The Wrong Pillow and Mattress Can Affect Your Quality of Sleep

Everyone knows the importance of a good night’s sleep, but it’s more than just getting eight hours of shuteye each night. There are several determining factors in quality sleep, and many things you can do to ensure you’re getting the best sleep you can; but without the proper pillow and mattress, going to bed earlier may not help much.

“Sleep quality” refers to how well you sleep, not just how much. It’s considered good sleep quality if you:

  • Spend 85% of your time in bed sleeping (opposed to tossing and turning, or watching TV)
  • Fall asleep in 30 minutes or less
  • Awake during the night no more than once
  • Fall back to sleep quickly (within 20 minutes)

Studies have found that going to bed around the same time each night and sleeping the same number of hours (including on the weekends) is best for sleep quality. You should also limit caffeine, spicy foods, and spending too much time doing other things in bed besides sleeping. No, we’re not talking about sex here. Working, checking email, watching television, etc.. in bed can impact sleep quality. You also need the proper environment for a good night’s sleep; usually a dark and quiet room.

But, the most important factor in quality sleep is not how much sleep you get, but what you’re sleeping on.

For the best sleep experience, you should have a high quality pillow and mattress that’s suited for the way you sleep. When you lay down to sleep, what’s the position you settle in? That’s your dominant sleep position.


Which Sleep Positions Are Best for Sleep Quality?

There are pros and cons for each sleeping position. The most important is what’s comfortable for you. If you have neck or back issues, chronic snoring or sleep apnea, changing your position may be the trick to a better night’s sleep.

Back Sleepers – Sleeping on your back aligns your back and neck, but it’s not the best position if you snore or have sleep apnea.

Side Sleepers – Around 70% of people sleep on their side, with either legs straight, or curled into the fetal position – the most common position among women. There are health benefits to sleeping on your left side, as it can help with digestion, acid reflux and heartburn, and circulation. However, sleeping on your side may cause shoulder pain. Many side sleepers get arm numbness from sleeping on one side all night, so switching sides during the night will help.

Stomach Sleepers – Sleeping on your stomach may be the best position for snoring, but the worst for your back and neck.

Once we’re asleep, we don’t have much control over which way our body wants to sleep but beginning in the most comfortable position will give you the right start to a better night’s sleep.


Are you Sleeping on the Right Pillow?

Foam, feathers, memory foam, latex, or buckwheat hulls: there are thousands of pillows out there, so how do you choose the right one? Base it on your dominant sleep position.

Pillows come soft, medium, firm, or extra firm, meaning how much they squish when you sleep on them. Some pillows are contoured for proper neck placement while you sleep.

Most pillows are now marked for a certain position: back or side. There’s more to choosing a pillow than firmness, starting with personal comfort.

Down feathers are the softest feathers for pillows and are usually more expensive that other feathers or foam pillows. They also conform the best to your neck for stomach sleepers. If that’s your position but you don’t like feathers, or your allergic, choose a thinner foam or down alternative. A thicker pillow may leave you with a sore neck.

Back sleepers, if you snore or have sleep apnea, choose a thicker firm pillow or a wedge pillow that will elevate your head. Not so much elevation that your neck hurts in the morning, but just enough so you’re not sleeping with your head flat. Memory foam or latex contoured pillows work great for back sleepers.

You have a lot of choices if you’re a side sleeper, so choose what’s comfortable for you. Memory foam and latex are more supportive and keep you head at the appropriate angle, so you don’t wake up with a sore neck. Traditional polyester or feather pillows may become too flat over time for the side sleeper, and you’ll spend quality sleeping time, awake, fluffing your pillow to regain its shape.

What about the combination sleeper? This means you go between back and side throughout the night. Choose a pillow with a combination of materials which have both soft and firm areas. Buckwheat hulls might be a great choice.

Depending on the quality of material, you should replace your pillow at least every two years. Some of the cheaper materials like polyester should be replaced more frequently (6-18 months), and latex can last longer.  If your pillow isn’t retaining its shape, or you wake up with neck soreness, it may be time to go pillow shopping.


You and your Mattress – A Personal Choice

The average life of a mattress is 10 years.  Some materials last longer than others depending on the quality, but that’s the average.

If your mattress sags, is keeping you up at night, or causing joint or back pain it might be time to look for a new one. A problem with most conventional mattresses (not air or water) is dust mites – millions of microscopic creatures taking up residence on your mattress.  A good quality cover will help, as will washing sheets in hot water weekly.

But an aging mattress may have a worse problem with dust mites. So, if your mattress is giving you a rash even after cleaning, it might be time for it to go.

There are a lot of choices for mattresses today with smart technology, memory foam, gel, air or water, inner spring and pillow tops. The most important factor in choosing the right mattress is that it’s comfortable. You need to lay on it and not just in the store. Most reputable mattress retailers let you try a mattress for a specified period to make sure it works for you. Take them up on it. Take it home and sleep on it for a few of weeks to make sure that it’s comfortable, and that you’re getting quality sleep.

Side sleepers do better with a softer mattress, and one that has a three-inch soft mattress top so your body can conform and you won’t wake up sore.

If you sleep on your back, you don’t need the same thickness from your pillow top that side sleepers need. Two inches at the most work best for back sleepers.

Stomach sleepers need a firm mattress. Innerspring or firm memory foam works well.

Whether you keep to one position, you’re a combination sleeper, or you don’t sleep alone, the best determination of mattress style should be personal comfort.


Tying It All Up

We spend a third of our lives sleeping, so it’s important that you’re getting quality sleep. If you’ve had your pillow for more than a year, or your mattress for 10 years, consider replacing them. Take into consideration your dominant sleep position, but the most important thing you need from your pillow and mattress is comfort. If you’re tossing and turning to get comfortable, you’re not getting your best sleep.

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