There are hundreds of pillows jockeying for a spot on your bed – some just to look pretty, yes, but many claim that they’ll help you sleep more soundly, reduce stress and soothe aches and pains. “The right one can be like the favourite teddy bear you had as a kid,” says sleep specialist Dr Raj Dasgupta – and thus giving you the comfort you need to nod off. Here, experts weigh in on who’s winning the pillow fight.

Ergonomic pillows 

What are they: These are often made from memory foam, gel or latex, are designed to position your head and body correctly to alleviate neck pain and headaches.

What we know: Its filling is really less important than its fit, says chiropractor Dr Robert Hayden; the goal is to keep the neck aligned with the spine. “Many people experience ‘tech neck’ from staring down at devices,” Dr Hayden says, so it’s crucial that pillows promote good posture. He suggests asking a friend or partner to check how your head rests on a pillow, ensuring that it isn’t tilted.

Should we try them? Maybe – adjustable, supportive ones are best. If you suffer from severe neck pain, though, consider visiting a chiropractor for help; with the wrong pillow you can unintentionally make things much worse.

Smart pillows 

What are they: Pillows or pads with tech that tracks movement and breath to rate sleep time and quality.

What we know: There’s scant research on these products, but a 2019 study found that self-trackers overestimated sleep and underestimated awake time. Since only brain wave measurement can truly report sleep quality, Dr Dasgupta says to “focus instead on whether your pillow is providing the right neck support”.

Should we try them: No, because they’re pricey and disruptive. “The last thing you need at bedtime is one more thing to think about,” Dr Dasgupta says.

Huggable pillows 

What they are: Body-sized pillows or weighted stuffed animals to cuddle and squeeze.

What we know: One study suggested that hugging so objects could reduce stress, but it’s too early to call these pillows game changers, says clinical researcher in psychiatry Dr Tyler Grove. “Positive physical contact, such as hugging a partner, is associated with reductions in the stress hormone cortisol,” he says, but more research is needed to confirm that pillows have the same effect. Still, Dr Dasgupta says throwing an arm and a leg over a body pillow can help reduce neck pain and improve sleep.

Should we try them? Sure, if it feels good. “A pillow should bring comfort – mental and physical,” Dr Dasgupta says. “If it does both, I say game on".



© Prevention Australia
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