Choosing A Pillow – Healthy Tips From London ON Chiropractor Dr. Janna

Choosing A Pillow - Healthy Tips From London ON Chiropractor Dr. Janna

Chiropractic London ON Choosing A Pillow

Changing your pillow may be one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve your sleep.  Dr. Janna, a chiropractor from LifeHouse Chiropractic, in London, Ontario is here to help.  Here, she has outlined a number of things to consider when choosing a pillow.

  1. FILL refers to what the pillow is “filled” with. There are many options, including feathers, down, memory foam, latex, shredded foam, polyester, buckwheat, wool, cotton, and more, in addition to a variety of a combination of these. Each fill has its pros and cons, and people often have their personal preferences.
      1. Feather pillows are soft. They can be tucked in such a way so as to support the neck, early in the sleep, but over the course of the night, the feathers move, and the neck support disappears often contributing to neck pain.
      2. Down pillows are considered luxurious. They are soft and puffy. Although they provide comfortable support for the neck at the beginning of your sleep, as the night progresses, the feather downshifts, and the pillow loses support.
      3. Memory foam provides good support for the head and neck and is self-adjusting as your position changes throughout the night. The problem with memory foam is that it can be hot, and memory foam is known for releasing chemical smells into the air which may irritate the lungs and may be toxic to the body/brain. If you want all the benefits of memory foam while reducing toxic effects, be sure to look for less toxic versions made with CertiPUR-US Certified foam. These pillows are made without ozone depleters, PBDEs, TDCPP, TCEP flame retardants, mercury, lead, and heavy metals, formaldehyde, and phthalates.
      4. Latex (be sure it’s 100% natural) is a healthy alternative to memory foam and allows for better airflow. Latex pillows are naturally hypoallergenic and are resistant to dust mites. In one study [1], a latex pillow was found to support the head and neck for reduced neck stiffness and arm pain, and reduce headache and shoulder pain in comparison to other pillow types. By the way, a contoured latex or memory foam pillow does not demonstrate improved neck/shoulder/back pain relief compared to a regular shaped pillow.
      5. Shredded memory foam or latex pillows offer all the benefits of memory foam and latex but with better airflow and breathability, and better moldability that keeps its shape and doesn’t have to be constantly fluffed and plumped.
      6. Polyester filled pillows are relatively inexpensive compared to other pillows, but they do not have the longevity, and they contain chemicals that may raise health concerns.
      7. Organic buckwheat filled pillows provide the most natural pillow. They can be easily adjusted to the desired shape for support. The drawback to buckwheat is the hulls make noise as they move during the night, and the support can slip away as it would in a beanbag. Overall, buckwheat pillows may be the best pillow to relieve neck pain if you are a side or back sleeper. As well, the buckwheat hulls can act as small little massaging beads that have been shown to reduce migraines in some people.
      8. Cotton pillows are breathable, cool, and dust mite/mold resistant.
      9. Organic wool-filled pillows, like cotton, are breathable, cool, dust mite/mold resistant, as well as naturally fire retardant.
  • LOFT is better known as the height of a pillow. High loft pillows are best for side sleepers; medium loft pillows are best for back sleepers, and low loft pillows are best for stomach sleepers. (Although, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended due to the stress it places on the neck.)
  • PLUSH/COMFORT refers to the firmness of a pillow. For example, a high loft plush pillow suggests a high pillow that is soft enough for the head to sink into it.  A low lofted firm pillow is a flatter pillow that provides a lot of support and will keep your spine better aligned.
      1. If you are a side sleeper, there is a greater distance between your head and the mattress compared to those who sleep on their backs; therefore, you will need extra support for your neck so you do not cause undue strain on your back, shoulders, and head. This space needs to be filled or supported so that the spine remains in line with the head. If the head is lowered or raised in relation to the mattress, it causes the neck to bend, which can put pressure on the nerves, can strain the muscles and tendons of the neck, and can leave you feeling tired in the morning, or worse with headaches, back pain and/or tingling in the arms and legs. Also, side sleepers benefit from a pillow between their knees so as to better align the spine.
      2. If you sleep on your back, you benefit from a flatter pillow so that your head isn’t moved too far forward. A latex, memory foam, water or gel pillow cradles your head and head.  Placing a pillow under your knees can also help take the pressure off your lower back.
      3. If you sleep on your stomach, you should try to change your sleep position as this puts undue pressure on your neck and lower back. However, stomach sleepers sleep best without a pillow or with a very flat pillow.
  • The cover of your pillow also plays a role in the comfort and healthiness of a pillow. It is suggested that you look for an all-natural fabric, that has had as little treatment as possible, that is breathable, absorbent, and preferably washable.
  • TRY it OUT. Try to find a pillow that you can try for 100 sleeps.
  • KEEPING it CLEAN. You sleep on a pillow for an average of 7-9 hours per night, every night! You drool and sweat on it. It may contain dust mites, dead skin cells, mold, mildew, and fungus. Be sure to buy a pillow that can be cleaned, and then clean it on a regular basis by vacuuming it, maybe washing it, and airing it out in the sunshine.

I am presently using an organic buckwheat pillow, and I have for about 2 or 3 years. (Fortunately, a buckwheat pillow is one of the best pillows for durability, up to 15 years. The average pillow lasts 18 months.) I like it, but it did take some time to get used to because it is quite hard, although moldable, and the hulls make a rustling noise when you move. Buckwheat pillows are also locally available at Harvest Pillow, at the Western Fair Market in London, Ontario.

When I go looking for a new pillow, I might opt for the most popular pillow that has a 4.5-star rating from over 15,000 reviews on It’s not perfect when it comes to being organic or all-natural, but it appears to be “clean” and gets top marks from any sleeper for comfort. It’s the Premium Adjustable Loft - Shredded Hypoallergenic Certipur Memory Foam Pillow by COOP Home Goods with a washable removable cover.




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