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The Pillow-Pain Connection: Alleviating Discomfort with the Right Pillow

by Lucas Mills 29 Apr 2024 0 Comments

The need for a good night's sleep is well documented. Medical and scientific experts agree that the amount and quality of sleep are vital to a healthy lifestyle. Countless sleep aids, gizmos, and gadgets are marketed as the answer to the perfect night's sleep, but one simple item may hold the key to optimum sleep comfort and all the benefits that come with it—your pillow.

More than an accessory, the pillow is pivotal in ensuring proper spinal alignment and neck support, alleviating pressure on hips and shoulders and improving your sleep quality and overall well-being. Eiderdown pillows blend superior craftsmanship and technology to provide excellent comfort and support for a genuinely rejuvenating sleep experience.

Biomechanics of Sleep

If you have ever woken up with a crick in your neck or an achy shoulder, your pillow may be to blame. The biomechanics of sleep dictate that proper spinal alignment and neck support are essential for quality sleep. An investigation into the effect of pillow height on the biomechanics of the head-neck complex looked into cranio-cervical pressure and cervical spine alignment. Pillow height was found to be an important and influential parameter in terms of the biomechanical performance of pillow designs.

Further, the National Sleep Foundation states that your pillow plays as much of a role in your overall sleep quality as your mattress. The foundation suggests choosing the perfect pillow involves considering several key factors. Firstly, ensure that it offers adequate support to maintain proper alignment of your head and neck with your spine, catering to your preferred sleep position. Find the right balance in firmness, as overly soft pillows may lead to sinking and discomfort. In contrast, overly firm ones can cause pain. Explore different shapes beyond the traditional rectangle, as preferences vary. Opt for materials that enhance breathability to prevent overheating during sleep. Lastly, prioritise the pillow's feel, as personal comfort impacts a restful night's sleep.

Materials Matter

Your pillow height, firmness and shape all play an important part in getting a good night's sleep, but it's also what's on the inside that counts.

Choosing a pillow crafted from high-quality materials can impact your sleep and overall health. During sleep, our head expels a significant amount of heat and can perspire heavily through the scalp. A goose down pillow absorbs excess moisture and offers a consistently comfortable temperature throughout the night. Similarly duck down is a naturally breathable material. The thermal insulation properties in a duck down pillow help regulate air circulation and expel excess heat and moisture while you sleep.  

Alpaca wool is particularly valued for its moisture-wicking properties, meaning it stays dry and resists odours. Due to its smoother texture compared to other animal fibres, hollow core structure, and low lanolin content, alpaca wool ranks among the top hypoallergenic materials used in pillows.

By reducing moisture build-up, pillows containing these natural materials help resist mould and mildew and minimise allergens for better overall health.

Temperature Regulation

The temperature of our surroundings significantly impacts our sleep quality. Studies referenced in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology indicate that exposure to heat or cold results in heightened wakefulness and reduced periods of rapid eye movement sleep and slow-wave sleep. These alterations in sleep stages are closely connected to thermoregulation, the process that governs our body's temperature and, consequently, influences our sleep-wake cycle. 

Healthcare professionals say heat can be the enemy of sleep, actually making you feel more awake. When you do finally fall asleep, heat decreases slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement sleep, which puts your body in its most restful state. 

Beyond what you wear to bed and your choice of covers, your pillow has a lot of influence over maintaining a consistent temperature. A pillow filled with natural, breathable fibres can help draw heat and moisture away from your face and head, allowing you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Pain Relief

Sleeping with your head, neck or spine in a less than ideal position for an increased length of time will exacerbate any existing neck or shoulder pain. Comfort and keeping your head, neck, and spine in natural alignment should be your main goals when picking a pillow. Your sleep position can help you determine the right pillow.  

According to Calm, a mental health app, for stomach sleepers opting for a low-profile pillow can prevent strain on the neck. Slim memory foam or soft down pillows are ideal choices, ensuring the head isn't lifted too high. Some may find sleeping without a pillow under the head more comfortable, instead placing one under the pelvis to support the spine's natural curve. 

Back sleepers benefit from medium-thick pillows that maintain the cervical spine's curve. Memory foam or latex pillows with a contoured design offer excellent support. Alternatively, cervical pillows provide unique head cradling and neck support, catering well to back sleepers. For side sleepers, firm and thick pillows are essential to fill the gap between the ear and outer shoulder, ensuring proper support. Gusseted memory foam or high-fill-down pillows are recommended choices. Additionally, body pillows can aid in maintaining alignment and supporting the legs and arms for side sleepers.

Hygiene and Allergen Control

We spend, on average, a third of our lives sleeping or attempting to sleep. That's a lot of time spent very close to your pillow! To prevent allergies and respiratory issues, it's vital to maintain clean and healthy pillows. Pillows carry many germs or human respiratory pathogens. These can be present on the cover and can seep through fabrics and seams into the filling material. Common pathogens found on sleeping surfaces include bacteria, fungi, and adenoviruses.  

If your pillow can be washed, you should do so twice a year. More frequently if you have pets, eat in bed or perspire excessively. Some pillows can be machine washed, others gently hand washed. Some should only be dry-cleaned. Check any care instructions for the best way to maintain a healthy pillow.

Eiderdown uses an antimicrobial and anti-fungus treatment developed by Sanitized® in creating our pillows. Tailored specifically for home textiles, using natural ingredients, Sanitized® technologies combat odours and deliver potent antimicrobial and bacteria protection for cotton fabrics. It also offers superior defence against dust mites and allergies.  

By understanding the biomechanics of sleep and embracing the power of natural materials, Eiderdown pillows can help minimise neck and back pain in bed, allowing you to enjoy the restorative benefits of a good night's sleep. Browse our range and experience the luxurious embrace of Eiderdown pillows.

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