Skip navigation

Tag Archives: pillow

As part two in our sleeping series, let’s talk about pillows.  Everyone wants to know what kind of pillow they should use.  Cervical pillow? Body pillow? Memory foam pillow?  Buckwheat hull pillow?  And how many? One? Two? Three?  Six?  Here’s where I’d like to reiterate that getting a good night’s sleep is more important to me than what sort or how many pillows you’re using.  So if you’re sleeping well and happy, keep doing that.  But ya’ll keep asking for my opinion and now you’re going to get it.

I’m anti-pillow.  I know, this is hard to believe, given that I’m anti-flip-flopanti-high heelanti-shoeanti-arch support, and anti-bra, but it’s true.  I’m anti-pillow.  And I’m pro-hugs, pro-goat, pro-sunshine, pro-hiking, pro-nap, pro-chocolate, and pro-garden, just so you don’t define me by the things I’m against.  But when it comes to pillows, I like to sit on them, but not sleep on them.  Let me tell you why.

I have been one of those lucky people who never really gets headaches.  And by that I mean I get about 2-3 headaches a year and each time I think I’m probably dying because it’s the worst pain ever and how do people go through life getting headaches all the time and I can’t even imagine what a migraine must be like oh my god just kill me now.  And after a few hours it goes away and everything’s fine again.  For my whole life.  Until a few years ago when I got a headache that wouldn’t go away.  It was dull, and low-grade and annoying.  I didn’t want to die or anything, but it was still weird because I so rarely get headaches.  And then I still had it the next day.  And the day after that.  And three weeks later I still had a headache.  And I was exhausted and cranky and no fun at all to be around.  And then I listened to a podcast from Katy Bowman about how she’s always suffered from headaches, but then she stopped using a pillow and now she has way less headaches.  And so I thought, I should give that a try.

Over the next few months, I weaned myself off pillows.  I have to say that I had a distinct advantage here over a lot of people in that I’ve always been a one-pillow kind of girl, and a fairly flat, thin pillow at that (as compared to my husband’s 3-4 pillows a night habit).  So I only had so work down from one, thin pillow to a folded towel, to a less folded towel, to a sweatshirt, to a t-shirt, to nothing.  And now sleeping with a pillow is pretty much not an option for me, unless I’m super sick and fall asleep while reading.  And even then I tend to wake up after 10-20 minutes and toss the pillow aside.

What I noticed in the weaning process and since then is that my neck had to become more flexible to accommodate my new way of sleeping.  I sleep in all the positions and initially, sleeping on my side with less of a pillow was challenging.  But now, my neck is flexible enough that side sleeping is comfortable and in fact, is where I get my best neck stretching done, reducing the tension in my head.  Oh, and I’m back to not getting headaches almost ever.  Which is my preferred way to go through life.

So, to answer your question, in my opinion, no pillow is the best pillow.

A common question I get (at work, not while I’m just walking down the street) is “How should I sleep?”  And let me just preface this by saying that getting a good night’s sleep, consistently, is more important, in my book, than what position you sleep in.  So if what you’re doing is working for you, do that.  Being well rested makes everything else better and easier.

However.  If you really want to know how you should sleep, keep reading.

First of all, there’s no “right” way to sleep.  Other than with your eyes closed.  Because those of you who sleep with your eyes slightly open are creeping out the rest of us.  Knock it off.  But as far as body positioning goes, all of the positions are good to some degree and bad if they’re the only one you ever use.  The truth of the matter is that we were never supposed to lie down in one position and then maintain that position for the next 7-10 hours without any change. In fact, lying in the same position without moving is how bedsores happen and I don’t know anyone who wants bedsores.  While humans have been seeking soft places to sleep for a long time now, it’s only with the advent of these pillow-topped, memory foam, sleep-number, super mattresses that it’s even been an option to lie in one position for 7-10 hours.  Can you imagine your prairie grass or buffalo hair mattress would be comfortable enough for you to lie still on all night, every night?  No, me either.

What I’m saying here is it’s okay to move while you sleep.  In fact, I’m encouraging you to move while you sleep.  Whichever side you’re sleeping on will be compressed, while the side that’s up will be allowed to lengthen.  Let all the sides (and the front and the back) have their chance at both.  Movement is your friend.  So go ahead, stick your legs and arms out at weird angles, spoon your bedmates, and stretch your neck by sleeping on your stomach now and again.  Just keep it varied and you’ll be good to go.

And if your body needs some encouragement to move while you sleep, you might try a firmer or less comfortable mattress.  Yes, it will take a while for you to adjust, but it’s probably worth it to avoid the damage done by repetitive positioning.  You don’t want to be that person who has to go around telling people they got hurt in their sleep by not moving, do you?  That’d be embarrassing.