couple sleeping

Choosing the Right Mattress and Pillows

The Importance of Choosing the Right Mattress and Pillows

Any doctor will tell you that getting adequate good quality sleep is the key to staying healthy.  Sleep is so necessary because during sleep, your body is able to heal and regenerate.  And being well rested will reduce your risk of things like heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes and more!

Now, the important words here are good quality.  In order to have a truly restful night, your body needs to enter a state of REM.  During this state is when the regeneration occurs.  So how can you be sure that you are getting the right type of good quality sleep to allow your body to heal?

couple testing a mattress to avoid back painStart with choosing the right mattress and pillows

It seems to simple, but as Chiropractors, we treat so many patients who aren’t getting the proper quality of sleep, and one of the commonalities we see with these patients, is a lack of a proper mattress and pillows. It is also one of the most common things that we are asked by patients, is what type of mattress and pillow should I buy?

A really simple way to look at it is this – for most other areas of your life, say your work, your hobbies, sports you play, you probably wouldn’t use cheap tools or gear right?  Because you want to do those activities and do them well.  You should think the same way about your sleep gear.  You need high quality gear so that your body can do what it needs to to stay healthy.

As many of our patients report, they experience significant lower back pain when they rise each morning.  Why?  The mattress could be one of the main culprits.  Most people choose a mattress solely based on how ‘comfy’ it is, and neglect to take into consideration that the body needs a lot of support, even in sleep.  If a mattress is too soft, it can lead to strange positions while you sleep, which will almost always lead to back pain when you wake.

We’re not saying comfort isn’t a major factor to consider, but also think about thinks like firmness, and composition.  If your current bed is causing you pain, opt for a different type.  There are so many to choose from – foam, futon, feather, spring and combinations of one or more of these things.  The key is to test it out – lie down in the position you most commonly fall asleep in and stay there a long time (20 mins) while you’re testing.  Does your body feel well supported?  Is it easy or difficult to rise from the bed?

A salesperson can also be very helpful.  We recommend shopping for a new mattress at an actual mattress store – not a big box furniture retailer.  Why?  Well, the sales people are educated and are specialized in their products, and they’ll also be able to give you some good customer reviews of their products.  You can also have the salesperson do a little test for you while you’re lying on the mattress – the test involves checking to see if your spine appears to be in a fairly straight and neutral position as you lie on your back.  Any Chiropractor will tell you that your mattress should allow an even distribution of weight to your pressure points.  The salesperson will be able to tell whether or not your body is properly aligned.  If not, try something else!

Another culprit of sleep-related back pain can be an old mattress

A good rule of thumb is that a mattress will not last longer than 10 years. A mattress that sags in the middle will lead to pain in the morning.  As we’ve said, the body should be well supported at the head, shoulders and hips.  If you’re lying at a weird angle in the middle of a saggy mattress, you’ll pay the price and we’ll be seeing you here at BROADWAY AT YEW CHIROPRACTIC & MASSAGE for treatment!

Generally speaking we recommend at medium-firm mattress, purchased at a specialized mattress store with an excellent return or exchange policy and we do not recommend a pillow top larger that 1.5 inches. Larger than that will reduce the support of your spine!

Now that you know a little bit more about how your mattress can impact your sleep and health, there’s one more area we need to cover – pillows!  Yes, pillows – they’re not just pretty and decorative – they actually serve a very important purpose! Actually, a few important purposes…

stack of pillowsA good pillow provides comfort!

Yes, that’s important we know, but the bigger role of a good pillow is to provide support for your neck and upper back while you sleep.  Your spine has a natural curve to it, so having a good pillow will allow your spine to retain this natural curve, versus knocking it out of alignment (something we know a lot about!).

If you don’t have a good pillow, not only will it negatively impact the quality of your sleep, but, you guessed it, it can lead to pain upon waking.  Neck stiffness is another common condition we treat here at BROADWAY AT YEW CHIROPRACTIC & MASSAGE.  And there’s nothing worse for not only causing, but exacerbating a sore stiff neck, than a poor quality pillow.

So how do you know what type of pillow is right for you?

Well, as with mattresses, there are many different kinds.  There are feather pillows, memory foam pillows, good old fashioned pillows stuffed with who knows what, water pillows and more.  The key to choosing the right pillow for you depends on how you tend to sleep most.  Do you sleep on your back most of the time?  If so, you’ll need a pillow that supports the natural curve you have in your neck.  If you’re someone who sleeps mostly on your side, look for a pillow that has the firmness to keep your head straight.  And finally, if you tend to sleep mostly on your stomach WHICH WE STRONGLY DO NOT RECOMMEND, you may not need a pillow at all, or at the very least, you might need a fairly thin one.


As you can see, the quality if our sleep, and our sleep gear, play a very important role in our health and in whether or not we suffer pain in the morning.  Having the right mattress and pillows will help your both to rest and regenerate in its natural form and shape.  The benefits are many – as noted, good sleep can reduce your risk of all sorts of diseases, and you just can’t get good sleep if you don’t have the proper bedding to support your body.

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