect for you that doesn’t have features like these that you want, you can add them by simply fitting a pillow protector that has these features.
Are there any other features that you’ve seen that you’d specifically like in your new pillow? With new pillow features coming out every year, it’s a good idea to look out for new pillow options that have features that you may like in your next perfect pillow.
Summarising your responses to the needs and preferences questions asked above should help improve your chances of choosing the right pillow for you. Sometimes finding the right pillow can involve a little bit of trial and error, and understanding how your pillow’s performance is impacted by your mattress can also help improve your success rate in choosing the perfect pillow. If we may say so, also choosing a pillow from a brand that you trust can also go a long way to ensuring that your new pillow performs as promised and provides years of comfortable, supportive sleep for you and your family.