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How often should we change our pillow?

Sound sleep is the key to a healthy mind and body. When we sleep well at night, the rest of the day goes well. The factors that play a vital role in our sound sleep are multiple; room temperature, silence with no distractions, regular sleep timings, and of course, our pillows. 

Using the right pillow is comforting as it plays a vital role in supporting the spine, neck, head and shoulders. Your restful night depends a great deal on your pillow. They may even have a role in helping you snore less and contribute towards your partner’s restful shut-eye. 

What defines a ‘good’ pillow?

Like myself (as I take my pillow along when I travel), some people are very particular about their pillows. A pillow should provide comfort, so selecting the best and changing it regularly is necessary. 

How do you know it is time to change your pillow? Well, test your pillow. 

Fold your pillow in half. If it returns to its original form, it’s alright to use it. If it just lies there doubled up, it’s a dead one—time to replace the pillow. 

How does a pillow help?

Having a correct form is vital during your active hours as well as when you sleep. Using a proper pillow supports your body circulation, eases off pressure and strains on your joints and helps keep appropriate alignment while you sleep. 

A pillow should adjust to conform to a body’s unique shape and curves. It should fit your sleeping position and function to relieve joint pressures. If you get up with any pain in your neck, shoulders, back or hips, one problem could be your pillow.

A good pillow is made out of breathable material. It should not make you sweaty on hot summer nights. 

Signs of a pillow gone ‘bad’

  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Breathing and digestive issues
  • Restless sleep

Types of pillows

When we go pillow shopping, of course, we don't just pick one up and get going! Some factors affect our decision. The better informed we are about our choices, the wiser our decision. The business industry knows how to take care of customers. They have thus customized pillows according to the needs. For instance, we have

  • "Down", which is made of luxurious and incredibly soft material. This material comes from the underbellies of birds like ducks and geese.
  • Feather is comparatively more affordable than down variety.
  • Memory foam, which is a pain-relieving one. 
  • Pillows containing Latex are soft and breathable. Being resistant to dust mites and mold, they cater to a hygienic ambiance for sleep.
  • Cotton pillows are the commonest of all. Affordable and easy to maintain. The material goes flat in some time to pass the pillow test for a limited period.
  • Gel pillows usually contain another material, the material being memory foam. Its advantage is that it provides an excellent touch that helps relieve neck pain.
  • The wool pillow is very breathable with a soft fill. There are pillows in 100% wool, or the filling material is mixed with some other element. The fluffiest ones are 100% wool. 
  • “Microbeads” are also named “unexpanded polystyrene beads".  They also provide a cooling effect, but there is a mess to clean up if the pillow rips.  
  • Buckwheat is a plant-based fill. Their texture resembles the microbeads.
  • Kapok resembles "down", being relatively soft and light in weight.
  • Water pillows are also there. These are customized according to one’s requirement.


When to change a pillow

There’s expiry to everything. The same goes for pillows. They need changing. The big question is when to change them! 

The general rule of thumb about how frequently we need to change our pillows is; every one to two years.  

But that is not an obligation. If you do not get a good night sleep with a stiff neck in the morning, your pillow needs changing. Because it might not be too old, but it might not have the appropriate filling for your comfort level.

Pillows collect dust and other allergens with age. Sweat, hair, saliva, body oil, and dead skin cells are an invitation to bad odor, mild and mildews. Washing may clean off the smell, but not all allergens are washed away with water. So, your pillow may still be good enough to sleep on, but if you find unexplained body rash in the morning or sneeze episode without any possible cause, time to have a look at your pillow.

Other signs that indicate that your pillow is calling for a change include:

  • Neck pain and strain or a general feeling of fatigue and tiredness
  • Frequent headaches that have no other plausible cause
  • Cramps in shoulder muscles
  • Development of allergy symptoms as early morning sneeze, runny nose, watery eyes, skin rash, breathing difficulty at night, etc
  • Staining of the pillow covering despite washing
  • Pillow develops noticeable lumps or is flat
  • When the pillow does not retain its shape

If you have changed your sleeping position, that could also be a reason for replacing your pillow. 

Besides all that, the type of pillow you use also has a bearing on the replacement time for your pillow. A latex, buckwheat, feather, memory, and down pillows may last two to three years, while a synthetic and polyester may last a year or two. 

Take home message

Being well-rested in the morning is essential, not only for our daily tasks but also for our overall well-being. There have been revolutionary advancements in the industry to match our requirements. Since pillows affect a lot more than just being a support to lay our heads on, we need to select the right one and replace one when required. The variety of pillows according to shapes, sizes and occasions help us benefit every day. Patients, especially orthopedic ones, can lead better lives through a night of restful sleep. The best thing is taking care of our health and posture and not even compromising on how our bedroom looks! 

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