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29 October 2010

Get pillow smart

Thursday, 25 l 03 l 2010 ; Source: Mind Your Body, The StraitsTimes
By Stacey Chia

Investing in the right one can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and waking up with neck ache. STACEY CHIA reports

Like most people, you probably spend about a third of your time in bed, so investing in the right pillow can be an asset to your health.

The right pillow can help you acquire better sleep and at the same time lower your risk of neck pain and headaches, said Dr Charles Siow, a consultant neurologist and pain specialist at Siow Neurology Headache and Pain Centre.

These aches and pains usually result from a lack of head and neck support from your pillow.

Dr Kenny Pang, the director of Pacific Sleep Centre, explained that the human neck curves slightly forward to take the weight of the head when upright and it is important that this curve is maintained while at rest.

Pillows help ensure that your head is kept in a neutral alignment.

This means that your head should not lean too far forward or backwards.

When buying a pillow, it is important to take into account your sleeping position, said Ms Karen Koh, a senior principal physiotherapist at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH).If you tend to sleep on your back, your pillow should be kept low so that your head and neck is fairly aligned with your body.

If you sleep on your side, you will need a higher pillow. Ms Koh said a higher pillow would be more suitable in maintaining the alignment as it fills the space between your head and the mattress.

Dr Kevin Lau, a chiropractor at Orchard Clinic, advised against sleeping on your stomach as it causes a strain on your back by exaggerating the arch at the base of your spine.

If you are particular about the type of pillow stuffing, Dr Lau recommends buying a memory foam pillow.

Such a pillow is said to reduce pressure points by moulding and adjusting itself as you move throughout the night, thus ensuring that your neck is always supported.

It is, however, not a necessity, he said.

Dr Lim Li Ning, the medical director of the Sleep Neurology and Sleep Centre agreed, adding that there is no good scientific evidence to support the use of one type of pillow over another.

“Most people can sleep on any type of pillow depending on their preference and no special stuffing is needed,” said Dr Lim.

Dr Lau said that pillows to avoid are those stuffed with feathers as they tend to lose firmness over time and become too flat to provide sufficient support.

Dr Pang said: “A large part of what makes a good pillow is personal preference. If the pillow feels comfortable, it is likely to help one become relaxed and thus get a good night’s sleep.”

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