The Unsung Hero of a Good Night’s Sleep


How much thought did you put into picking the pillows that are on your bed right now? Go ahead. March right into your bedroom, give them a good once over, and be perfectly honest. You and your pillows deserve the truth. And don’t worry, there’s no shame here—it’s a safe space. Truly. Go look. I’ll wait…

Are you back? Good. So what did you decide? How much thought did you put into choosing those fluffy masses you expect so much from when you lay your head down to sleep? I’d be willing to bet that the majority of you just realized how little thought went into it. And that’s okay. It’s not your fault. When it comes to a good night’s sleep, the mattress often hogs all of the credit.

Of course, your mattress does play a big role in how satisfied you are with your nightly zzzzs. But you can open any home-goods type catalog or website and find a bazillion different toppers to improve the sleep-ability of your mattress. Your pillow, on the other hand, relies on nothing more than the thin layer of fabric you choose for a pillow case. Ladies and gentlemen, your pillow is the unsung hero of a good night’s sleep. It deserves your careful consideration.

Just try shopping at the pillow store without putting any thought into what you’re looking for. You could be buried, figuratively and literally, under the avalanche of options available to you. (Ahhh, the pillow avalanche—the most lovely of all the avalanches.)

For all the people on the planet who want the pillow they want, there’s a choice. What pillow do you want? Ask yourself the following questions to narrow it down:

  • What position do you sleep in most of the time? Whether you sleep on your back or your side, it’s important to keep your spine as aligned as possible. Make sure your neck isn’t cranked up or down, which puts it out of line with your spine. And if you’re a stomach sleeper, work hard to break that habit. As my first chiropractor used to say, “It’s like looking over your shoulder all night long.” Ouch.
  • What type of stuffing do you want to lay your head on? These days you can choose from a range of natural and synthetic fillers—but be sure to consider outgassing before you decide on the stuffing for your pillow. This is the process where gas that’s been absorbed in material is released into the air you breathe. Natural fillers such as wool and properly cleaned feathers are hypoallergenic and don’t leave you breathing in chemical fumes all night long.
  • How firm do you like your pillows? The important thing here is to look for a pillow that gives you the support your neck needs while you sleep—whether it’s a thin pillow you can fold in half or a big fluffy pillow you can contort to suit your needs. Get whatever works for you.
  • How long have you had your pillow? If you inherited all of your pillows from your Aunt Millie, it’s time to replace them. And if you don’t have an Aunt Millie, here’s a good rule of thumb: if you fold your pillow in half and squeeze all of the air out of it, it should snap back to its original pillow-ness. If not, it’s time to go pillow shopping.

Once you’ve found the perfect pillow for your weary head, you’ll be tempted to take it with you everywhere—or at least all the places that end up with you sleeping at some point. Let it be known that you have my permission to do so. Buy a suitcase just for your pillow to travel in style. Considering all this unsung hero does for you, isn’t it worth it?

Still unsure about the power of a good night’s sleep and how to get it? Check out these articles from SRP:

It’s Never Too Late to Sleep Like a Baby,” by Dr. Lowell Keppel. For tips on how to get all the sleep your body needs.

Sleep: 40 Winks of Good Health,” by yours truly. Learn what happens during the stages of sleep and why your body needs each one of them.

Cuppa Medicinal Tea: Growing a Medicinal Herb Garden!” by Maria Atwood. Information about the power of herbs, including the best herbs to plant if you have trouble falling asleep.

Paula Widish

Paula Widish, author of Trophia: Simple Steps to Everyday Self-Health, is a freelance writer and self-healther. She loves nothing more than sharing tidbits of information she discovers with others. (Actually, she loves her family more than that—and probably bacon too.) Paula has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Relations and is a Certified Professional Life Coach through International Coach Academy.

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4 thoughts on “The Unsung Hero of a Good Night’s Sleep

  1. Paula Widish says:

    That is a great idea, Sam! We always hung our cloth diapers in the sun for the extra freshness that it offered but hadn’t thought about putting our pillows out there. It makes total sense though. Thanks for sharing! Have you ever put them in the freezer to kill off dust mites?

  2. Paula Widish says:

    Everything I have read says that is needs to stay in the freezer overnight but I would certainly think leaving it in during the work day would do the same thing. Right? Right.

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