How to Find the Perfect Pillow

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Been pillow shopping lately? If not, get ready for a big array of shopping choices. You’ll find neck pillows, body pillows, memory foam pillows, anti-snore pillows, “cool” pillows, oxygen-promoting pillows, cervical pillows and blow-up pillows — to name a few. There are pillows made of foam, memory foam, down, cotton, latex, buckwheat hulls, wool and “down alternatives,” tiny pillows and huge ones, with prices that range from a few dollars to an Icelandic eiderdown pillow — on sale —for over $10,000.

How is a sleeper to choose? A wrong choice could mean you’re stuck with a pillow you don’t want, so be sure to check a store’s return policies before buying.

How Old is Your Pillow?

The headache of pillow shopping is enough to keep you snuggled up with your old one for years and years. But don’t do that. A rule of thumb says pillows should be replaced every 12 to 18 months. (Polyester and down pillows can go in the washer and dryer in the meantime.) By two years, your pillow should be headed to the dump. Good Housekeeping advises:

“If you have a traditional fiberfill pillow, fold it in half and place a book on top of it,” says Lexie Sachs, textiles analyst in the Good Housekeeping Institute. “If it springs back to shape, it’s still good. But if it stays folded in half, it’s time for a new one.” Memory foam pillows that are crumbly or no longer hold their shape also need to go.

The most important reason to dump an aged pillow is because of dust mites — the microscopic, creepy looking little bugs that take up residence in bedding and rapidly multiply in homes, especially when the humidity is high.

Dust mites don’t bite. The problem is the accumulation of their waste and carcasses. Many people are allergic to a substance in dust-mite waste that can cause rashes, asthma and sinusitis. If you’re allergic to dust mites, you can buy protective pillow covers made of tightly woven material (found in bedding stores and online) for your new pillows.

Unsure if you’re allergic? You can find out by getting tested by an allergist, a physician who treats people for allergies.

Need more reasons to trade your old pillows for new ones? Mold, mildew and fungus also build up in pillows. Not what you want to plant your face on night after night.

Shopping Tips

While pillow shopping seems daunting, you can keep it simple by focusing on basics: You want a pillow that’s comfortable, supportive and keeps your head and neck properly aligned while you sleep. If possible, lie down and try out pillows in a store. But that’s not often feasible, so lean against a wall using the pillow as you would in bed. Sleep expert and author Michael Breus tells WebMD that it’s a good idea to ask someone to tell you if the pillow keeps your neck lined up straight with your body.

As for cost, don’t feel you must spend big bucks. “Price isn’t necessarily an indicator of performance,” according to Consumer Reports. Take your time shopping, trying out a variety of types, shapes and sizes of pillows in your price range.

Consumer Reports also suggests:

  • Compare pillows for firmness: Put each on a flat surface and press with your palm until the pillow is squeezed to about half its original thickness. The harder you have to press, the firmer the pillow will be for sleeping.
  • Examine the construction: Look for tidy stitches and straight seams. The fill should be spread evenly, and the zipper should be strong and work smoothly.
  • Give it the sniff test: Buying a memory foam pillow? Put your nose into it and smell it. Some have a chemical odor, although it may disappear after a bit of use.

What Type of Sleeper Are You?

Here’s another approach to pillow-shopping: Match your pillow with your sleeping style.

Buying pillows is like buying a mattress: You can’t really tell by spending only a few minutes on a mattress or pillow whether they’re right for you. (Here’s how to shop for a mattress).

You can up your odds of success by noticing how you sleep. Predominately on your back? Your stomach? Your side? Each position benefits from a different type of pillow, Consumer Reports says. Some pillows are even labeled as best for a particular position.

  • Back sleepers: Look for a slim pillow so your head won’t be pushed too far forward, straining your neck. Some back sleepers like a pillow whose lower third is fatter than the rest of the pillow. The fat part fits snugly into the curve of your neck and supports it.
  • Side sleepers: Kammi Bernard, physical therapist at Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, tells Web MD that she advises side sleepers find a pillow firm enough to fill the space between the ear and shoulder.
  • Stomach sleepers: Use a very thin pillow or none at all for the head and consider also using a thin pillow under your stomach, which can help prevent back pain.

How Much Does Cost Matter?

Consumer Reports wanted to learn if cost matters when it comes to sleepers’ satisfaction with their pillows so the magazine gave 71 of its staff members two versions of their favorite (polyester, feather/down or memory foam) type of pillow, one a high-end product and the other an inexpensive pillow: Testers tried each pillow for five nights in a row.

Some sleepers preferred the more-expensive polyester-filled and down-filled pillows. But, CR says, their opinions on a pillow’s firmness, fluffiness, flatness and size mattered almost as much as price. As for memory foam, the testers reported not much difference between expensive and cheap pillows.

The Best Fill Material

The fill material you choose is a matter of personal preference. If you like a fluffy pillow, down’s probably the stuff you want. If down’s too expensive, look for a combination of down and feathers. Down alternatives are great for people with allergies who prefer a fluffy pillow.

Fans of memory foam pillows prefer the dense support this material gives. If you do buy memory foam, make sure the pillow fits your body well since foam won’t compact and become smaller as down and polyester pillows do.

If you are still undecided, consider the compromise that chiropractor Dr. Darren Pollack suggests, at Good Housekeeping:

“I like to recommend a hybrid pillow that has a memory foam core surrounded with a softer down or synthetic layer. This version offers support and comfort, and can adapt as you change position throughout the night.”

This post first appeared on Money Talks News.

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The Sleep Habits of Successful People

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Have you ever wondered about the sleep secrets of wildly successful people? Wonder no more, we’ve got some tips you can start using today. A few simple changes to your sleep routine could help you be more productive, think better and make better decisions.

Sleeping like a champion is nothing to take lightly. A good night’s sleep is key to overall health. If you don’t put in an adequate amount of sheep counting, you could pay for it in the form of heart disease, diabetes, increased cancer risk and even early death. You can’t be productive if you’re dead, so you better get some shut-eye. Here are some sleep habits of highly successful people.

1. They Get Enough Sleep

Most successful people get close to the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep each night. An analysis by Home Arena of the sleep habits of highly successful people found that 32% got five to six hours of sleep a night. Roughly 27% clocked in six to seven hours of sleep each night.

Getting an adequate amount of sleep is good not only for your body but also your work performance. One of the keys to productivity is having a clear, sharp mind. This is made possible through rest.

2. They Get Uninterrupted Sleep

Getting enough sleep won’t matter much if you keep waking up. If you hope to wake up rested and ready for the day, you’ll want to hang out the “do not disturb” sign. A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine discovered that short, uninterrupted sleep is more beneficial for you than longer sleep that is met with several interruptions throughout the night. Those who had interrupted sleep were found to be in a worse mood than those who had solid sleep. In addition, study participants who were unable to get a good night’s sleep were at a higher risk for depression. Here’s what lead researcher Patrick Finan had to say:

To our knowledge, this is the first human experimental study to demonstrate that, despite comparable reductions in total sleep time, partial sleep loss from sleep continuity disruption is more detrimental to positive mood than partial sleep loss from delaying bedtime, even when controlling for concomitant increases in negative mood. With these findings, we provide temporal evidence in support of a putative biologic mechanism (slow wave sleep deficit) that could help explain the strong comorbidity between insomnia and depression.

A bad mood could hurt your career success. Not only will a sour attitude hamper your chances of getting a job but it could also affect your overall job satisfaction. So get some sleep so that you can shine at work and snag the best job opportunities.

3. They Get to Bed at a (Relatively) Decent Time

If you’re getting to bed late, you may want to change your ways. Getting to bed earlier can be good for your mental health. You’re better equipped to regulate your emotions if you’re rested. So if you want to prevent angry outbursts at work, you might want to change your bedtime. Another study found that those who go to bed late experience frequent negative thoughts. So go to bed earlier and be happier. Your co-workers will thank you for it.

[Editor’s note: Being on top of your finances can also improve your mood and even help you sleep better at night. If worries about money and paying bills keep you awake, you can start taking control by knowing what’s really in your credit report. You can monitor your financial goals like building good credit for free on Credit.com.]

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.  

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11 Things Designed to Help You Get a Good Night’s Sleep

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