NCTV Episode 27

Continuing with the series of bitesize health tip videos which can be found here on my YouTube Channel, this episode, includes:-

  • Sleeping postures
  • A test for correct alignment
  • Pillow types
  • Alan Partridge
  • Best pillows for your sleeping position
  • When to replace them


If you’d prefer to read the content within, rather than watch the video, then feel free to read the transcript, as follows:-

Hello and welcome to NCTV Episode 27 and this one is all about pillow’s.

So we’ll start with a bit of anatomy, the head weighs about 5 kilos which is around 11 lbs and the neck consists of 7 of the spine’s 33 vertebrae.

With an intricate and easily compromisable structure, it’s easy to see how neck pain, stiff necks and persistent headaches can occur, simply as a result of poor pillow support.

Getting straight to the point – a good pillow should hold your head in the correct alignment in relation to your shoulders and spine as though you were standing upright with the correct posture.

Not enough support then your head will sink into the pillow too far, too much the other way and you’ll get a crick in your neck, so what to do?

As with the advice for mattresses, it’s best to try pillows out before making your final decision.

One test you can perform with somebody else’s help is to lie on your side and get the other person to check whether your neck and upper back are in a straight line. The pillow should be in a position where it’s tucked well into the neck and shoulder to support the head fully.

A general top tip I’ll throw in at this point – it’s fine to lie on your sides and back, but ideally, you want to try and avoid lying on your front as this puts a lot of strain through the neck from being in a forcefully rotated position for potentially hours on end.

Back to pillows and whether you have one or two, a rule of thumb is that they should be able to retain their shape throughout the night, if they are to provide the head and neck support that is necessary.

Now onto the different types you can get and there are goosedown, duckdown, feather, fibre-filled and visco-elastic, latex or polyurethane foam, gel and all sorts of combinations of these.

The most popular ones tend to be the polyester type and these can range from very soft to very firm and the better-quality ones are usually machine washable.

Down & Feather pillows usually provide good give to them, are very durable and wash well but be sure to check the type of feathers used. If they’re chicken feathers for example, these get artificially curled but that will eventually wear off and they might also smell. It’s important to check the casing too to make sure the weave is very fine so that the feathers don’t poke through and it’s good to check the label for quality assurance. Remember though, as they feather’s some people can have an allergic reaction to this.

Foam and latex pillows tend to be firm with a bit of bounce to them. These hold their shape well and are considered hypoallergenic.

The specially moulded neck-care pillows are usually made from foam or latex and are commonly used in conjunction with another softer pillow.

At the risk of sounding like Alan Partridge and getting overly technical on it all, I’ll leave it there but with one last takeaway for pillow types, which is that it can be a good idea to choose the pillow based on the type of mattress you have. For example, if you have a memory foam mattress then a memory foam pillow will support your head and neck in the same way as the rest of your body.

When it comes to best pillows for your sleeping position, back and side sleepers would do well with a medium or medium-to-firm support and for those with neck pain, memory foam pillows can be a good option to help. If you do have to lie on your front, or can’t stop yourself from doing so, then a soft feather pillow would be a better option for you to prevent over-arching your spine.

So in terms of when you should replace your pillows, if you consider that they affect your sleeping posture, are next to your skin and nostrils, it’s good to invest in a quality one and replace them every two or three years for a healthy sleeping environment.

Some ways to tell when that time has come:- If your pillow loses it’s ‘loft’ or height, becomes lumpy, discoloured or misshapen.

And not to gross you out but something to bear in mind, an unwashed pillow could contain up to 10% in skin scale, mould, dead or living dust mites and their allergen laden droppings.

And on that bombshell, if that hasn’t convinced you to buy new pillows or at least wash your existing ones, then I don’t know what will.

That’s this week’s bitesize bit to help your health flourish, bye for now.