Your pillow, often a silent partner in your nightly rest, can influence your health in unexpected ways. The relationship between your pillow and your well-being may not be immediately apparent, but it is undeniably significant. The choice of pillow can impact your sleep quality, which, in turn, affects your immune system, mental health, and overall vitality.
While your pillow may not directly make you sick, it can contribute to physical discomfort and issues.
Most people prefer to sleep on their sides, and this necessitates using a pillow of the appropriate height to fill the gap between the mattress and support the head. Failing to use the right pillow can result in an unsupported head that leans or bends downward, potentially causing neck pain, giddiness, and even pain and numbness in the upper limbs, explained Dr R H Chauhan, orthopedic surgeon, Bhatia Hospital Mumbai.
Even if you sleep on your back, using a pillow is important to maintain the natural curvature of the cervical spine. “However, using extra-thick pillows can lead to discomfort, neck pain, and even numbness and weakness in the upper limbs. These effects are primarily due to the abnormal positioning of the cervical spine, which can disrupt your overall comfort and well-being,” Dr Chauhan told indianexpress.com.
If experts are to go by, in addition to improper neck and spine support from an ill-fitting pillow, it can accumulate dust mites, allergens, or even mould which can trigger allergies, asthma, or respiratory issues, leading to repeated sickness, said Dr Shwetal Gadhavi, senior consultant, preventive healthcare, HCG Hospitals, Ahmedabad.
What can be done?
Dr Chauhan emphasised that choosing the right pillow that suits your sleeping position is crucial for a good night’s sleep and for preventing potential health problems, such as giddiness and the risk of falls and related injuries.
How to go about selecting the right pillow?
Opt for a pillow that offers proper neck and spine support, aligning with your body’s natural contours. “Memory foam, latex, and feather pillows are popular choices that cater to various preferences. It’s essential to test a pillow’s comfort before purchase, ensuring it’s the perfect fit for you,” said Dr Gadhavi.
To keep your pillow in optimal condition and reduce health risks, wash your pillowcase every 1-2 weeks, and the pillow itself every 3-6 months, depending on usage, mentioned Dr Gadhavi.
“Follow the manufacturer’s care instructions to preserve its quality. Some pillows are machine-washable, while others require spot cleaning,” said Dr Gadhavi.