What is the Best Pillow for Your Neck?

Posted in Head Pain Disorders Back Pain Disorders on Feb 14, 2018

The Three Most Important Questions for a Good Night'sSleep

"What is the Best Pillow for You? is Part 1 of a SleepSeries Trilogy.

Did you know that a human being dies from lack of sleep beforedying from lack of water? In as little as three days (72 hours)without sleep, humans hallucinate and develop psychotic tendenciesthat disappear as soon as they get adequate sleep.

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Not quite so dramatic, but I’m sure that you know that you justdon’t function as well if you don’t get a good night’s sleep. Youspend a third of your entire life sleeping.

There are a huge number of variables to go into getting a goodnight’s sleep which includes computers/TVs/WiFi in the bedroom,ideal sleeping temperature, and when you should/should not eatbefore going to bed. Ultimately, there are three exceptionallycommon questions that almost everyone asks when it comes to gettinga good night’s sleep:

  1. What is the Best Pillow for You?
  2. What is the Best Mattress for You?
  3. What is the Best Sleeping Position?

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Let me give you the short answers to each of thesequestions:

  1. Best Pillow = There isn’t one!
  2. Best Mattress = There isn’t one!
  3. Best Sleeping Position = It depends!

Tada! How disappointing is that?! There is no best pillow! Andthere is no best mattress! But don’t despair: I won’t leave youhanging like that. In this article, I’m going to outline a fewprinciples that will help you identify the best pillow, bestmattress and best sleeping position for you so that you can get thebest, healthiest night’s sleep possible.

What Would a Paleo Dude Do?

 What is the best pillow for you? Hint: it is NOT thisone!! You have most likely heard of the Paleo diet. In brief, therationale is that because we still have the same paleo DNA of ourancestors, we will be healthier if we ate the way that they did:green vegetables, meat, fish with only a few fruits, minimal grains(if any) and no dairy, preservatives or anything processed.

Whether you do or do not agree that the Paleo diet is healthy(or desirable), you cannot argue that many people around the worldhave benefited by following its principles. Let’s take this onestep farther than. On the assumption that there is some healthadvantage in mimicking the lifestyle of our Paleo ancestors, let meask you: how did Paleo people sleep?

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On fluffy cushions? Or on a soft patch of grass? I’m guessingthe latter. The point that I’d like to raise is that as I discussthe principles for selecting the best pillow, best mattress, andbest sleeping position, I want you to keep the concept of Paleopeople in mind. If we find a sleeping position that is bothergonomic and relatively comfortable - without making you sleep ona rock - that will be what will allow you to have the best night’ssleep.

What is the Best Pillow?

Ideally none! Paleo people may have tossed somesheepskin under their heads to be a bit more comfortable, but theycertainly didn’t use two deluxe, double plush pillows. In principlewhen it comes to pillows, the best advice that I can offer isthin is better … and that includes if you are aside-sleeper, but more on that later.

Now, the pillow can be large and super soft, but ideally, whenyour head comes down it should be as close to the mattress/groundas possible.

 Wrong, wrong, wrong! Every 2.5cm that your head sticksforwards from your shoulder, the stress on your neck and backdoubles! One of the emerging epidemics in the modern world is “textneck.” For decades we’ve already seen the progressive problems thatoccur when a person develops forward head carriage.

Forward Head Carriage is associated with an absolutely hugenumber of conditions including arthritis, headaches, migraines,neck pain, carpal tunnel, or other tingling sensations into thehands. It is also associated with sleep apnoea, snoring, jawdisorders, and other problems that affect your breathing.

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In fact, if you have a forward head carriage, it is one of thehallmarks that a person needs Upper Cervical Care whetherthey do or do not have any pain or symptoms! These problems arepronounced enough when we’re awake.

But if you have a thick pillow - or worse, pillowsplural - your head gets pushed forward even whenyou sleep! So you have this massive problem going on all day … andthen you have it all night too! If you have ever been to my office,you’ve have noticed that we do have a couple of cushions andsupports that are designed to relax and support your neck duringyour day-to-day activities … but we don’t actually sell any pillowsfor sleeping!

Have you ever wondered how interesting and bizarre it is that somany chiropractors and physiotherapists sell pillows in theiroffices … but the Upper Cervical doctor - the fellow whospecializes on the alignment of the neck and nervous system - isthe only person who doesn’t?!

The reason is that there is no perfect pillow. There is no “onesize fits all” pillow.” In fact, in a perfect world, I would adviseno pillow at all! The human body evolved and requires acertain muscle tone in the neck that most pillows do not support!The less cushioning beneath the head the better!

Your head should essentially be flat against your mattress. Thefarther it sticks forwards the worse for your neck! As a generalguideline, that is why I recommend either 1) no pillow or 2) a thinpillow. Does that mean I would advise no pillow for everyone?

Nope. It took me 6 months to learn to sleep comfortably withouta pillow, all the while experiencing a pulling sensation in mymid-lower back as it stretched muscles and ligaments that hadgotten chronically tight. Although it was a beneficial process, Iknow that would not be advisable for everyone especially if theyhave massive spinal degeneration. “Wait!” you protest. “I havevertigo if I lie flat” or “I have reflux if I lie flat.

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I have to sleep upright with all these pillows behind my head.What about me?” Pay close attention to what I’m saying but alsowhat I’m not saying. If you find yourself in a situation where itis impossible to sleep lying flat - and you must sleep in arelatively upright position - do it! But do not stick anyextra pillows behind your head! Use the pillows toprop up your body, not your head.  

Is there a Pillow that I Do Recommend?  ItsKilla!

Note: This is not a paid endorsement, and I'm not a distributoreither. So this is a straightforward independent review and myopinion.

Even though there is no such thing as the best pillow, there isone pillow that I’ve been introduced to that ticks more boxes thanany other. If I did sell any pillows in the office, it’d be thisone. Its called a “Killapilla:www.killapilla.com.au. (FYI“Killa” is surfer lingo for “its killer” or “it's awesome.” And“pilla” is just a lazy way of saying “pillow”). Here’s why I likethe Killapilla (which is what I use when I use a pillow): 

  • There is a hollow in the middle where your head sits, and it isessentially flat which means that your head does not stickforwards.
  • There is a support that goes beneath your neck to support thecurve while you sleep (which for some people is great, othersnot).
  • It is built upon either side so that if you do sleep on yourside or if you have large shoulders it will cause your head to dipsideways.
  • It is 100% organic handmade in Queensland(just north in Gympie ... because all roads lead to Gympie Road)with no synthetic chemicals. Even I didn’t know it until I heard apodcast on the subject of how many chemicals go into pillowmanufacturing. Check out this podcast interview with Dr. Todd Gignac on how the Killapilla issimply put a much healthier all the way around the pillow.

So the Killapilla ticks the most boxes for me second to none …literally, it is my second favorite pillow, my firstfavorite being no pillow at all. Given that it is highlyunlikely that you want to go to that extreme (because I can do thatsometimes) then I would recommend the Killapilla.  

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Next Time on the Sleep Series Trilogy

In the next article in the series, we'll have a look at a fewprinciples you may want to consider if you are in the market for anew mattress. Check out Part 2 here, "Whatis the Best Mattress for Your Back?"

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