Everyone's got their favourite sleeping position: from the back snorers to the tummy snoozers, to every angle in between. Because some of these positions aren't necessarily great for your posture, it's important to choose the right pillow to support you. Quality sleep is vital for good health, and a good pillow is vital for quality sleep.
What's your sleeping style?
I lie flat on my tummy
A soft, flat pillow is best for tummy sleepers, because it gives support without raising the head and neck too far. Synthetic, wool-fibre, feathers and down are good options for keeping it low.
I collapse flat on my back
A medium-to-firm pillow is best for supporting your head and neck while you sleep. Consider a pillow made from foam.
I like to curl up on my side
A firm-to-extra-firm pillow is best for side sleepers, because it ensures your spine is supported properly at a consistent height. Latex and foam are the likely contenders if you love to sleep on your side.
Synthetic vs natural: how do they shape up?
Foam can be made to measure, keeps its shape for years and is hypoallergenic, so it's a great option if you suffer from allergies or asthma. "Memory foam" pillows, made from NASA-designed visco-elastic polyurethane, mould to your body shape and relieve pressure on sensitive areas, but may make it difficult to move about so they may not be the best choice for a restless sleeper. Lifespan: Five to 10+ years.
Latex A renewable and biodegradable product made from the sap of a rubber tree. Latex pillows are durable, and last for years before needing replacing, and they have the added benefit of being hypoallergenic. Latex comes in a variety of shapes, profiles and densities. Lifespan: Five to 10+ years.
Feather and down These pillows are usually made from a combination of the two materials – the more down, the more expensive. A higher percentage of down means a softer pillow that will last longer, and they can be moulded and fluffed into your favourite shape. On the downside, they can be quite expensive, and are a potential allergen. Lifespan: Five to 10+ years.
Polyester A good-quality polyester pillow will provide comfort and support, but as they tend to form lumps quickly you'll need to replace them more frequently than some of the other materials. They flatten easily into a low, comfortable shape so they're a good choice for tummy sleepers. Lifespan: Six months to two years.
Cotton and wool Cotton and wool pillows are soft and can be added on top of a firm pillow if more support is needed. Both fibres are breathable, which minimises the risk of oil or sweat stains. In a tick for cotton, it's hypoallergenic. Lifespan: Three to five years.
Caring for your pillow
Before using it:
Consider buying a pillow protector – they're quite inexpensive and available in most home and bedding shops. The pillow protector can be easily washed, helping to keep your pillow fresh and clean, away from moisture and oils, and will also keep it from staining.
Give your pillow a good shake and fluff it up. This will help kill any dust mites and keep it fresher and cleaner.
Some pillows can be put through a gentle washing machine cycle to keep them really clean, particularly polyester and latex pillows. Check the labels on your pillows, and if they are suitable pop them in the wash.
Every six months:
Test your pillows with our simple four-step method to ensure your pillows are still in good condition.
- Put your pillow on a flat surface and fold it over in half.
- Pop a sports shoe on top.
- If the shoe flies off as your pillow bounces back into its original shape, your pillow is in top form.
- If the shoe stays there, or the pillow doesn't spring back into shape, it's probably time to buy a new one.
Pillow use-by dates
Some pillows are labelled with a use-by date; this is a useful reminder to check the pillow is still OK.
We explain how often you should replace your pillow, plus other household items like toothbrushes and smoke alarms, in our article Use-by dates for household goods.