Choosing a comfortable pillow can make or break a good night. It makes a difference between feeling great or groggy the next day. A bad pillow can also cause neck pain.

Studies on pillows and sleep are quite interesting. In a 2011 study  published in Physiotherapy Canada, researchers found that 42% of the patients tested, there was no complaints during the day their own pillows (versus one given to them). Also, the folks who reported poor sleep quality also reported poor pillow comfort and neck stiffness upon awakenings. Apparently, feathered pillows provided low scores on pillow comfort and sleep quality.  This study concluded that participants who were tested made overall poor pillow choices.

For those who like to sleep on their side, feather pillows were not recommended according to another study published in Manual Therapy in 2009.  For those who wake up with neck pain, this study recommends a rubber pillow. This type of pillow also improves sleep quality based on subjective report.

There is good evidence that good head and neck positions diminish snoring and some sleep apnea. Certain pillows have been studied for their effect on snoring and sleep apnea. According to one study published in Sleep and Breathing in 2004, a uniquely designed pillow, known as the SONA Pillow, is effective in reducing the number of breathing events such as snoring and pauses in breathing in patients with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea. This pillow can be purchased on-line. It is a triangular pillow that allows you to sleep on your side. If you have sleep apnea, you need to discuss the use of this pillow with your doctor. Only if you have what is called supine-positional apnea (apneas on your back), then this would be ok to use. It is not for everyone.

The perfect pillow

  • Get a firm and thick pillow that gives you a good head and neck support.
  •  Get a pillow that allows you to keep your head in a neutral position when you sleep on your side; avoid over bending of the neck.
  • Avoid a pillow that props your head too much forward so you flex your neck and obstruct your airway.