When it comes to the design of a bed space, the item that usually receives less attention in the bedroom is the pillow. We tend to give mattresses and bed covers more attention because our whole bodies depend on them. It is probably because we never think of pillows as necessities, which when taken for granted can affect our health.
There are still individuals who fail to understand that not having a pillow can sometimes–and usually–makes sleep uncomfortable. But, do you know that even getting a bad pillow, one that doesn’t properly support you, can also lead to sleep and health problems?
According to Spine-Health, it also pays to know that sleeping without pillows can result in neck and head strain, especially due to the pressure that builds up in the neck region and over-stretching of muscles in the cervical part of the neck. Lack of a pillow or a poor choice of one can affect your health in various ways.
Best Pals or Arch Enemy? Depends :
Starting with the obvious, your pillow can be your neck’s best friend or your neck’s worst enemy. During sleep, our necks rest directly on pillows and so, pillows directly affect them in turn. If you sleep on your side frequently without a pillow for support, you risk your neck stretching too far to meet your mattress for support. Or you risk your neck hanging in the air, which is worse and painful.
The same thing with a pillow that does not provide the adequate support, say a soft pillow. Your neck also extends sideways to meet the pillow. In addition, sleeping on your back hyperextends the neck too far backward.
Experts at Pain Science agree that if your neck is bent in any way for a long time, you will start to get uncomfortable which in turn can result in neck stiffness, one of the worst neck conditions you can ever have. As an extension, a bad pillow or the absence of a good one can cause neck strain. It can be as a result of a strained muscle or an affected bone or spinal disc in the neck.
Connecting Pillows and Headaches :
There are different types of headaches; about 150 or thereabouts. The commonest ones include cluster headaches, migraines, tension headaches, hormone headaches, sinus or allergy headaches. Others include rebound headaches, post-traumatic headaches, hypertension headaches, caffeine headaches, and many others. That is a handful.
There are also carcinogenic headaches that arise due to problems affecting bony structures or soft tissues present in the neck and head region. They are as painful as migraines (if you have ever experienced one, you are sure to know). In fact, it is usually difficult to distinguish between migraines and cervicogenic headaches. Not just because of the intensity of the pain, but because migraines too can have associated neck and head tensions.
Migraines root from deep within the brain. Cervicogenic headaches, on the other hand, originate in the cervical region (neck) or the base of the skull. Specifically, they affect the nerves, bones, and muscles of the neck. It is important that the source or origin of a headache is a bone, disc, muscle, nerve or soft tissue within the neck.
They (cervicogenic headaches) have varying causes, which could be a degenerative condition affecting the joints of the bones like osteoarthritis, tumor or cancer, a whiplash injury or fractures in the region.
Bad posture, while sitting or working can also result in cervicogenic headaches. it is referred to as cervical protraction: the individual’s chin is pushed forward and the head is pushed out in front of the body. When this posture is maintained for a long time, pressure and strain are put on the neck and upper spine and this can lead to a cervicogenic headache.
If you imagine that a bad pillow can consequently lead to cervicogenic headaches, you are absolutely right. Sleeping without good support for the neck or lying down with the neck in an awkward position is a regular cause. Neck stiffness, which in itself is difficult to treat, can result in cervicogenic headaches. Keep in mind that stiff necks are majorly caused by improper head and neck support.
From the Neck to the Back and Spine :
It sounds strange saying that a pillow can cause back pain. But this is true and it has been proven too many times.
Pillows are not only necessary for supporting the neck. In fact, it is only stereotypical to always associate pillows with the neck. Pillows support your body. They can be placed to support the back, the legs, arms and even the entire body as a unit.
The basis of the problem is that pillows are capable of throwing your spine out of alignment. But they can also properly align the spine. It depends on your preferred sleeping position.
For people who sleep on their sides, a proper pillow is needed between the knees so that the upper leg does not pull the spine out of alignment when it rolls forward or backward.
For back sleepers, a pillow should be placed below the knees to reduce pressure on the back. It is also vital to do this so that the natural curve of the lower back is supported too.
And if you are a stomach sleeper, just so you know, it is mostly recommended that you change your sleep position. If you find it difficult to change, you should place a pillow under the stomach and if you can, around the pelvis too. It is usually recommended too, that your pillow choice be a flat one, so your neck is not pushed way higher than the rest of your body, or you don’t use a pillow at all.
But remember we mentioned sleeping on the stomach not being good practice.
All these points to the fact that a pillow is needed to keep your spine in good health.
Allergies, Breathlessness, and Pillows :
A bad pillow, especially one that is made with lots of synthetic chemicals can cause or exacerbate allergies. If nothing at all, it is one reason to pay good attention to the kind of pillow you choose to buy.
Your pillow is not just close to your neck only. It is in a proximal position to your nose too. And throughout the night, for 7 to 8 hours if you try to sleep for the recommended number of hours, you are bound to inhale and exhale on your pillow.
Hence, you are bound to breathe in chemicals that are used in the manufacturing process. These chemicals can trigger allergies like asthma. They can result in respiratory conditions too.
A bad pillow can make breathing difficult too. Some pillows are made such that air does not flow easily through them. In fact, they make you feel like you are suffocating.
Summarily, all these can lead to poor quality of sleep.
Dirty Pillow, Bad Health :
When we say you should make your pillow a priority, it does not only mean in buying or choosing a pillow.
It also means that you should put endeavour to properly care for your pillow. Sun-drying or air-drying your mattress and not doing the same for your pillow because you deem it too unnecessary is unhygienic.
Your neck is on your pillow. Your nose, too. In many instances during the night, your face will be on your pillow. Your pillow is in direct contact with bacteria, sweat, oils, drool, hair product and even makeup.
And you do this every day of your life. Sleeping 8 hours on your pillow, in a week, you would have spent 56 hours on your pillow and 224 hours in a month.
Consider the amount of dirt and grit that would have accumulated on your pillow over time.
Your pillow does not just accumulate dirt, grit, and oil. It is not just a deposit box for these things. Your pillow is capable of redepositing these irritating and annoying substances on your skin too.
For women, this is especially worrying. Because these things come in contact with your pillow constantly, they can clog the pores on your face, cause irritation and itching and result in acne and breakouts.
Ensure you launder, vacuum and clean your pillow regularly. A number of pillows are “flip” pillows, which means that you can sleep on both sides. So, you can regularly flip your pillows on the other side. Always try to have your bath or shower before you sleep too.
Giving your pillow high priority is very important. Not just when you want to choose a new pillow, do you need to research on its advantages and disadvantages. You should make an effort to take care of the pillow too after purchase, just as you would care for your mattress and pet.
Author Bio : Bibo Chen is an entrepreneur by profession and writer by heart. He started 2bear.com, a latex pillow company, aiming to aid people in achieving quality sleep. He eventually launched a blog focusing on sleep-related tips, ideas, and advice.