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Does a comfortable pillow for sleeping really exists?

10 March 2023
Comfortable sleeping pillow, restful sleep, spine support
Almost everyone knows that using a comfortable pillow for sleeping should be associated with optimal support for the neck. Therefore, the pillow should maintain the cervical lordosis in a physiological position throughout the night. This translates into a higher quality of sleep and more efficient functioning during the day.

This also works in reverse. When we don't have an appropriately shaped and comfortable sleeping pillow, it threatens the sensitive structures located in the neck. As a result, we may feel neck pain, as well as experience other symptoms, including stiff neck and shoulder pain. These symptoms significantly worsen sleep hygiene.

Therefore, it is worth taking care to sleep on a comfortable sleeping pillow that supports the cervical lordosis in a physiological position. It will also prevent waking up at night by optimizing the position of the head, spine, and shoulders during sleep. This support for the cervical spine is the primary factor that determines whether a given product is a comfortable sleeping pillow or just another non-functional element of bedroom decor.
Comfortable sleeping pillow, restful sleep, spine support

What is the function of a comfortable sleeping pillow?

A typical person spends about 1/3 of their life sleeping, which averages to 8 hours per day. Considering that the average life expectancy in Poland was just under 76 years in 2022, this translates to over 25 years spent sleeping. Therefore, the functionality of the pillows and mattresses we use has a significant impact on a crucial part of everyone's life.

The result of using a comfortable pillow and mattress is primarily enabling the body to regenerate properly during the night. This, in turn, affects the alleviation of physical and mental fatigue, and consequently restores balance in our bodies. This translates into metabolic functions, hormonal system, and many other essential levels of functioning.

The primary purpose of a pillow is to stabilize the head and body in a lying position, ensuring physical comfort during sleep. A well-designed pillow should also allow for natural body movements while preventing excessive pressure on the head and minimizing vibrations from the surroundings.

A properly selected orthopedic pillow can strengthen the neck vertebrae during sleep, allowing for a comfortable sleeping position. Therefore, a comfortable sleeping pillow must have optimal height and be made of appropriate materials. It must also meet hygienic requirements, such as being equipped with a pillowcase that can be removed and washed.

Standard pillows are often too soft and only support the head, which does not maintain the cervical spine in the correct position. This can result in increased pressure on the head. Moreover, in such pillows, including memory foam pillows, the head sinks lower, reducing ventilation and increasing body temperature.

The same effects can be observed with latex pillows, as latex is generally not breathable. Considering that the pillow has contact with a relatively large area of the head and neck, these materials significantly disrupt the skin's functions by depriving it of the beneficial effects of proper air circulation. Additionally, pillows made of viscoelastic foam can retain moisture or allergens, while latex can cause allergies in some individuals.
Memory pillow, memory foam, comfort at night

How does a comfortable sleeping pillow help with neck pain?

As scientific research shows, up to 80% of the human population experiences neck pain at least once in their lifetime, with the majority of these individuals experiencing it multiple times. They also complain of recurring migraines, as well as pain in the chest, shoulders, or arms. These symptoms tend to worsen in the morning and subside during the day, which suggests that improper sleep hygiene is responsible for their occurrence.

A properly selected and comfortable sleeping pillow can help alleviate these discomforts by aligning the head and neck in the correct position. However, this applies only to pillows that maintain their shape throughout the night, and therefore are not made of viscoelastic foam, which tends to be sticky and sinks in. Additionally, similar to latex, sunken memory foam pillows do not allow for proper air circulation, which can cause additional discomforts.

A comfortable sleeping pillow needs to be functional.

According to a scientific article that reviews conducted research, a comfortable sleeping position not only helps to alleviate various ailments but also prevents the development of new ones. However, the use of inappropriate pillows, even if they may seem comfortable, can lead to many diseases and disorders.

This is particularly relevant for orthopedic pillows that are sold in "traditional" shapes, such as waves or soap bars. These pillows are high and suitable for side sleeping, but they are too high for sleeping on the back. However, pillows that are too high increase the angle of cervical spine flexion and significantly disrupt its curvature, compressing the cervical vein and thereby disrupting blood circulation.

If used for a long time, they can cause stroke and problems with the cervical spine, as well as neck muscle tension. Moreover, if the neck is bent, the intervertebral nerves may be compressed, leading to pain and sleep disorders. If such a situation persists, it can result in chronic neck muscle pain. Sleeping in an improper position often causes difficulties in turning the head the next day or experiencing neck or shoulder pain. In children, it negatively affects skeletal development.

A completely different issue concerns individuals who sleep on their stomach or in atypical positions. These individuals often tend to have tense neck muscles, as they are not aware that sleeping on the stomach should be done without the use of a pillow. In this position, the neck undergoes rotation to the side, which naturally burdens it, and additional retraction, or bending backward, only increases the risk of discomfort.
Functionality, ergonomic sleep pillow, side sleeping, pillow height

How to choose a good sleeping quality?

Moreover, further scientific articles prove that the key to improving the mentioned discomforts and morning neck stiffness is primarily the selection of a comfortable sleeping pillow. Comfort should be understood as functionality that directly translates into the comfort it provides to us.

Therefore, an appropriate pillow for sleeping should primarily provide proper support to the spine and head throughout the night, as well as proper air circulation and the ability to maintain proper hygiene. Among the conditions that allow a pillow to be considered comfortable and functional, which ONSEN® orthopedic pillows meet, scientific studies also mention height, size, flexibility, morphostasis, hygroscopic properties, and maintaining a constant temperature.

When choosing a new pillow, attention should be paid to ensure that in the supine position, it maintains the physiological curvature of the cervical spine, which helps reduce muscle tension. In the side-lying position, the cervical spine and chest should be in a straight line with the head, which means that the head should be lifted upwards, away from the floor, to relieve muscle tension.

Good pillows should have an optimal height to support the neck in the supine position as well as the head. A different height of the pillow is used for sleeping on the back compared to sleeping on the side. At the same time, it should effectively fill the space between the bottom of the head and the neck.

In addition, depending on the width of a person's shoulders, the size of the pillow should be adjusted to support both the head and neck. However, most pillows do not have shoulder profiling, which results in incorrect positioning of the shoulders. At the same time, for sleeping on the back, the optimal pillow should have lower support than for sleeping on the side. In addition, at the level of the neck, it should be higher than at the level of the head.

Currently, orthopedic pillows available in Europe rarely correspond to the physiological shapes adapted to the neck, head, and shoulders. They are usually cut from visco foam blocks, which in itself often makes them unhealthy. However, cutting them also results in the inability to create negative angles, i.e., proper profiling.

Currently, the most comfortable pillows for sleeping are:
  • Yoko foam pillow - also available in Skin+ version, an orthopedic pillow for people with a petite body build;
  • Asana foam pillow - also available in Skin+ version, an orthopedic pillow for people with an average body build;
  • Enso foam pillow - also available in Skin+ version, a two-sided orthopedic pillow for people with an average body build, which is the most versatile choice;
  • Hiro foam pillow - also available in Skin+ version, an orthopedic pillow for people with a sturdy body build.
All of these are first-class medical products. In addition, like all ONSEN® products, they are covered by a warranty of up to 15 years and a 100-day return program, which eliminates the risk of purchase.

We also encourage you to explore other articles on the best sleep and health blog, as well as the Encyclopedia of Healthy Sleep prepared by the ONSEN® team of specialists. For those who care about spine health, we recommend a set of spine exercises prepared by our physiotherapist.
Yoko, Asana, Enso, Hiro, orthopedic pillows, cervical lordosis, neck pain

FAQ: Comfortable pillow for sleeping

How to choose the right pillow for sleeping?

To choose the right pillow for sleeping, you should consider several factors. First and foremost, you should look at whether the pillow is comfortable, and what material it is made of. It should also provide optimal support for the body and spine, and be suitable for our sleeping position.

Are the materials from which the pillow is made important?

Yes, the material of the pillow is important because it affects its comfort and durability. Synthetic pillows are more durable and easier to maintain, while also being hypoallergenic. When designed to match human anatomy, they allow for healthy and comfortable sleep. Natural pillows, such as those made of cotton or buckwheat, do not provide this same level of support.

Is the price of a pillow important?

The price of a pillow is important, but it should not be the only deciding factor. A good quality pillow can be an investment for many years, and a lower price does not always mean lower quality.

How to care for a pillow?

To keep a pillow in good condition, it should be regularly cleaned and aired out. It is recommended to use pillowcases that can be easily washed.

How long should a pillow be used?

The lifespan of a pillow depends on its quality and how it is used. Good quality pillows can last for many years, but they should be regularly washed and cared for to extend their lifespan. ONSEN® orthopedic pillows have a 10-year warranty, while most manufacturers recommend replacing a pillow every 2 years.

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