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Published: Monday, 3/11/2013

Pillow Talk: How to choose the right one

BY ROSE RUSSELL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Oh, what we’d give for a good night’s rest and a pain-free neck in the morning.

Choosing the right pillow can help, but it can be a daunting task. An area chiropractor likens it to buying a mattress because there are so many choices and getting the right one is overwhelming.

“You can’t take it home and try it out for a week,” said Dr. George Rowe of Oregon. “Going to buy a pillow is like going to buy a car: No one size fits all.”

There are soft and firm pillows. Some are hypoallergenic, some are not. They are stuffed with batting, feathers, foam, gel, or other products. There are big pillows, small, and medium ones. And many of them have contours for the head and neck.

And though some consumers may not think of it an “investment” to pay more than a few bucks for a pillow, the cliche that you get what you pay for is applicable if a good night’s sleep is at stake.

“We use a convoluted high-density memory foam or gel memory foam pillow,” said Kevin Hall, owner of Carolina Mattress on Airport Highway. “All the others, blocks with neck cradles, are all petro-based and they break down and get hot and don’t retain their shape, and become firm. They don’t do what they did when you first owned them.”

Knowing something about anatomy is important when it’s time to purchase a pillow. Dr. Rowe explained that when looking at a person from the front, the neck and spine should be straight; when looking at the sideview of someone, the neck should curve forward.

“That’s a naturally occurring forward curvature of the neck. That’s normal. You want a pillow to maintain proper position of the neck,” he said. “When you lay on your stomach, it twists the neck. The proper sleeping position should be on the back or side.”

Mr. Hall said pillows in his store cost from $70 to $130.

“Some people balk at those prices,” he said.

However, when a consumer pays a higher price for a pillow, he is “investing in something that will reduce health risks and stress on your body,” Mr. Hall said. “You don’t want a pillow that will be so hard that it will hurt you.”

And while some might like big pillows or to pile one on top of another, Dr. Rowe said both ideas are “no-nos. What that does is push the neck out of normal position or pushes the head up. Both can cause the neck to be stiff in the morning.”

For those perusing the aisles in local bedding and department stores, there is plenty more to consider. Here are additional insights to keep in mind before making a purchase.

? When sleeping on your side, it is normal to feel as if your shoulder is in the way. A side-sleeper pillow is designed to help you get a more comfortable and healthier night’s sleep with support for the head and room for the shoulder. A side-sleeper pillow is firm but not stiff. It keeps the head level and cradles the neck and head properly to make sure that your body is properly aligned.

? Back sleepers want to support the natural curvature of the spine in the neck area and provide good support under the head, neck, and shoulders. This pillow should not be too big. If it is, it can lift and tilt the head forward too much. On the other hand, the pillow should not be too small or too mushy, either, because it can extend the neck, letting the head fall back.

? Though Dr. Rowe advises against sleeping on the stomach, a lot of people do. Some experts say a memory-foam pillow is the best bet. Many stomach sleepers have agreed that after trying several different pillow types, the memory-foam works best for them.

? There’s even a pillow for snorers. It keeps the air tracks correctly open and clear, thus reducing snoring. The pillow should elevate the head and neck to make breathing easier and more consistent.

? For pregnant women a body pillow may be best, as it supports and cradles the stomach and relieves pressure from the spine. Of course, be sure to check with your doctor if you have questions.

For more help and guidance, ask your doctor or seek guidance from linen and bedding store specialists. The Internet is another good source of information about types of pillows and their pros and cons.

Blade wire services contributed to this report.



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