Pillow Talk 101: How to Find the Perfect Place to Rest Your Head

Pillow Talk 101: How to Find the Perfect Place to Rest Your Head
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May is National Sleep Month, and so all month long, we'll be reviewing products and offering tips with the aim of helping you create a zzz-inducing den of zen. Sweet dreams!

You probably wash your pillowcases on the regular, but do you remember the last time you changed the actual insert? Neither do we. That’s why we tapped Dr. Rebecca Robbins, Cornell sleep medicine professor and sleep expert at The Benjamin Hotel in N.Y.C., to school us on everything we need to know about the fluffy squares we lay our heads down on every night. From selecting the perfect materials, to knowing when it’s time to let your favorite one go, here’s a list of Dr. Robbins’ rules to sleep by.

Part I: Give Your Pillow a Pop Quiz

Fold your pillow in half. If it pops back immediately, then you know you have a healthy pillow. If it doesn't, it’s filled with dust mites and should be thrown out.

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Part II: En Garde! Protect Your Pillow from Dust Mites

Dust mites ruin the integrity and structure of the pillow, and affects our ability to breathe deeply and clearly. Pillows typically last 1-2 years, but to prolong its life span, opt for a pillow protector, which will drastically reduce the amount of dust buildup within the filling. Hypoallergenic pillows also help to combat dust mite accumulation. If you love feather pillows—the most non-hypoallergenic option out there—make sure it’s covered with a protector.

Part III: A Crash Course on Materials

When it comes to choosing the type of fill, it really depends on personal preference, but here are some thoughts to help you get started:

Goose-feather or down: Many people prefer it as it’s the most natural option, but keep in mind that they do have the tendency to accumulate dust faster, so make sure to get the pillow protector along with it.

Down-alternative: A good option for those who prefer the feather-bed-like consistency, but need something hypoallergenic.

Foam: These are more than likely available in contoured shapes, and preferred by many who have neck injuries or pain and need the extra support.

Silk: This material is worth noting not as a filling, but as a cover. Tests have shown that silk-covered cases can prevent your skin from wrinkling because there is not as much push and pull on the skin as with other materials.

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Part IV: Identify Your Sleeping Style

Back, stomach or side. You may already know which category you fall under, but if you’re unsure, pay attention to the position you fall asleep in, and the position you wake up in. If you’re still not sure, ask your partner or roommate to take note the next time he/she makes a midnight trip to the bathroom.

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Part V: What Is Fill Power?

Fill power refers to how thick or voluminous the pillow is. Side sleepers should use a super-packed or full pillow, while stomach sleepers need the flattest option. Back sleepers should opt for something in between. Keep in mind that no matter what position you sleep in, your head, neck, and spinal cord should always be in one straight line to ensure maximum comfort during the course of the night.

Part VI: Time to Go Shopping!

Dr. Robbins and her team have graciously shared this shopping list with us. It’s the full list of pillow options at the super-sleek Benjamin Hotel in N.Y.C., so that you can make every night feel like you’re in a world-class hotel.

Back Sleeper

Swedish Memory, 100; bedbathandbeyond.com.

This heat-sensitive foam pillow shapes to the body and responds to temperature, staying cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It also provides great neck support while conforming to your head.

Cloud 10, $20; buythepillow.com.

The hotel's most requested pillow for two consecutive years. Over 10 million air beads keep you cool at night and provide firm support for the head and neck.

Anti-Snore, $36; overstock.com.

By elevating the chin from the chest and keeping nasal passages open, this pillow reduces snoring and promotes a deeper, more restful sleep.

Sleep for Success Back Sleeper, $40; bedbathandbeyond.com.

This pillow has an exclusive baffled design, a firm outer chamber that properly supports the neck, and a soft center chamber that gently cradles the head. The fill power is lower so as not to push the head upward, instead allowing it to fall in alignment with the spinal column.

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Side Sleeper

Five-foot Body Cushion, $20; bedbathandbeyond.com.

A long pillow, this cushion aligns the spine for better posture while reducing neck, back, and joint pain. A great choice for pregnant guests, those recovering from surgery, or those who like to have knee support.

Sleep for Success Side Sleeper, $60; bedbathandbeyond.com.

A two-inch baffled panel design provides a raised, even, sleep surface for proper neck alignment and support. This pillow has the highest fill power so as to support the neck with regard to spinal positioning.

Stomach Sleeper

Lullaby, $40; shop.soundpillow.com.

Tucked well within its hypoallergenic fiberfill, ultra-thin speakers earn this pillow its namesake. Plug the headphone jack into any MP3 player for an intimate and soothing sound experience.

Mediflow Original Waterbase Pillow, $40; amazon.com.

This pillow is all about preferences: warm water or cold, more water for increased firmness, or less water for suppleness. This choice positions the head and neck naturally, providing instant relief from headaches and neck pain. Sleep for Success Stomach Sleeper Tapered ends provide a gently sloped surface, minimizing pressure on your neck.

Children

Sleep for Success Children’s Pillow, $25; bedbathandbeyond.com.

This unique, down alternative pillow is made especially for children. Inside is a secret storage pouch for keeping their latest treasures.

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