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Man wearing stripes places his head on a pillow pretending to sleep while standing up.

Pillow Talk: Sleep Hygiene and Why it Matters

Ah, sleep! It’s something many of us crave but also something that many of us fight with. Undeniably, sleep health is important and so is what you sleep on.

You’ve gone through the motions of switching up your mattress. You eventually took the plunge because it was a change you had to make - despite the hole it put in your bank account. The clean feeling of better sleep on a new mattress is indescribable and is something that we should really do more often, but this isn’t the only bedtime item we need to take a closer look at.

What About Your Pillow?

Just like another sleep essential we use every night, the pillow doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves.

When we wake up with body aches or without a good night’s rest, we often blame our mattress. Sometimes we go beyond that and look to the things that we were doing before bed. Was it that late-night cookie that caused you to wake up a million times last night? Is it because you haven’t moved much the last few days? Was it that scary movie you watched before bed?

While these could be plausible reasons, let me ask you this… have you changed or thought about your pillow in a while? Do you scrunch up your pillow to sleep? Do you toss and turn trying to find a comfortable position?

Let’s Talk Pillows & Sleep Hygiene

Beyond comfort and neck support, pillows are also a part of sleep hygiene.

What’s sleep hygiene? Sleep hygiene is comprised of the habits and practices associated with your sleep and bedtime. These are the necessary practices and habits that ensure that you get a good night’s rest.

For example, bad sleep hygiene would involve having no set bedtime and perhaps sleeping on an old and worn out mattress and pillow. Good sleep hygiene, on the other hand, would involve sleeping in an optimal environment and going to bed and waking up at the same times each day.

Your pillow is part of making your sleep environment and a mindfulness sleep. And unfortunately, it’s often overlooked.

Related Article: Sleep Debt: The Consequences of Sleep Loss on Your Mind & Body

4 Easy Steps to Better Sleep Hygiene

Let’s make it easy and simple. We’ll supply the list. You simply check off what you’ve done or make a note of where you need to improve. From there, you can come up with easy-to-implement sleep hacks that will help you fall into the dream world - without problem.

So, without further adieu, let’s dive in!

1. Replace Your Pillow Every 18 Months

Whoa - what? Yeah, that pillow you’ve had since college, please throw it in the garbage. The only exception to this rule is the memory foam pillow. Memory foam varieties only need replacing about every 3 years.

Don’t worry, gang, this one threw me through a loop too. Until I did the research, I didn’t have a clue. So, now we all know. Get a new pillow! You likely need to (same).

2. If Your Pillow is Stained, Torn, or Smells, Replace It

Get this: Pillows are full of dead skin cells, mold, fungus, mildew, dust mites, and more (gross). You’re probably looking at your pillow a little differently now. As your pillow collects this stuff over time, it can mess up your breathing, nasal passageways, basically - a lot of things. In the end, these effects will prevent you from sleeping well.

If you’re unsure about your pillow’s life, try folding it in half. If it doesn’t bounce back to its usual shape, again, you need a new pillow! Shopping time!

Related Article: Sleep Debt: The Consequences of Sleep Loss on Your Mind & Body

3. Pick a Pillow That’s Right for You

Now, we’re shopping. But with pillows, it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. It depends mainly on you, as well as how you sleep and your body shape.

Let’s weigh your options…

Down Pillows - These guys are nice and soft. They’re frequently made from goose or duck fibers. The only thing to be really cautious about here is allergies. Some people can’t stand down pillows. But you can also go for hypo-allergenic down. Make your pick accordingly!

Synthetic Down Pillows - These pillows are a little less pricey than down pillows. If you like the feel of the down and have allergies or don’t want to fork up a pile of money, go for this one. Oh - and it’s also a softer variety - something to keep note of.

Wool Pillows - Want a firmer pillow? Wool is it. They are also resistant to all that yucky stuff - like dust mites and mold (bonus).

Cotton Pillows - Cotton pillows are often firm and flat. They are also great for those more sensitive amongst us when it comes to allergies or dust.

Latex Pillows - If you need a pillow that holds its shape a little more, latex it is! This material is frequently included in more contoured varieties.

Memory Foam Pillows - The memory foam pillow is the popular kid on the block. Plus, it takes on the shape of the individual that lies on it. And it evenly distributes the weight. The downside? They retain heat which can lead to you waking up in a sweaty mess. But you can also find ones with breathability. Check the label and do your research.

Pillow Size - Again, this is a personal preference. Ideally, you want to be comfortable.

Sleeping Position - This also plays a part! For side-sleepers, a firmer and thicker option is often more suitable. For stomach-sleepers, a soft pillow may be more preferred. And for back-sleepers, you may want a more flat pillow to keep your spine in a neutral spot.

4. Wash Your Pillow Every 3-6 Months or More

Never washed your pillow? Now is the time to start! Mindfulness sleeping and sleep hygiene start with making sure the area your sleeping in is clean - including your bedding.

Aim to wash your pillow at least twice a year.

Choose Your Perfect Pillow

Don’t forget about the other basics of sleep hygiene: Try to go to bed on time, participate in a relaxing activity in the hours before bed, and sleep in a quiet, dark space.

Where can you improve your sleep? Don’t neglect your pillow! If you’re putting your face in it, you probably want to make sure it’s clean, as well as offering the proper support to your head and neck.

Sweet dreams!

Want to learn more? Check out these hacks to become a morning person. Hint: It has a lot to do with your sleep hygiene!
Krista Bugden

Krista Bugden

"Believing in yourself is really half the battle," says Krista. Anything is possible and you really can achieve anything you set your mind to, is her motto. Physiotherapist, Piano player, skydiver, yogi, adventure traveler and energetic force of positivity, Krista is herself a (delightful) force to be reckoned with! As... Read More

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