Sleeping in your bed with a fresh, soft and delicious pillow is what we all want at the end of a long day. But when the time comes, sometimes you just can't get to sleep or don't sleep as well as before. Perhaps you can no longer get comfortable and toss and turn every night in bed. Maybe you've had your pillow for a long, long time. Do you remember when you got it? It may be that what you need to sleep soundly through the night is to change that old pillow! But, how do you know which one is the right one for you and why?
The main reason we use pillows to sleep is to get the support our head and spine need for the position in which we usually sleep. The support of a pillow should help our head, neck, and back to stay in a neutral alignment that follows the natural curvature of the spine throughout the night. Keeping the spine in a neutral position relieves us of neck and back pain, and it releases pressure throughout the body.
How do you know if your spine is in neutral alignment?
Easy. Regardless of whether you sleep on your side, stomach or back, lie in the position you like and check that your ears are aligned with your shoulders and that your chin is aligned with your breastbone. Like this:
The type of pillow you use should help you maintain that neutral alignment according to the position in which you sleep.
Here we will review the 3 most common positions for sleeping and what is the ideal pillow firmness for each one:
1) SLEEPING ON YOUR BACK
A pillow with medium firmness is great for sleeping on your back because it offers enough support and lift to align your head with your spine. Medium firmness relieves pressure on your neck and shoulders, and cushions the space between your head and the mattress without your head being forced forward (ouch!). With a medium firmness you also ensure that your pillow will not flatten under the weight of your head during the night.
2) SLEEPING ON YOUR SIDE
A firmer pillow with plenty of elevation is perfect for sleeping on your side because it helps keep your head aligned with your spine. The elevation on a firm pillow helps relieve pressure on your shoulder and makes sure that your body weight doesn't rest completely on it. If your shoulder feels uncomfortable when sleeping on your side, perhaps you should switch to a pillow with more loft and firmness. Firmer support is necessary because if your pillow is too soft, your head can sink into the pillow during the night and become misaligned with your spine, resulting in a stiff and painful neck in the morning (ouch!).
3) SLEEPING ON YOUR STOMACH
Keeping your head and spine aligned while sleeping on your stomach requires a very soft pillow with very little loft. If the pillow is too high, it will force the head back. That is why we also need it to be soft, and as less firm as possible. The firmer your pillow, the more likely your head and neck will be raised too high, forcing back the natural curvature of your spine (ouch!)