May 25, 2018
Do you like sleeping on a pillowcase, or do you have a pillow, like a pancake, that you have had forever? No matter how you like to sleep, it is important that your neck and body are adjusted at night. Here is everything you need to know to choose a pillow that helps keep your back in alignment and your body healthy.
Understanding neck adjustment
When you sleep, your postural goal should be to keep your spine in neutral alignment. This means that nothing is twisted or torque sideways or up and down. This means that your spine is allowed to lay as it naturally wants, without being pushed or pulled in any particular direction.
While your night position depends on quite a few things, such as your mattress, your sleeping position and more, your neck adjustment is primarily affected by your pillow. A pillow that is good for you helps maintain the neutral position, while one that is not good for you keeps you out of alignment. Note that a pillow that works for you may not work for your partner or someone else.
Here’s how to tell if your pillow is doing its job.
For side walls
If you are sitting on the side, test your pillow by lying on it as if you were trying to fall asleep. First, make sure that pillow position is correct. The bulk of it should be in the small of your neck with full contact throughout your neck. You should not have pillows under your shoulders or touch your back.
Then have someone take a picture of you from behind and in front and compare it to the chart below:
You should be able to draw a straight line from the sternum, up your neck and through the center of your face. The line should not have bends or twists. These indicate a postural problem and that you probably need a new pillow.
Lie down again as if you were about to fall asleep. Basically they are the same. That pillow should mostly like the little things in your throat and should get in touch with your entire neck. However, you should not have pillows under your back or shoulders. In addition, make sure that the back of your head is on the pillow and that you do not have it shrunk up and press against the top of your head.
Take a picture and compare it with the chart below:
The line you draw this time curves because your neck naturally curves. However, you do not want the basket to be excessive or too low. If you are unsure, take a picture of yourself with good posture while standing and compare it to what you took while lying down. Your neck position should look the same, otherwise you may need a new pillow.
For belly swimmers
It is very difficult to maintain a healthy neck position if you sleep on your stomach because you usually have to turn your head sideways to breathe. Consider sleeping without one pillow or change your sleeping position to one that is healthier for your body.
How to choose the right pillow
You want to choose pillow that keeps your back in alignment. Needless to say, this can take some trial and error. Many pillow manufacturers understand this and give you a trial period when you buy your pillow. Be sure to keep track of this if you need to return your pillow later.
If at all possible, take a potential new pillow at home and sleep on it for several days before making your decision. Most people know pretty quickly if a pillow is right for them. In addition to performing the tests above, many people notice neck and back pain within a night or two if a pillow does not work for them.
Not sure where to start? Many spinal cord sufferers like memory foam because of the way it holds on the neck and head. You can also try an adjustable pillow where you can add or remove different types of filling until you find the combination that keeps your back in alignment all night.
Do I need more than one pillow?
Most people need to be able to find a pillow that keeps their neck in line and comfortable to sleep on. In fact, layered pillows can cause more harm than good. Sure, you may be able to put on more pillows to get the height of a good one, but these can slip or change overnight. This can cause spinal injuries and neck pain.
While it is best to sleep with only one pillow under your head, many sleepers benefit from the use of other pillows elsewhere on the body.
- Back sills often sleep better with a pillow under the knees. Ideally, this would not be necessary, but when we throw ourselves over computers all day, we often end up with excessive bunion in the lower back. Raising the knees with a pillow helps reduce that arch and brings the spine back into alignment.
- Side sleepers often like to sleep with a pillow between their knees. This helps keep the pelvis straight so the top is not turned forward all night. Some side sleepers achieve this with a body pillow that they can also wrap their arms around, which can also help with shoulder adjustment.
- Pregnant women can take advantage of a body pillow or several different pillows to arrange as they please. This can help them deal with the various aches and pains that can appear when the human body grows into another human being. As pregnancy progresses, many women find that a pillow under the abdomen provides the necessary support for the lower back.
You may need to experiment to find the pillow arrangement that works best for you and keeps your neck aligned. Take your time and you should be able to find a pillow or cushions that will help you sleep well for a long time.
If you are looking for a pillow, take a look at our in-depth guides and reviews on buying pillows.