Pillow talk with the experts: How to best rest your head
As it turns out, fatigue isn’t really the best pillow. There are several softies jostling for that title. How to choose? Two doctors — orthopaedic and spine surgeon Dr Girish L Bhalerao and orthopaedic specialist Dr Shreedhar Archik — break it down.
THE 5 MAIN TYPES
Microbead pillows: These are filled with tiny polystyrene capsules and provide great support as the polystyrene beads move around to conform to the shape of the sleeper’s head and neck. “These are ideal pillows from an orthopaedic point of view,” says Dr Bhalerao. “They allow the spine to revert to its natural S-shaped structure as one sleeps, and this helps with posture correction too.”
Memory foam pillows: Made of viscoelastic polyurethane, they contour to the shape of the head and neck and support the natural curvature of the spinal column, relieving pressure on these muscles and keeping airways better aligned during sleep. “The synthetic material restricts the growth of microbes and can also be cleaned and sanitised easily,” says Dr Archik.
Water pillows: These are ideal for people with chronic neck or back pain. The water in the base layer moves around to provide constant head and neck support, no matter the sleeping position. The pillow’s loft or height can be adjusted by adjusting the amount of water in it, which makes it highly customisable. “The buoyancy of the water promotes blood circulation and relaxes muscles too,” Bhalerao says.
Scented pillows: These are made of foam, feather or fibre, infused with fragrances such as peppermint (which has been found to relieve headaches) and lavender (which helps ease stress and anxiety).
Latex foam pillows: These offer a medium amount of resistance and are soft and springy to the touch. Latex foam is a breathable material, which makes this a good pillow for a non-airconditioned room in a warm region. These pillows are also very durable.
WHICH SHAPE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
The rectangle is simple, tried-and-true. But the newer shapes have distinct advantages, say Drs Bhalerao and Archik.
The Roll: Shaped like a bolster, this one can be used between the knees or under the neck to improve posture while sleeping.
Contoured: This pillow has an ‘S’ shape that keeps the neck in the hyperextended position that is healthiest for the airways and spine during sleep. This posture also helps relax neck muscles and reduce muscular strain — an important advantage in a time of necks craned for smartphone screens and long hours at the work desk.
Lumbar support: This is a soft, long, rectangular pillow recommended for hours at the desk or behind the wheel. It prevents slouching and provides crucial support to parts of the lower back that remain unsupported when sitting.
The wedge: These triangular pillows keep the top half of the body in an elevated position. They are particularly beneficial for people with acid reflux, sinus problems and snorers.
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