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How Do I Choose the Best Pillow?

How do I choose the right pillow
How do I choose the right pillow
Most pillows look similar

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the correct pillow.  After all, you do spend 1/3 of your life using them.  Below are some tips that can be applied as a good starting point when choosing a good, comfortable pillow.

Experts say comfort is your primary consideration, but it shouldn’t be the only factor to consider when buying pillows. You also have to think about neck support, potential allergens, and long-term durability.

Why is Choosing the Correct Pillow Important?

Pillows provide support to the head and neck while you are sleeping.  In addition to providing comfort, the right pillow should provide appropriate support for the neck and spine—alleviating or preventing any form of back and/or neck pain.

An incorrect pillow that does not provide the appropriate support in the right places can contribute to headaches, neck pain, shoulder or arm numbness, discomfort, snoring, sneezing, and wheezing (trouble breathing), which could lead to extra tossing and turning, which leads to lack of sleep. This has an effect on you both mentally and physically.

  • Mentally – Lack of sleep affects your concentration, judgement, memory, mood, and stress levels.
  • Physically – Lack of sleep can contribute to soreness and pain, slow the healing process, prolong illness, and lead to immune system breakdown, weight gain, fatigue, and a variety of other health issues.

What is Inside this Pillow?

From soft to firm pillows, the type of fill for your pillow is really a personal choice. Most pillows look similar.  When looking inside the pillow you will find a variety of fillings, including soft down and feathers or synthetic down; latex foam; high-tech gel and memory foam. All pillow types have their pluses and minuses. Below you will find different pillow explanations that will help you choose the best pillow for your sleep needs. It’s important to discover how comfortable the right pillow can be.

Down Pillows
Down pillows are made from duck and goose feathers.  Down clusters are made up of light, fluffy filaments that expand and intertwine to form air pockets. These clusters trap air to create nature’s most effective insulator. That’s what makes down so light and fluffy.

A lot of companies will rinse their down multiple times to remove dust and allergens that cause allergic reactions.

Memory Foam Pillows
Memory foam pillows are comprised of dense foam that reverts back to its original shape after sleep and typically offer very good neck support. These are popular because they reduce pressure points by continuously molding and adjusting to the shape of your body as you move throughout the night. Memory foam pillows come in various shapes, including a popular contoured S-shape, which is meant to support the neck.

When choosing a memory foam pillow, it’s important that you choose a higher quality brand as many of the cheaper memory foam pillows come with lower density foam and inexpensive components.

Latex Pillows
Latex pillows conform to your head and neck for comfort and support. Latex itself has a resilient feel. Latex pillows generally come in two forms: a solid core for a bouncy, solid feel, or a shredded and/or granulated filling for a down like feel that doesn’t compact over time. Latex pillows are hypoallergenic, anti-microbial, mildew proof, and dust mite resistant.

Gel Pillows 
If you like a memory foam pillow and you are a warm sleeper who experiences overheating at night, then a gel pillow would be a great choice. Gel pillows are popular because along with conforming comfort, gel pillows help capture and dissipate heat creating a cooler pillow. You can find gel pillows in various shapes and sizes including contour s-shape pillow for back sleepers and L-shape for side sleepers. Sleep City carries the best gel pillows made with the best quality materials from the best brands in the market including Technogel and Malouf.

Specialty Pillows
Specialty pillows include all other pillows that don’t fit the “normal” category.

  • Aromatherapy Pillows
  • Wedge Pillows
  • Wrap Around Pillows
  • Shape Pillows

Why Does my Sleeping Position Matter When Choosing a Pillow?

Everyone has their own sleeping position. There are side sleepers and back sleepers as well as stomach sleepers.  The best thing a pillow can do for you is keep your head and neck in a natural position during sleep (“natural position” means keeping your spine the same as if you are standing). To find the most appropriate pillow for your body type, you should become aware of your sleeping habits. Keep in mind that you may start sleeping in one position and end up in another.

I Sleep on my Back, now What?
Back sleepers need thinner pillows so their head isn’t thrown too far forward. Look for a pillow with extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to cradle your neck. If you sleep on your back, you will want to consider a medium or thin pillow. The proper height for the pillow depends on your body build. Sleep experts usually recommend adding an extra pillow underneath your knees when you sleep on your back to further help align and support the natural curvature of your upper spine, which in turn provides support under your head, neck, and shoulders. A pillow that is of medium firmness would probably be the correct choice.

I Sleep on my Side, Now What?
Side sleepers need a firmer pillow to fill in the distance between the ear and outside shoulder. If you sleep on your side, then you need something to support your head and neck correctly while you sleep.  This will prevent a kink or “crick” in the neck, so to speak.  Ideally you will be looking for a medium density pillow so your spine maintains a straight, horizontal line. A firmer pillow would probably be the correct choice.

I Sleep on my Stomach, Now What? 

Stomach sleepers need a thin, almost flat pillow. Some may not even need a pillow for the head but might consider tucking one under the stomach to avoid lower back pain and support the natural curvature of the spine.  Stomach sleepers should be cautious of higher profile pillows as that could increase the chance of placing their spine into very unnatural positions and causing neck or back pain.  A thinner type of pillow would probably be the correct choice.

I Move Around a lot While I’m Sleeping, Now What?
Moving around or tossing and turning in your sleep creates a need for a good all-around pillow type.  This means not too dense or thick for most individuals.  You’re looking for a pillow that provides proper support for the average build in all positions.  Some active sleepers choose a half and half pillow.  That is half memory foam on one side and latex foam on the other.

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the appropriate pillow.  The above information is a great starting point when choosing a good, comfortable pillow. Below is coupon code for our readers and some of our favorite pillows.


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Why use a pillow?

how to use a pillow

how to use a pillowHow do you think of your pillow? For some, they’re what make going to bed worth it. For others, they’re a necessary hassle. Regardless of how you feel about them, though, they may be one of the best ways to get a good nights sleep.

But why is that? Why use a pillow in the first place? If your mattress provides so much support for you body, what could a piece of cloth and stuffing be doing for you?

Probably more than you think.

Sticking your neck out

Your neck is an impressive piece of work. It’s been designed to allow you to better, more easily observe the world. Whether it’s checking out a potential mate or spotting a saber-tooth tiger, a (relatively) long neck is a huge advantage in taking in the world when you’re standing on two feet.

Of course, when you’re on your back, that same neck isn’t quite as good. Our spines, being the bundle of nerves that they are, tend to like to stay in the same position most of the time — sure you can bend and twist a bit, but for the most part the curvature of our spine stays the same. And that’s the key — it’s curved. When we lie down a flat surface like a mattress for 6 to 8 hours, it tends to push that curvature out of alignment. And we all know what happens when something like your spine stays out of alignment for too long.

Yeah. Ouch.

That’s where a good pillow comes in. They allow us to keep our spine basically where they need to be while we sleep. Of course, if all it’s doing is providing spine support, why not just sleep on a rock? Why sleep on something so soft?

One pillow, many positions

It may come as a surprise, but in many cultures, pillows aren’t soft. Rocks aren’t as uncommon as you’d expect, and in ancient Egypt, they used a hard, curved device that lifted the neck. In China, you may even find yourself sleeping on a porcelain Buddha.

The disadvantage of these harder neck supports is that they really only support sleeping in a certain way. Humans are fairly strange in the Animal Kingdom because we can find ourselves comfortably resting in a wide variety of positions — from back to side to front. Harder pillows, like rocks or porcelain only usually allow a very specific sleeping position. If you’re in that position, it’s a great nights sleep. If you get out of that position though… well, just use your imagination.

Yeah. Ouch.

The big advantage of a soft pillow is that it more easily molds to your sleeping style. Literally. The gel and memory foam combination deform to your shape, whether you’re lying on your back or your side. And for those of you who are what we refer to as “pillow squashers,” there’s the down pillow. You can bundle it up if you’re on your side and need a little extra loft, or even lie a bit more flat if you spend most of your time on your back.

That doesn’t necessarily mean all pillows are created equal. Some pillows may work better for back sleepers, while others may be better for side sleepers. You can even get memory foam and gel pillows that mold to your sleeping style the same way many of the best mattresses form to your body.

So next time you go to sleep, give your pillow a hug. It’s doing a lot. Plus,  unless you’ve got fairly exotic sleep habits, it’s probably really soft.

Yeah. Nice.

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Bed Basics: Compare mattress upholstery (part 1 of 2)

Sleep City comfort layer foam
Sleep City comfort layer foam
Mattress foam comfort layer.

As we mentioned in a previous post, when you compare innerspring mattresses, you’re really looking at three basic components: coils, upholstery, and foundation. Upholstery refers to both the fabric covering the mattress and the layers of foam and cushioning inside the mattress. We’ll start by taking a look at the inside layers, which include insulator, support, and comfort layers.

An insulator layer in a mattress is the least glamorous position. The goal of the insulator layer is to separate the comfort foams from the springs. Usually a mesh style fabric covers the coils, possibly with another layer of cotton or batting on top of that. These layers will also help keep the comfort foams from shifting over the life of the mattress.

Support layers help determine the feel to the mattress. Is it firm to the touch, plush on top of firm, or plush all the way through? Support layers can be made of the same material as comfort layers but may be thicker or rated for different densities.

Which brings us to everyone’s favorite part: the squishy, resilient, and sleep-inducing materials that make up the comfort layers. The latest trends in mattress construction involve memory foam, latex foam, and a gel layer. But poly-urethane or visco-elastic foam are also common. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Sleep City mattress comfort
Memory foam conforms to shape based on heat and weight.

Memory Foam

Great for cushioning, cradling, and pressure relief. Probably best as a thinner layer over the top of a firmer support layer. Higher density foam means higher quality, so look for 5.0 lbs per cubic foot or more. The “sink” factor can make it feel more difficult to change positions. First few generations didn’t breathe as well as other materials, so may sleep warmer than other materials. (Simmons created AirCool Memory Foam in the Beautyrest Black mattresses to combat this issue.)

Latex Foam

Molds well to the body. Both supportive and cushioning, so offers great pressure relief. Durable and resilient. Can find in both a denser, firmer style (Dunlop) and a springier style (Talalay). Most breathable type of foam, so regulates temperatures better than other foam options. More expensive than other foam options.

Polyurethane Foam

Must be High Resilience 2.5 lbs per cubic foot (HR) polyfoam to be durable enough as a comfort foam layer. Highest quality polyfoam performs similarly to latex but isn’t very common. Not as durable as memory or latex foams. Best used as a support layer rather than a direct comfort layer.

gel touch layer
The Simmons TruEnergy mattress features a top GelTouch comfort layer.

Gel Layer

New mattress technology, typically found in higher-end models. Great pressure relief, contours closely to the body while also providing support for areas that don’t settle as heavily on the mattress. Works well with a firmer support layer. Especially good for people who sleep warm; dissipates heat and regulates temperature very well. (Simmons’ Beautyrest TruEnergy mattresses have a GelTouch layer that conforms very well to the body shape and keeps you cool throughout the night.)

Natural Fiber

Can include wool, cotton, and hemp. Best for people who sleep in a single position as they need a “break-in” time and don’t adjust as well to position change as foam layers. Extremely durable. Regulate sleeping temperature very well due to natural breathability.

Many innerspring mattresses offer a combination of layer materials, with a focus on one in particular. When you compare mattress upholstery layers, take into account how you sleep. If you move around a lot, memory foam and natural fiber may not be for you. If you sleep hot, the gel layer may be a lifesaver. If you have questions, call our trained sales staff. They’ll be happy to explain the differences in comfort layers from model to model.