The Latest in Sleeping Pillow Science
A great night’s sleep and the right pillow to help achieve that remains elusive enough that we’re spending tons to get high-quality shuteye. It’s also a rich subject of scientific research. Punch in the search term “pillow” in PubMed, a search engine for peer-reviewed biomedical and life sciences literature, and you get 242 search results.
And you know that science informs how we make your custom pillow, so here are recent findings from scientists and researchers that might be useful for you (and us!)
Pillow Height and Neck Pain: There’s a Relationship
Pillow height is an important factor in regards to neck pain. This is especially true for side sleepers, as a sleeping pillow that’s too flat will get your cervical spine, or your neck bone, out of whack. This leads to potentially waking up with neck pain.
While we can describe the pain, researchers quantify to prove it. A 2016 study in Hong Kong recruited 10 healthy, young subjects were tasked with on pillows with four different pillow heights supine style (laying on their back). A pressure sensitive mat with over a thousand sensors provided pressure data.
The hotspot indicates pressure. The higher the pillow, the more pressure on the area of your spine where it connects to your skull. Go pillow crazy at your own peril! Image credit: Ren, Wong, Yang, Zhou, Lin and Zang
Overall, the higher the sleeping pillow, the more your pressure you felt in the area where your spine and skull connect. This is obviously intuitive, but the difference here is the amount of science to make the claim. The pressure data in the image above makes it abundantly clear that you want a pillow that induces good spine alignment. In conclusion, the researchers found that pillow height “may represent an important influential parameter to be considered” for pillow designs.
Sleep Better with a Memory Foam Pillow (According to the scientists!)
Researchers in South Korea surveyed 332 Korean adults ranging from 20 to 76 years of age. On average, all rated themselves as having a low-quality sleep and feeling sleepy during the day. With a beautiful night’s sleep eluding respondents, the study turned to researching sleeping pillows as the variable to hone in on.
Among the issues from struggling sleepers, discomforts like neck pain were large contributors to a poor sleep. Reducing these pain points was the key and the study suggested the ideal sleeping pillow—a pillow made of latex or memory foam that provides better neck support. Further, for side sleepers, the height of the pillow was shown to matter more to reduce neck pain and sore shoulders. If only you could buy a custom pillow with memory foam that you could customize the height of…!
Snoring: A Pillow Solution
Snoring, an annoying phenomenon for people on the receiving end of a noisy snore. As funny as it sounds, snoring could have deteriorating effects on a relationship. Snore too much and loudly enough and that means a lack of sleep for the partner in a relationship. A lack of sleep leads to a lack of patience and quality judgement, which then could lead to avoidable confrontations.
So where do sleeping pillows fit in this predicament? In 2017, a study in Germany studied 22 snorers. The researchers provided subjects some teched out pillows. Microphones built into the pillow would detect snoring and if snoring did occur, the sleeping pillow would gently inflate to encourage a gentle head rotation.
Overall results were a significant (in quantitative research that means that the results didn’t happen by chance) reduction in snoring when using a pillow to change the position of the head. While devices that emulate this über German pillow’s functions exist in the market, they’re pretty pricey and can wake you up instead. Sure does give us some ideas, though!