When it comes to sleep quality, you probably think position and bed quality are the most important factors. However, the type of pillow you use can be just as important, especially for your neck.
In this article, I’ll be covering how to flatten a pillow, whether flat or fluffy pillows are better, how pillows affect sleep quality, and other info about pillow fluffiness.
3 Easy Ways to Flatten Your Pillow
This is the easiest and most passive way to flatten a pillow.
Simply sleep on the pillow like you normally would, and over time your head’s weight will slowly flatten the pillow. In a way, this may be one of the best ways to flatten a pillow. It will eventually flatten into a conformed shape as determined by your head and neck’s unique weight and curvature.
If you opt to not use a pillowcase or pillow protector, this helps flatten your pillow in another way, as it will absorb your skin oils.
This may sound strange, but that actually causes the pillow to become flatter.
If a pillow is simply way too fluffy for you and you don’t have the patience to flatten it over time by sleeping it, you can opt to artificially flatten the pillow via compression. In simple terms, you can use heavy objects and pressure to force the pillow into a flatter shape.
There are a few ways you can do this.
One method involves putting heavy objects, such as several heavy books, into a box and simply putting the box on the pillow. An alternative is to wrap some bricks in a sheet. Either way, this will accelerate the same flattening process that sleeping on the pillow uses.
Weight presses the pillow’s stuffing into a flatter shape.
While pressing a pillow into shape can be helpful, sometimes a pillow just has too much stuffing in it. Removing some stuffing from a pillow can help make it flatter and more comfortable for those who don’t like fluffy pillows. All you’ll need is a seam ripper, needle, and some thread.
Here are the steps to remove stuffing to flatten the pillow:
- Remove the pillowcase and locate the seam at the edge of the pillow. Some pillows have zippers used to access stuffing. If not, you can use a visible seam or edge of a seam, as n the case of a seam sewed from the inside.
- Cut the seam open with the seam ripper. Only open the seam enough to put your hand in.
- Reach into the pillow and remove the stuffing. Shift the remaining stuffing around as you remove stuffing to create the pillow shape and thickness you want.
- Use a needle and thread to sew the seam shut.
As a side note, I’d recommend you store the excess stuffing you removed in a plastic bag. You never know when you may wish to fluff the pillow back up, or possibly add stuffing to another pillow later.
There’s no “best” type of pillow for every single person. Pillows all have a level of “loft,” or height, that separates them into two rough categories: flat or fluffy. There are also outliers, like memory foam. Each has unique characteristics in the way they hold your head and neck that make them better for some sleeping positions than others.
A flat pillow is best for those who sleep on their stomachs or backs. But a fluffy pillow is best for those who sleep on their sides. Think about how you sleep and if your pillow supports your neck and aligns your spine. Choose your pillow based on the way you sleep.
Most people have a personal preference when it comes to how flat or fluffy they want their pillow, and a lot of that has to do with what type of position they sleep in. In many cases, a person retains a preference for whatever type of pillow they used as a child.
Fluffy pillows are great for side sleepers, which Consumer Reports claims are 70% of us.
This large population of side sleepers makes it especially important that they’re aware flat pillows can be detrimental to sleep quality and neck health alike. Fluffy pillows help keep the neck aligned with the way your spine curves in a side sleeping position.
But it’s important to not get a pillow that’s too fluffy.
Pillows that hold the head high stretch and hold the neck in an unnatural position for long periods of time. This can lead to neck pain, stiffness, and even pain that radiates to the back’s vertebrae.
The ideal pillow should support your head and neck, holding them parallel to the back’s natural curvature. Start with pillows that advertise themselves as “medium-loft,” which is typically about 3-5” (7.62-12.7 cm) or so.
Proponents of fluffy pillows say it’s like sleeping with your head on a cloud, which is perfect because you want to support yourself without too much height.
By contrast, flat pillows are ideal for those who sleep on their stomachs or backs. Fluffy pillows for these sleepers tend to cause neck pain because they unnaturally lift the head.
On the other hand, flat pillows align the neck perfectly with the spine.
As a note about back sleepers, they particularly need to look for signs of sleep apnea. It has to do with the way gravity can press your tongue into a position that blocks your airway during sleep.
The trick with flat pillows is to retain the perfect amount of support for your head and neck while not lifting the head too far. Using an ideal flat pillow will almost be like sleeping directly on the mattress.
If you stand straight up and then lay on your back, your neck should be in the same exact position.
Memory foam pillows are a great third option alongside traditional flat and fluffy pillows. They are created with a special material that absorbs the weight of your head and neck. This allows it to mold itself to your body’s unique shape and, in theory, provide the ideal level of comfort and support.
These types of pillows range from an actual foam material to “memory gel” style pillows.
For those who feel they don’t get an ideal level of support from flat or fluffy pillows, memory foam pillows may be the answer (even though some people find them too hard for their liking). Memory foam pillows are great for any sleeping position. If you switch positions all night long trying to get comfortable, consider trying out a memory foam pillow to settle your late-night agonizing.
While most pillows do flatten over time, the construction of the pillow and the materials used in them will determine how quickly the pillow flattens, as well as how long the pillow lasts in general.
Environmental factors like dirt and skin oils can accumulate on pillows and make them go flat too, but that usually takes a really long time.
Dust mites can also be a factor if you don’t use a pillow protector.
Polyester pillows, being on the cheaper end of the pillow spectrum, go flat the quickest out of any pillows. Simply laying on a polyester pillow will flatten it within a matter of days or weeks. If desired, you could flatten a polyester pillow sooner by putting a heavy box or something else heavy on the pillow during the day before sleep.
Feather and down pillows, by contrast, tend to retain their fluffiness for a longer period of time and are difficult to intentionally flatten.
If desired, you could remove some of the stuffing to simulate the pillow becoming flatter, but that may backfire if you underestimate the amount of support down or feathers provide.
Memory foam pillows are a bit different.
Memory foam absorbs the weight of your body and conforms to it. By absorbing weight, the pillow doesn’t flatten over time like traditional pillows. Rather, memory foam goes flat after a long time from absorbing oils and skin cells from the body. Using a pillow protector, as with any pillow, will preserve how long a memory foam pillow lasts.
Sleep specialist Michael Breus conducted a test that he claims tells you if your pillow is too flat and needs to be replaced. To do the “shoe test,” you first fold your pillow in half. Then you place a shoe on the back of the pillow and let go.
If the pillow doesn’t “spring back,” your pillow lacks the ability to support your head and neck. This means it should be promptly replaced for optimal sleep quality.
When a fluffy pillow causes you pain and discomfort, a flat pillow can help get your body aligned and give you more restful sleep. Flattening a pillow is pretty simple and lets you get back to sleep faster.
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