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A couple cuddling in bedDoes the pillow that you sleep on every night really make or break your chances of a good night’s rest?

Most experts say…absolutely.

Sleeping on the wrong pillow can also take a toll on your health, by worsening head and body aches, shoulder and arm numbness, and wheezing. And most of us are sleeping on pillows that are too old and too dirty. Sleep experts advise buying a new pillow every 12 to 18 months. Not only does an old pillow not provide the support you need, but one that’s past its prime can also be packed with allergens, including mold, fungus, and dust mites, which can make up half the weight of an older pillow.

So, What’s Your Sleeping Style?

Before you buy a new pillow, think about what position you tend to sleep in. The goal of using a pillow is to help keep your head in what is called a ‘neutral alignment,’ meaning your head is sitting squarely on your shoulders without bending back too far or reaching too far forward.

Back sleepers: You need thinner pillows, so their head is not thrown too far forward. Also look for a pillow with extra loft in the bottom third of the pillow to cradle your neck.

Side sleepers: You need a firmer pillow to fill in the distance between the ear and outside shoulder.

Stomach sleepers: Look for a very thin, almost flat pillow. You may not even need a pillow for your head, but consider tucking one under your stomach to avoid lower back pain.

What About Stuffing Options?

There is no shortage of fillings you can find stuffed in a pillow these days. The most common ones are down-feather combinations, foam, or polyester fiberfill. Memory foam and latex pillows have become quite popular in recent years, particularly among people looking for additional neck support.

What’s right for you? That may depend on how you’re feeling on a given day. Therefore it is often recommended that most people have more than one type of pillow to choose from.

For instance, you may want a pillow to support your neck if your neck is bothering you one day. But once your neck feels fine again, that same supportive pillow may not be the most comfortable for you.

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