How to choose a pillow

By Jo Joiner

Get talking about pillows with your friends and you’ll hear all sorts of recommendations. Some people like a big, firm pillow. Others like a small, squishy pillow. And then there are those who just want the ‘Goldilocks’ pillow that’s neither too big or too small. Some people love their pillows so much, they take them on holiday!

What height should your pillow be?

You’re on the way to a better night’s sleep when you choose the right pillow. The ideal pillow supports your head and neck without pressure points. The goal is neutral spine alignment. And it’s good if your pillow feels right the moment you lie down, so that you don’t have to pummel and pound it into submission.

Physiotherapists say that your pillow height needs to be somewhere between 10cm and 15cm. Where you are on that scale can depend on whether you sleep on your front, back or side. Back sleepers and front sleepers generally need a lower pillow, so down at the 10cm end. Side sleepers need a higher pillow, because it needs to fill the gap between your neck and shoulders. However, body size also comes into it. If you have broad shoulders, it’s likely you’ll need a higher pillow.

Best pillow for insomnia

The ideal scenario is a pillow that lets you truly relax, which means no muscle activity. If your head and neck don’t feel adequately supported, muscles will tense up and make sleep difficult. Again, it all boils down to adequate support for your neck and head.

While a pillow can assist with improving your sleep environment, it can’t do the whole job. Insomnia (sleeplessness) is usually related to over-active thinking, worries and anxiety. Check out our article about how to overcome insomnia without medication. If a busy brain is your problem, read how to tame your Monkey Mind and get a good night’s sleep.

Best pillow for neck pain

For persistent neck pain, experts recommend you sleep on your back or your side. If you’re a tummy sleeper, it’s possible your neck pain is directly connected to a twisted sleeping position. [1]

A flatter pillow is usually the way to go for neck pain, so it could be wise to avoid very firm moulded pillows.  Also avoid a too-high pillow, because your neck needs to align with your head. When you’re getting ready to sleep, pull your pillow down to your shoulders so your neck is more supported.

Best pillow for side sleepers

Of all the possible sleep positions, side sleeping is the most popular. It’s good if you can alternate sides, so that your body stays symmetrical. The exception is pregnancy, when sleeping on the left side is better. [2]

For high quality shuteye, you need the best pillow for side sleeping. That means a thicker pillow that keeps your head and neck in a neutral position. If you find it hard to check if your spine is neutral, ask your partner or a friend to check your neck position when you’re lying on your side. They should be able to imagine a straight line up your back to the top of your head.

Best pillow for back sleepers

The ideal pillow for back sleepers allows neutral spinal alignment, so the neck doesn’t arch too far upward (pillow too high) or downward (pillow to low). Feather and down pillows tend to compress too much, resulting in a lack of support for your neck.

Illustration 107372891 © Sabelskaya |

Does memory foam make a good pillow?

Memory foam, aka viscoelastic foam, was invented by NASA in the 1960s to improve astronaut comfort and safety. It has a magical ability to mould around body parts to eliminate pressure points. For a pillow, this makes perfect sense.  You get a personalised fit that feels comfortable against your head or face.  The downside of memory foam is hotness. Some memory foams reflect heat back onto the sleeper. The trick is to find memory foam that’s breathable.

The perfect pillow is height-adjustable

The Dreamland Adapta pillow is height-adjustable, so you’ll never buy a dud pillow again

It’s pretty clear there’s no one-size-fits-all with pillows, because it all depends on how you sleep and how big you are. Quite likely you have a cupboard of pillows that didn’t meet your expectations.

But now you can buy a pillow that adapts to your needs, so the whole pillow buying process is de-risked. The Dreamland Adapta pillow is made with inserts of breathable memory foam that’s both supportive and comfortably soft.  If you’re a side sleeper, you can use the pillow at full height. If you’re predominately a back or tummy sleeper, removing one foam insert is the way to go. The lower height is also good for children.

Find a stockist for Dreamland Adapta pillows.



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