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How a New Pillow Can Help You Sleep Well and Feel Better

Kristen Howe has been preventing neck and lower back pain by buying a new pillow every few years and having a good night's sleep.

Want to catch your Zzs?

Want to catch your Zzs?

Trouble Sleeping?

Do you suffer from insomnia, once or twice a week? If yes, you’re one of the 75% of Americans who have the same problem. Does pain make you turn from physical discomfort at least three nights a week? Based on a 2015 poll from the National Sleep Federation, if you've answered yes, you might have interrupted sleep.

How Long Does a Pillow Last?

The pillow material should be medium firm and not too thick, so it would align with your neck. If not, you could have headaches, feel stiff and numb, be in pain, and have insomnia.

Good pillows last four to five years; though it's smart to buy a new one after two years. Experts recommend replacing pillows that are supportive, clean, and allergen-free, and care for the pillows to ensure their longevity. If it’s past its prime, you might find mold and dust mites inhabiting inside the pillow to add more to the weight. Check for these signs to know when to toss your pillow into the bin.

  • Smells bad
  • Noticeable lumps
  • Acne appears on your skin (or growing worse)
  • Flat enough to fold
  • Frequently sneezing
  • Neck and shoulder pain in the mornings
  • Seriously stained
  • Constant pillow re-fluffing
  • You've switched sleep positions
  • Often waking up tired

Finding Your Best Sleeping Position

For those who prefer to sleep on their back, you would need the right pillow to support your back. If it isn’t the right strength, you might experience back pain. If you stack your pillows, it could protrude your head forward, and make you feel tightness and neck pain.

One option is memory foam pillows, which shape the neck's natural curve. If you can afford an expensive denser cushion, it gives you more support. Also consider thinner pillows, and ones with extra cushioning at the bottom, to cradle your neck. These pillows offer reliable support when you change sleep positions. Another idea is placing a second pillow under your back, like a wedge or a bolster for example. When you change sleeping positions, these types of pillows offer reliable support. You could also try sandwiching a second one under your knees to lower pressure off your back.

For Side Sleepers

When sleeping on your left or right side, tuck a pillow between your knees. This strengthens your spine and keeps it straight. Or consider a leg-spacer pillow to set between your knees. It helps relieve pressure from your hips to your ankles. If you suffer from sciatica, it reduces stress on your lumbar vertebrae. As you lie down on your bed, place a medium-firm cushion under your head. It should fill the gap between the ear and the outside shoulder.

For Stomach Sleepers

Don’t sleep on your stomach. If you do, it could create potential pain in your neck and lower back. Snuggling with a giant body pillow could give you a similar feeling. Your body will feel comfortable with the right support when you sleep on your sides. It’s three times longer than a king-size bed. Or tuck a thin, almost flat pillow under your stomach.

A memory foam pillow can give you restful sleep

A memory foam pillow can give you restful sleep

Choose a Pillow for Your Needs

If you’re one of the 35%-80% of the population that suffers from neck pain, consider trying two different types of pillows. Memory foam and water-based pillows are perfect for you, and they're also hypoallergenic. If you choose one that’s made from water, it relieves chronic neck pain, reduces the frequency of headaches, and improves sleep.

Synthetic Fiber Pillows

If you’re sick with allergies or asthma, try synthetic fiber. It might help you feel better. Pillows with feathers can worsen it overnight. Shield yourself from pollen, pet dander, and dust mites by using an anti-allergy cover. If you can't machine wash your pillow, give the zip-enclosed cover a wash every 3-4 weeks.

These pillows make you feel well-rested after a good night’s sleep. Natural dust-bite repellents, such as lamb’s wool and silk, also provide relief.

Anti-Snoring Pillows

If you or your partner snore, an anti-snoring pillow helps you fall fast asleep. They subtly shift your head to the “sniff” position to give your neck support. You'll find it easier to breathe with opened airways, and it also won’t create other issues like neck pain. A recent pillow study from WebMD in April 2022 showed positive results in some people.

Pregnancy Pillows

If you’re an expectant mother, back pain is expected for the eighth and ninth months of pregnancy. To encourage blood flow between the two main vessels that pass, lift your belly. That helps remove pressure from your ligaments. To minimize stress from your hips and lower back, sandwich your knees with another pillow. Avoid sleeping on your back. Place a pillow or two under your head, and one under your stomach to raise your belly. To provide comfort for your lumbar spine, prop another small cushion between the lower back and the bed. Or try a full-body pillow that’s shaped like a giant “U” or “C."

Be Selective About Pillow Stuffings

Down-feather, foam, or polyester fiberfills are the most common stuffing options in pillows. For those who need more support for the neck, memory foam and latex pillows are popular nowadays. Choosing the right pillow depends on how you feel on a given day. It’s recommended you should have more than one type to select. These pillows do serve many purposes. For example, if your neck hurts one day, and then appears fine the following day, that same pillow might not be right for you.

If down is out of your budget, consider polyester fibers like Primloft that mimics down feathers. Other cheaper alternatives might be pure ones, but they won’t last long.

You can't go wrong with a new down pillow

You can't go wrong with a new down pillow

Different Types of Pillows

Pick the right pillow for you and your needs.

FoamMemory FoamLatexWool/CottonDown Feathers

Offers more support... w/o getting too soft

Adjusts to body shape at night

Mold and dust mite resistent

Mold and dust bite resistant.

Might be hypoallergenic and made from natural fibers.

Higher Solidity

Reduces pressure points, real popular.

Firmest, assists in back and neck alignment.

Real firm.

Extremely soft to support head and neck.

Smaller Breakdown

Comes in various shapes like "S" for neck support.

Contoured for neck support.


Provibes warmth and durable and inexpensive to purchase.

Tips for Choosing a New Pillow

When you shop for a new pillow or two, keep these tips in mind, even for specialty pillows:

  • The Price Isn’t Right: Because it's expensive doesn't mean it's the right pillow for your neck. And because it's cheaper doesn't mean it's the right fit. It won't be the most supportive pillow for you.
  • Give It a Test Feel: If you’re shopping for a new pillow and are allowed to lie down on the bed, have a test feel. If not, set the pillow against the wall, and then get ready for sleep. Lean against it, and then ask a sales representative if your neck looks straight or not. Align it with your spine.
  • Cervical Pillows: These add more support in the lower portions to rest the neck. Though it comes in assorted fabrics and forms, they can help. A recent study showed it didn’t have enough proof to recommend for or against the pillows.
  • Water Pillows: These have a base of water sandwiched between the polyester filling. Add water to create your own pillow size. Chiropractors and physical therapists favor them because you can use water to create your own tailor-made density and support.
  • Cool Pillows: These have a filling of tiny “beads” that soaks up and pulls away the heat. If you experience hot flashes and night sweats, these are the perfect antidote, since the lower part of the pillow that touches your face will be cool.
  • Oxygen-Promoting Pillows: Based on a research study from WebMD in March 2022, this new technology in pillows made from sock fabric has helped Diabetes patients with circulation. It also increases oxygen up to 29% content with tiny blood vessels and decreases the pain.
  • Positional Pillows: If you sleep on your sides, back, or stomach, these helpful pillows are designed for you. Make sure it gives you the right comfort and support you need.

New Pillows Offer a Good Night's Sleep

Try placing a pillow under your legs, or between your legs when you go to sleep if you have lower back pain. That's what my physical therapist recommended in 2014, and it worked like a charm. I've been doing it ever since then. I brought two new pillows two years ago, and they helped me feel better! I have been able to catch some ZZZs and prevent cricks in my neck or new lower back pain.

If you consider buying a new pillow, it might cure what ails you, and give you a good night's sleep. Give it a try and see for yourself. You might be surprised how wonderful it works when you're feeling better the next day.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Kristen Howe


Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on June 01, 2019:

Thanks Linda for commenting and stopping by. I'll be tweaking this hub to go to a niche site next week.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on May 31, 2019:

Wow, thanks for this article full of pillow research! I don't invest in an expensive pillow but I do find fairly good ones that are of decent quality. I typically switch out my pillow at least between 6 to 12 months because most start to break down rather quickly. I do need to get a leg-spacer pillow to relieve lower back and hip pain.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on April 01, 2019:

Tamara, you're very welcome. Happy pillow hunting!

BBYCGN from Uninhabited Regions on March 23, 2019:

Great post! I have never seen an article solely dedicated to pillows and I am impressed! I am still looking for the perfect pillow as mine keeps going flat. Thank you!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on January 21, 2019:

Rajan, you're very welcome. I'm so glad it's useful to you.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on January 21, 2019:

A timely reminder to change my pillows which have been long overdue. Thank you for this informative article.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on December 11, 2018:

Oh no, Bill! Happy pillow searching my friend.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 10, 2018:

An addendum to my earlier comment...the puppy chewed up my new pillow. lol Time to search for another "new" one.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on June 26, 2018:

No worries Bill. Who knew new pillows could do the trick? So happy for you.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 25, 2018:

I'm sorry I didn't see this earlier.

I switched pillows about a month ago. Suddenly I was waking up without neck pain. Imagine that!!! It takes me a long time to figure things out, but I eventually arrive where I should. :)

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on April 12, 2018:

So glad it worked out well for you Liz. You just need to find right that's the right fit for your head.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 12, 2018:

The pillows looked quite full and high but were deceptively soft, so not too bad after all.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on April 11, 2018:

Hi Eurofile. Yay for new pillows. Hope you have sweet dreams. Thanks for the follow.

Liz Westwood from UK on April 11, 2018:

This is a very topical article, as I've just replaced our pillows today. Hoping for a good night's sleep.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on April 06, 2018:

Thanks for stopping by and commenting Larry. I prefer semi-firm for my pillows.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 05, 2018:

I agree, Kristen that the right pillow is very important for a good night's sleep. I know when I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond to buy my last pillow they had many to choose from. I saw one advertised on TV that was expensive and to me it appeared terrible. I prefer a firm pillow, it gives me the best sleep, just my preference. The price was also less than 1/3 the price on that bragged about TV pillow. I normally sleep like a log. Good and interesting article, Kristen.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 16, 2018:

Go for it, Diana. You're welcome and thanks for stopping by to comment. Happy shopping!

Dianna Mendez on March 16, 2018:

There is so much to said for a good pillow. I am going to use this guide as I shop next time. Comfort at my age is needed and the ability to sleep well does relate to having proper support under your head. Thanks for the information.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 02, 2018:

Peggy, thanks for stopping by to comment. I guess you can't please everyone with the My Pillow. To each their own, right? I'm happy to share what's available to everyone to fit thier sleeping needs.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 01, 2018:

I just purchased some new pillows at Tuesday Morning which is a discount store. They got the approval of the National Sleep Foundation and were not the most expensive in the store. So far I am happy with them. Some friends of ours purchased the 'My Pillow' and she is happy with it and he is a 50-50 review on that. I did not realize that there was a snore pillow available. Interesting!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 01, 2018:

Hi Patty, thanks for letting me know. I'm glad it worked better for her and have no complaints this time around. Maybe the company turned things around.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 01, 2018:

A friend recently purchased a "My Pillow" off the shelf at the CVS drug store and is very happy with it after a month of use.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on March 01, 2018:

Yay Audrey! Good for you. Thanks for stopping by and commenting my friend.

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 01, 2018:

Just what I need! I'm shopping for a new pillow. Your informative hub provides me with some good information. I love Down pillows.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on February 28, 2018:

Linda, that's interesting. I did hear about My Pillow being on the news, when people complained about it. Lucky it worked for you, when it didn't for others. I don't know much about that pillow though.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on February 28, 2018:

Thanks for stopping by Chitrangada and commenting on my hub. Hope it helps everyone in the long run.

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on February 28, 2018:

You're welcome CaribTales. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my newest hub.

Linda Correa on February 28, 2018:

Not too long ago we purchased the My Pillow. Love that pillow

CaribTales on February 28, 2018:

Lots of useful information here. Learned the different types of pillows and the reason for the pillow between the knees. Thanks.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on February 28, 2018:

Excellent article about pillows! Pillows must be selected carefully. Not only is it important for good sleep, but also for neck and head. Improper pillows can cause pain and discomfort.

You have provided some very important tips here for selection of pillows, and their stuffings.

Thanks for sharing!

Kristen Howe (author) from Northeast Ohio on February 27, 2018:

Thanks Flourish! Go for it! Maybe it's time to swap it out for a better one. I might do the same myself someday soon.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 26, 2018:

This was a well organized and reasearched article! It makes me want to get a new pillow. I have a fancy one that has worked well for several years that I swear by but I did see that maybe it’s shelf life is up soon.