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A Bit Too Soft & Unsupportive For A Side Sleeper
on August 19, 2015
This pillow attempts to combine the support of a memory foam pillow with the softness and malleability of a down pillow. Unfortunately, by trying to be everything to everyone, it falls short. Don't get me wrong, the pillow is clearly well made, and I understand what the manufacturer was trying to accomplish. But as a side sleeper who frequently switches sides throughout the night, I require a memory foam pillow that is firm, supportive and consistent. This pillow simply doesn't fit the bill. First, it is too soft. My head sinks too far down into the pillow, which results in there not being enough space between my head and my shoulder as I sleep on my side. This causes me some mild neck discomfort. Second, the composition of the pillow is somewhat inconsistent. Apparently this is by design. The manufacturer was trying to mimic the feel of down by loading the pillow with shredded chunks of material that can be fluffed to make a more custom fit. Although that might be comfortable for some people, it bothers me -- especially when I switch sides and have to readjust the stuffing of the pillow. I need a pillow that has a relatively uniform composition, and this one does not.
I want to reiterate that this isn't a bad or poor quality pillow; it's just not right for me. Individual preferences for things like pillows and bedding are highly subjective.
I spent some time setting up a demonstration to show everybody what I'm trying to describe. The average human head weighs roughly 10 pounds. So I gathered several books that stacked together weigh 9.7 pounds -- I weighed them on a scale -- and placed them on the pillow in various positions mimicking a sleepy head. Again, some people might look at the pictures and come to the conclusion that it's exactly what they're looking for. Others, however, may come to the opposite conclusion. Either way, I hope that this helps.
If you're willing to bear with me a bit longer, I'd like to share five major things I've learned about buying pillows over the years.
1) If you are a side sleeper, then you need a memory foam follow. Forget down or anything else. Only memory foam has the firmness and consistency that a side sleeper requires.
2) Over time memory foam loses density. Period. You can buy yourself some extra time by flipping the pillow every night, but it's only delaying the inevitable. While it's true that some purportedly high quality pillows last longer than cheaper ones, I've found that the differences are marginal. If you rest your head on the same pillow every single night, then you need to replace it about every 16-20 months. Manufacturers will drone on and on about 5-year warranties and how their pillow lasts for years and it's total BS. Nowadays all these pillows are made in China and are super inexpensive, anyway. You can budget for a new $35 pillow every 18 months, believe me. (Please note: I am referring only to memory foam pillows. A high quality down pillow that's well taken care of will last for a long time -- perhaps as long as ten years.)
3) Size and feel are more important than quality and cost. There's no point in spending more than $60 on a memory foam pillow. You can easily find a good pillow in the $30-50 price range. While it's sometimes true that the more expensive ones last a bit longer, it makes much more sense to buy an affordable pillow and simply replace it more frequently. I cannot emphasize this enough: the size, thickness, firmness and feel of the pillow matter WAY more than anything else when it comes to pillows. That being said, I wouldn't purchase anything too far below $30.
4) Don't wash it. If you're getting a memory foam pillow shipped, then it'll emit a kind of chemical smell after you remove it from the box. Just let it air out for 48 hours and it'll go away. Afterwards, encase the pillow in two layers. The first layer should be one of those close-fitting pillow protectors that protect against allergens and hair and body oils. (It'll also shield you from any irritants residing in the pillow.) The second layer will be your regular pillow cover. Do that and you're good to go. Don't listen to the manufacturers about washing the pillow. It's a huge hassle and a massive waste of time and energy. Remember, these things are basically disposable. They're not like a down pillow that you're going to have for years and years.
5) There's no such thing as a perfect pillow. Everyone's needs are different, and yet there are no "bespoke" or tailored pillows customized for an individual. So even though I often find pillows that I like, I've yet to find a perfect one for me. And that stands to reason because no one's ever tried to design and manufacture a pillow tailored to my specific needs. I am a side sleeper, and the following advice is intended solely for side sleepers. Over the years, I've found that a side sleeper needs a medium-firm to firm pillow that is also thick enough to maintain a 90 degree angle where the head meets the shoulders. That's the same angle that naturally occurs while you're awake and going about your business throughout the day. If the head sinks too low when you sleep, then it puts strain and pressure on your neck. Someone with wide shoulders will need a thicker pillow -- unless of course they have a proportionally large head and thick neck, in which case the pillow might not need to be any thicker than someone with narrower shoulders. Additionally, one must factor in the firmness of their mattress. If your mattress is on the soft side, then a side sleeper's shoulders will sink farther into the mattress, leaving less space between the shoulder and head and thus requiring less thickness in the pillow. Conversely, a firmer mattress necessitates a thicker pillow in order to compensate for the increase in space between the shoulders and head.