Your Pillow and Migraines

Best Pillow for Migraines | Flow Osteopathy Mitcham
Is there a science to pillows or are they all just squishy rectangles? Let's take a look.

There is a huge variety of pillows out there, many of which spout lofty promises of a better night’s sleep and even relief from aches and pains. If you’re trying to make the right decision the number of options can seem a little daunting.

So is there a science to pillows, or are they all just squishy rectangles?

Let’s take a look.

The Science of Pillows

There have been a few small scale studies that have compared different types of pillows (1, 2, 3). They generally compare different pillow materials (latex, memory foam, feather, polyester) as well as different shapes (contoured vs regular or ‘flat’).

Two studies conducted by Susan Gordon compared different pillow types with each participants ‘own’ pillow from home. They measured whether or not the person woke with headaches, neck pain or shoulder pain. They also measured sleep quality and comfort levels. All of the participants were ‘side sleepers’.

Latex pillows performed best, and the researchers recommended their use over other types. Feather pillows performed the¬†worst. Polyester and memory foam pillows weren’t significantly better or worse compared the participant’s ‘own’ pillow.

Interestingly, there was no difference in waking symptoms when comparing contoured pillows with regular ‘flat’ pillows.

Memory Foam vs Latex Pillows

Memory foam was initially developed by NASA in the 1970s as cushioning for astronauts. It aimed to help counteract the forces of space travel.

Comparison of Memory Foam and Latex

Temperature Control – Our body temperature needs to drop by 1-2 degrees for us to initiate sleep, so controlling temperature is an important consideration. Memory foam moulds to our shape by absorbing and storing body heat. Latex however will dissipate heat and should stay cooler.

Durability – Whilst both types will last longer than other pillow materials, natural latex will tend to last longer than memory foam.

Price – Latex can be made in a lab, but the highest quality latex is derived from natural rubber. As a result it tends to be pricey and doesn’t vary much in price. Memory foam on the other hand is always made synthetically. As a result you can find a large range of prices, and with that, a large range of quality.

Comfort – This is where memory foam can perform better. As it softens and moulds with our body heat, it can put less pressure on our body during sleep. This may be helpful if you are suffering from jaw pain, where direct pressure could aggravate it.

Other Health Benefits – Natural latex is hypoallergenic and anti fungal, which may give some peace of mind considering we spend 1/3 of our day laying on it.

Where to now?

In reality picking the right pillow is not as easy and reading some studies (or a blog for that matter) and confidently picking one. It’s best to go in with a ‘trial and error’ mindset. Be prepared to try a few different types before finding the right one. In saying that, we can see from the evidence that starting with a latex pillow has the best probability of being right for you.

At Flow Osteopathy we are dedicated to supporting our local community of Whitehorse the surrounding suburbs of Mitcham, Blackburn, Forest Hill, Donvale, Box Hill and the surrounding suburbs.

If you would like to learn more about how we can help with headaches and migraines please click here.

  1. Gordon SJ, Grimmer-Somers K. Your Pillow May Not Guarantee a Good Night’s Sleep or Symptom Free Waking. Physiother Can. Spring 2011;63(2):183-90
  2. Gordon SJ, Grimmer-Somers K, Patricia Trott. Pillow use: the behaviour of cervical pain, sleep quality and pillow comfort in side sleepers. Man Ther. 2009 Dec;14(6):671-8
  3. Gordon SJ, Grimmer-Somers K, Patricia Trott. Pillow use: the behavior of cervical stiffness, headache and scapular/arm pain. J Pain Res. 2010 Aug 11;3:137-45
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