What everyone needs to know about using a pillow.

What everyone needs to know about using a pillow.

What type of pillow do you have on your bed for sleeping at night?  Down feather?  Foam?  Memory foam?  Gel?  The “water-pillow”?  Contour?  Now how much did you spend?  $20,  $50, 100,  $300?  These are all common answers I hear in my practice from my patients.  What’s even more interesting than those variety of pillows and cost range, are the mixed results people are getting from using these pillows.  Who thought it could be so technical?  It doesn’t have to be, and I’ll show you how.  The following information may make all the difference to the quality of sleep you are getting.  In fact, the most important things you should know about using a pillow are the same things most people don’t do…

In my experience of 15 years of being a registered therapist, I have found that it is not the type of pillow people use, but how they use it that will make the most difference to the support it gives to their neck, and therefore the quality of sleep they receive each night.  Now sure, the quality of the actual pillow does make a difference, but not as much as how you use it.  You can have the most expensive pillow – but use it wrong, and you’ll toss and turn all night.

The 2 biggest  mistakes people make when they sleep on a pillow is:

  1. Sleeping with their shoulders on the pillow.
  2. Sleeping in a position that is not “neutral” for the spine.

Lets look at these two “mistakes” individually, and solve these common problems:

DON’T DO THIS: Shoulders on pillow depress support under neck

DO THIS: “bunch-up” pillow under neck. Shoulders off pillow.

Good pillow support for back and neck.

Good pillow support side-lying.

When you sleep with your shoulders on the pillow (probably the most common mistake), you depress the pillow in the area exactly where you need it to offer support: the cervical spine.  This is why contour pillows work well for the majority of people – because the curveof the pillow makes it very uncomfortable to put your shoulders on it, and it’s shape offers a supportive curve to the neck.  But did you know that a regular pillow (such as a feather or “standard” pillow) could do this as well?  Simply get your shoulders off the pillow, and “bunch-up” the pillow under your neck for support.  Try it, you won’t believe how good this feels until you do it!  And what did that just cost you?  Do not be fooled, pillows are a big industry and poor sleep fuels it!  A more expensive pillow does not always equal better sleep.  It’s how it is used that will make the greatest difference.A neutral spine is also very important.  This is the natural “resting” position for the spine, where there is little to no tension on joints and soft tissue.  Think of it as your “nice tall standing position” –but just horizontal.  You wouldn’t stand with your back twisted, or your neck bent to the side – so don’t spend the precious 8 hours you have during sleep in this posture!  The key here is to NEVER sleep on your front – the absolute worst position to sleep in for your neck.  You can sleep on your back, or on your side, and even a ¾ prone – but really try to avoid sleeping on your front, and having your neck rotated all night.

Bonus Tips:

  1. If you sleep on your back, try using a large pillow under your knees.  This will support your lower back.
  2. If you sleep on your side or ¾ prone, try using a pillow to “hug” in-front of your torso, and another pillow under your knee.

Have more questions about using your pillow? Leave a comment below, or call the clinic to arrange a consultation to further assess what support and sleep strategies are best for you.

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