"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Is Your Pillow Harming Your Health?

Pillows can assist or hurt depending on their firmness and your sleeping position.

Photo: © vitranc/Getty Images

But the advantages of pillows don't transcend comfort and positioning. Sometimes pillows also harm your health.

Pillows and pain

“If your neck is bent in any way for a long period of time, it's going to hurt,” explains Matthew O'Rourke, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. A pillow that is simply too soft or too firm will often cause neck pain, he says.

For example, for those who sleep in your side with a soft pillow that doesn't provide enough support under your neck, your head could have to lift the side to satisfy the pillow. If you sleep in your stomach—a position that pushes the neck back—using a firm pillow pushes the top back even further. “If you're on your stomach with your head, you're sleeping in a full rotation position, and that can be painful,” says O'Rourke.

Similarly, sleeping in your back with an excessive amount of support pushes the neck too far forward.

Pillows can derail CPAP.

For individuals with sleep apnea — a condition wherein you stop respiration periodically during sleep — pillows can interfere with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. CPAP keeps your airway open through a bedside device that pushes air through a mask you wear when you sleep. “If you're a side sleeper, a pillow can dislodge the mask,” says Dr. Epstein.

Lack of sleep

There are consequences for losing sleep from anxiety at night. Your body has less time for muscle growth, tissue repair, and other necessary functions that occur during sleep.

Lack of sleep can affect mood, considering skills and appetite. Chronic sleep deprivation increases your risk of falls, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

As a positive aspect

Sleeping along with your upper body elevated at an angle also can reduce symptoms of sinus problems and forestall recurrences of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo – a condition wherein tiny crystals are expelled from the inner ear. And extreme dizziness.

Specially designed pillows can assist people keep their CPAP masks on. “They have cutouts that fit into the mask so it won't get knocked off,” explains Dr. Epstein.

Pillow IQ

Finding the correct pillow is a matter of private preference. In today's high-tech age you’ve got many options: materials that conform to your shape (memory foam), keep you cool, wick away moisture, or repel mold and dirt particles. are (which can help allergy victims). Some pillows even track your sleep habits and wake you up with music (these can cost a whole bunch of dollars).

Traditional materials are also popular. Down and feather pillows conform to your shape and repel dust particles, but they might be hot and expensive. Pillows product of cotton, wool or synthetic cotton are inexpensive, but they create a more attractive climate for dust mites.

Keep the robustness in mind. Side sleepers need a firm pillow for support. Rectangular pillows with side panels can assist. They are taller than standard pillows. Back and stomach sleepers will probably want to use thinner, softer pillows. Aim for a snug position that may aid you go to sleep. “Try to get the spine in a relatively straight position. But everyone's composition is going to be a little different,” says Matthew O'Rourke, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

Beware of pillow guarantees

While adjusting your sleeping position can assist prevent symptoms, it won't eliminate health problems equivalent to restless leg syndrome or sleep deprivation – although some pillows can assist with snoring and sleep disorders. Sold as an answer. Both doctors say the one technique to cope with a sleep problem is to check with your doctor and get a correct diagnosis and treatment.