4 Factors to Consider

By Adarsh Shah


We spend an astounding one-third of our lives asleep – with much of those hours spent lying on our pillows.  However, the pillow is frequently an afterthought.  When it comes to sleep, most of our energy is often spent on choosing the right mattress, the most beautiful bed frame or the softest sheets.  It’s time to turn that thinking on its head – no pun intended!


As you’ve probably discovered, the wrong pillow can cause persistent neck & shoulder pain.  Old pillows at home can lose their pressure-relieving properties and could be full of sleep-disrupting allergens.  Or, if you’re back to travelling, poor quality pillows in hotels or guest bedrooms can lead to hours of tossing and turning. The truth is, if your pillow is not fitted and tailored to your body shape or sleeping style, it can cause pain, wake you up during the night, and dramatically reduce the amount of deep sleep you receive.


But there is hope! The right pillow can relieve pain, support your entire body well at night, and help you wake up feeling refreshed. If you are in pursuit of the perfect pillow, read on to learn about the four key factors everyone should know.


The Four Factors of the Perfect Pillow

When it comes to finding the perfect pillow, there’s more to it than just picking a pretty pillowcase. In order to get the full support that you need, there are four main factors to keep in mind: Fill, firmness, shape and surface. Let’s break down each:


Fill Material: What the pillow is made from is the first factor to consider.  Different fill materials of the pillow can offer distinct properties, some of which can be quite beneficial depending on your sleep position.  Some of the most popular materials include:

Memory foam: Memory foam is a visco-elastic polyurethane foam invented by NASA.  It conforms to your head and neck, providing support and pressure relief. It is a good choice for side and stomach sleepers.

Down or down-alternative: Down is a natural, fluffy material made from goose or duck feathers. It has a gentle, soft feel and is best used in combination with other materials like memory foam or gel for optimal cervical support. For those with allergies, down-alternative is a synthetic material that mimics the feel of down.

Gel: Gel is a non-porous, fluid-like, supportive material made from mineral oils.  It is better than pressure-relieving foams, as it absorbs less heat and is more durable. It is a good choice for side sleepers or those who get hot at night.


Firmness Level: The firmness level of your pillow is another important factor to consider.  It is quite an individual choice – just like choosing the right mattress.

Side Sleepers: Side sleepers need a pillow that is firm enough to support their head and neck in alignment with their spine. However, it should be soft enough in the shoulder area so that it does not strain the neck.

Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers need a pillow that is soft enough to allow their head to sink down. A pillow that is too firm will push their head up and cause pain in their neck, shoulders and back.

Back Sleepers: Back sleepers need a pillow that is somewhat soft to provide support for the natural curve of their spine. A pillow that is too firm will cause their chin to fall towards their chest, which can cause neck pain and sinus problems.


Shape & Thickness: The third factor to consider when choosing a pillow is its shape and thickness.  Thick and fluffy is not always the best way to go!  Those with broad shoulders should look for thicker pillows to support the curve of their neck adequately.  The pillow should fill the gap between your shoulder blades and the back of your head.  Without the right support, your shoulder muscles will be firing all night long to support the weight of your head.

Those with long or short necks should experiment with contoured pillows that have curves for built-in shoulder support, or cut-outs that allow the pillow to curve around the shoulder.


Surface Material: The final factor to consider is the part that is closest to your skin.  The surface material of the pillow is important to keep you sleeping without interruption.  No matter what your sleep position or body shape, the right pillow should prevent overheating, the number one cause of interrupted sleep.  


Look for a pillow with ventilation, a temperature-neutral surface material like gel, or pillow fabric made from phase change materials (PCMs).  PCMs release or absorb heat when they change state, helping to moderate the surface temperature.

Moreover, the addition of soothing essential oils can calm the body or improve breathing.  Lavender, Jasmine, and Eucalyptus are popular scents.


Adarsh Shah is the CEO of Ultramatic Canada. For more information visit Ultramatic.ca 

Email: info@ultramaticsleep.com