Pillow Talk

Pillow Talk

Pillow selection is a crucial part of my patient recommendations. Find out why.

During a consult we talk about many things; what brought them to the office? What their work consists of? What sports or activities they do regularly? Their level of stress? Their sleep habits? And more.

Many of these make a lot of sense easily for prospective patients. We obviously want to know why someone has sought us out. Knowing if someone is in a sedentary or physical profession will certainly give us more insight into the stresses or strains on the body. Same goes for someone who participates in specific sports or activities. Stress levels will often worsen the overall health of the body through the Cortisol response. Then I ask about sleep... amount of sleep... sleep position... type of bed, etc... and folks scratch their head and wonder what my interest is there.

We sleep, on average between a 1/4 to a 1/3 of our day (6-8 hours). That's a long time! Equal to the time many of us spend working. So let's look at sleep and how it plays into our overall health and structure:

Type of Mattress

mattress, sleeping position, support


Thankfully the days of waterbeds is behind us (I hope... if you're reading this while wading in your bed... stand up... drain the bladder of the bed... get a friend and drag it out to the curb. Replace with ANYTHING and it's an improvement). The majority of us still sleep on a spring based mattress, with others going for memory foam. Either is fine so long as the mattress is of a medium-to-firm variety. Very 'pillowy' beds are comfortable for some... but provide no structural stability to the spine. Often men will prefer a firmer mattress than a lady, and has much to do with the average build of either. In essence some women will need to do a little extra work with pillows in order to maintain comfort on a firm mattress.

Main takeaway for mattresses: Firm is your friend


There are now; by a modest count, 3 million different pillow types. (not really... I can't be bothered to actually research EVERY type of pillow on the market).

The type of fill material is usually a personal preference; but a few things should be looked at in your selection process. First and foremost, how you sleep will determine what pillow type to select. A side sleeper and a back sleeper have two very different needs for support. A front sleeper? Well, there's not really a good choice. Sorry.

Side Sleeper

For the side sleeper you want to support the head in a neutral position. This means using a pillow thick enough to support the head from the ear to the tip of the shoulder. A good test to see if your pillow fits the bill is to stand in front of a mirror, hold the pillow up to the side of your head and give a little pressure (to recreate the weight of the head due to gravity) and to see how the thickness between your ear and shoulder tip holds up? For most sleeping with two pillows on your side is just too much.

side sleeping pillow, pillow, support

Side Sleeping Pillow

Back Sleepers

If you are a back sleeper the rules change a bit. The goal for a back sleeper is to support the neck in it's natural curvature. The key is to not prop the head up and into a flexed position with the chin down. Contoured pillows are very popular for the back sleeper as they tend to 'hug' the curve of the spine.

Cervical curve Support, Back Sleeping, Pillow

Back Sleeping

Think of a rainbow. That is the neck curve you are trying to support with a pillow while laying on your back. That curve supports the weight of the head when standing tall, so give it a rest through the night!

Main takeaway for Pillows: Pick the pillow most appropriate for your frame and sleeping position.

Sleep hours

This is a tough one. Some people, like myself, thrive on fewer hours of sleep. I like 6 hours to a max of 7. More than that and I'm groggy. Others can't function on less than 8. Young Moms manage to operate on what seems like minutes of sleep some days.

Take away: My best recommendation here is to find out what works for you.

Positional Support

As mentioned earlier, sleeping on a firm mattress can be difficult for women due to the fact that they prefer side sleeping and the width of the hips may cause discomfort due to unsupported nature of the hips. Best way to alleviate this issue is to support the hips by placing a small pillow between the knees.

Pelvic support, Knee Pillow, rotation

Pillow Between Knees

This support will stop the pelvis from rotating and keep the alignment through the lower back and pelvis.

Other supports are often needed for specific changes, like pregnancy, and should be discussed with your Chiropractor.

Main takeaway for Positional Support: Figure out where your body position is lacking and use the proper support to improve it.

As always, If you have any questions please reach out to us.

Dr. Matt Lindsay - Aligned Chiropractic - Burlington, ON