Sleep is a commodity that can be elusive for some. Factors that affect a good night’s sleep can be from health, the mattress and one often neglectable item - the pillow. Stress is the underlying factor for most of our bad sleep experience. When stress hormones are high, our muscles tense up and blood flow is decreased. The brain goes on overdrive. This leads to much tension in the neck and if the pillow is not comfortable and supportive, it can cause more problems. There are effects of a pillow on sleep.
A good pillow supports the skull and neck without adding unnecessary pressure as it conforms to the shape of the sleeper’s neck and head. A pillow that is supportive is one that evenly spreads the weight of the head in line and in uniformity along the vertebrae.
It’s not only the neck but the pillow is a support for your shoulders as well. The shoulder should not be positioned 90 degrees to the mattress as this will create stress in the trapezius muscles. The trapezius muscles give support to the skull and it is very important that they are relaxed during sleep. If the shoulder is placed slightly forward on the mattress in front of the sleeper, the risk of pressure on the trapezius muscles and forcing the shoulder blade towards the spine is reduced. If you should sleep 90 degrees to the mattress, you may wake up with neck and upper arm pain with altered sensations to your little and ring fingers.
Excessive pressure to the neck with an unsuitable pillow can compromise the C2 and C3 vertebrae. Pressure can irritate the nerve sheaths, sensitive muscles and facet joints in the neck. If the joints are not able to rest and relax, the inflammatory process may be prolonged with difficulty in recovery.
Shoulder compression on a firm surface forces the shoulder blade towards the junction of the upper spine and neck affecting the C6 and C7 vertebrae. The nerve pathways here travel down to the arm and can cause upper arm pain as well as pins and needles in the little and ring fingers. Therefore, you may want to put some thought in choosing a good pillow.
A good pillow is subjective based on your sleep position. If you are a back sleeper, the pillow should support the natural curvature of the cervical spine. It should also support the head, neck and shoulders with height lower than in the sideways position. When sleeping on your back, placing a pillow or two under the knees further alleviate any back strain on your back.
If you are a front sleeper, the pillow should be generally flat, or else the head should rest directly on the mattress so that the head and neck are not turned unnaturally to either side. For the stomach sleeper, it would be best to place another relatively flat pillow under the tummy to help the spine keep its natural alignment.
For a side sleeper, you should get a pillow that supports the head and neck in a way that the spine maintains a straight and natural horizontal line. Weight should be equally distributed to prevent any unnatural bending or pressure. Some may like to place a small pillow or rolled up towel under the waist while lying on the side, for added support to your spine.
Need to look for bedding accessories to help with a good night’s sleep? Bedding Affairs Singapore offer shams,standard and king size pillows to suit various needs. To keep your favourite pillow durable, you may want to find out how to care for your pillow.