First of all, is a pillow important for a good night’s sleep? I say yes, but not before stressing upon specific physical attributes of the pillow and how to correctly use it.
For this blog let’s start with what to look for in a good pillow. A quality pillow should be able to be shaped easily to the contour of one’s neck and provide various thicknesses of support according to your shoulder width and how your head is held (i.e. for many the head sits in a forward position). The pillow and mattress should comfortably support the body as close to neutral. Even though a memory foam pillow moulds to the shape of the neck it does not compress to nothing which is important for a pillow to be able to do when the goal is ideal posture.
Shaping a pillow is also important to help in treatment when trying to improve posture. As tight muscle and fascia regain their elasticity and posture improves so too must the pillow’s shape be tweaked to reflect and support this improved posture.
This is a key reason why a form fitting pillow is limited in it’s use. To a lesser degree it is also the reason memory foam falls short. A pillow appropriately filled with small balls of merino wool is easily moulded.
Equally important to the pillow’s ability to be shaped is that it can now hold this shape. This can be tied in with a pillow’s ability to readily wick moisture from the skin as active wear clothing does from sweat and rain. Feather for example does not wick moisture well and looses its loft when wet. Wool on the other hand wicks moisture well enabling it to hold it shape.
Wicking moisture from the skin also helps to regulate the body temperature. It does this by letting the skin breathe better. It’s surprising how much we sweat in a night. Under certain conditions this can equate to 1 litre but normally it’s closer to 200 ml. This is another reason why foam isn’t well suited against the skin. Foam does not let the skin breathe resulting in a rise in body temperature and subsequent sweating.
A study at the University of British Columbia sleep centre compared different sleeping materials. They were looking to see if there was a difference in the quality of sleep based on what medium was slept on. They found wool gave the best sleep in that it resulted in the most time spent in the deepest stage of sleep as compared to foam and feather. It’s the deep part of the sleep cycle that is valued for its restorative properties.
For this reason wool should not be limited to just your pillow. A wool duvet and overlay for the mattress can also contribute to a good night’s sleep.
As for how to use your pillow stay tuned for my next blog…