How The Wrong Pillow Might Be Hurting Your Health.

Everywhere we look, we can see how people talk about the connection between a proper pillow and the benefits it brings to our sleep quality and overall health. However, what most people don't tell you, is that the wrong kind of pillow not only fails to deliver comfort and support but can also be harmful to your health.

How Pillows Can Become Harmful To Your Health

1. Pillow Firmness and Sleep Positions

According to Matthew O'Rourke, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, MA, when your neck gets bent (in any given way) for an extended period, it will most likely cause neck pain.

Everywhere we look, we can see how people talk about the connection between a proper pillow and the benefits it brings to our sleep quality and overall health. However, what most people don't tell you, is that the wrong kind of pillow not only fails to deliver comfort and support but can also be harmful to your health.

How Pillows Can Become Harmful To Your Health

1. Pillow Firmness and Sleep Positions

According to Matthew O'Rourke, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, MA, when your neck gets bent (in any given way) for an extended period, it will most likely cause neck pain.

Depending on your sleep position, the wrong kind of firmness in a bed pillow can become detrimental to your sleep.

Softer pillows with not enough neck support are not ideal for side sleepers because their heads will have to compensate sideways to rest the weight.

When they sleep, stomach sleepers perform a neck hyperextension, pushing it backward. In this scenario, firmer pillows will stretch that hyperextension even further, causing discomfort and pain the next morning.

Finally, back sleepers do the same kind of neck hyperextension, except forward. A pillow that’s too firm will bend the neck more than it’s safe to, also causing pain and discomfort.

2. Pillows and Sleep Apnea

Approximately 22 million people in the US suffer from sleep apnea, making them stop breathing in their sleep. Roughly 80% of moderate to severe cases go undiagnosed, and these people generally complain of daytime sleepiness, lethargy, and exhaustion over ordinary activities.

The preferred treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy (or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). In CPAP treatment, a device by your bed pushes air through a mask you have to wear while sleeping. Side sleepers can accidentally knock these masks off by sleeping with pillows, which is not an issue for back sleepers.

3. Pillows and Sleep Deprivation.

Sleeping with the wrong kind of pillow can bring devastating consequences to your overall health, most of them linked to sleep deprivation. In short, when you don’t sleep properly, your body has less time to heal itself and prepare for the day to come, including some bodily functions that only happen during our sleep, such as:

  • Brain Activity: when we’re asleep, our brains get pretty busy. They discard irrelevant data, store valuable information for later access, and consolidate memories.
  • Hormonal Release: melatonin (sleep hormone) and growth hormone (our bodies’ repair toolkit) increase during sleep, while cortisol level lowers since there’s no need to stay alert.
  • Immune System Healing: when we’re injured or sick, our immune systems release proteins that fend off inflammation, infections, and trauma.

With the wrong kind of pillow, we won’t get adequate sleep. Our cognitive systems will deteriorate, we won’t be able to establish long-term memories, we’ll have all sorts of hormonal imbalances, and our bodies will never fully recover. Ultimately, sleep deprivation will turn us into dysfunctional and moody human beings.

How To Choose The Best Pillow For You

In all cases, it’s safe to say that you want a pillow that allows you to rest in a “neutral alignment” position. However, bed pillows are but one of the many options. Sleeping with a long body pillow can keep your spine in a neutral posture throughout the night (no matter how much you turn). Body pillows can also increase blood circulation and oxygen flow – which alleviate pain, body stiffness, accelerate our healing processes, among others.In some cases, having a wedge pillow (like the Xtreme Comforts XW Wedge Pillow) can alleviate the symptoms of sinus problems and heartburn, according to Dr. James Mojica, also at the services of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

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