Finding the pillow that is right for you is both a science and a matter of personal preference. Ideally, search for a pillow that places the neck in a neutral position. Since most people spend about 8 hours sleeping every night, finding an ideal position is critically important to getting an excellent, refreshing night sleep and waking up pain free. You don’t have to suffer from neck and back pain every morning, if you invest in a pillow that is right for you.
An extra firm pillow that is about 4 inches thick is generally ideal when sleeping on your side. This will allow the neck to remain in a neutral position, as the pillow won’t become compressed throughout the course of the
night. In most cases, memory foam pillows like Tempur-Pedic are the optimal choice when sleeping on the side.
Note: In order for the entire spine to remain in a neutral position when sleeping on the side, use a body pillow between your knees as well.
A common problem for people who sleep on their side is shoulder pain upon waking, as the muscles of the shoulder become compressed, reducing blood flow to the area.
Tip: To remedy this you can tuck a second pillow behind you to lean on throughout the night. This will help alleviate the pressure causing the pain.
When pillow shopping, have a friend or store attendant take a picture of your neck – you can review the pictures to make sure the pillow you select is not only comfortable but keeps your neck in neutral.
When sleeping on your back, a contour pillow is best, as it fits to the curves of the neck. Pillows that are commonly used by people who sleep on their back include latex foam or a down alternative. When sleeping on your back, there are more pillow options, from soft to firm. When shopping for a pillow consider both a water pillow and a Tempur-Pedic.
In general, Tempur-Pedic memory foam is one of the best options because it retains its form, lasts for years, and should result in consistent, excellent sleep.
Note: When sleeping on the back, also place a pillow underneath the knees in order to retain a neutral spine position throughout the night.
Again, taking a picture of the neck and back when sampling different pillows should allow one to find the option that is perfect.
We can not recommend a pillow or this position for sleeping as your neck will not be in neutral position and will lead to neck pain.
If you wake up with neck pain, you may be using the incorrect type of pillow. Sometimes, switching to a pillow that is the right size for you and using a body pillow between or behind the knees can remedy the issue. Since something as simple as incorrect pillow height or materials can result in chronic neck pain, finding a solution to this problem can substantially improve sleep quality.
Bring your pillow to your next appointment and we can check the size out for you.
Dr. DeFabio is a highly regarded chiropractor in Chicago who focuses on helping his patients achieve optimal health and wellness. He takes a holistic approach to care, treating symptoms and addressing underlying issues to promote long-term healing. Dr. DeFabio is passionate about empowering his patients to take control of their health and live their best lives. You can find him surfing, skateboarding, and volunteering at the Lakeview Food Pantry when he’s not in the office.