If you dream of a better night's sleep, you're not alone.
To make sleep even better, a good place to start is with a new pillow. "A pillow is a bed for your head," says Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist who specialises in sleep disorders.
Researching the right pillow can be like staring down the toothpaste aisle, however: The options are endless. Thankfully, pillow testers like Breus can help narrow it down.
The first thing to consider is the type of sleeper you are: back, side or stomach. Back sleepers may need a flatter pillow, to keep the head and neck in alignment. Stomach sleepers may need a soft pillow, or no pillow. Side sleepers may need a firmer pillow on the thicker side.
Then there's fill - wool, cotton, latex, memory foam, feathers, down - that often depends on whether you prefer squishy or firm pillows. Breus notes that if you have any back or shoulder pain in the morning, it's a sign of using the wrong type of pillow (although it's always good to check with an orthopedic doctor). Above all, just do the best you can, says Rebecca Robbins, a sleep adviser to the Benjamin Hotel in New York: "Invest at the highest level your budget can afford. We sleep for one-third of our lives. Why not make it the most amazing, comfortable room in your house?"
Breus, known as the Sleep Doctor, says that sleep is a performance activity. So just as a runner invests in shoes, you'll want to choose the best pillow for your sleep. His favourite, and the one he sleeps on, is V&R Naturals' Latex Kapok Blend because the stuffing can be removed as needed for sleep preference.
At the Good Housekeeping Institute Textiles Lab, senior product analyst Lexie Sachs and other analysts look at how well pillows keep their shape, withstand laundering and fit into a pillowcase. Consumer testers rate pillows for comfort and support.
"Our clients prefer bed pillows with a natural cotton cover and either a soft-yet-supportive mix of feather and down or a feather-and-down alternative," says Seattle-based Michelle Dirkse, an interior designer whose projects have appeared in design magazines.
After designing for celebrity after celebrity, Los Angeles interior designer Adam Hunter knows that everyone is different and "clients need to love their pillow and find the one that provides proper support and alignment." He often uses anti-allergy down pillows in his projects, especially for kids' rooms, because of the simple maintenance. They're "easy to clean" and "so soft," he says.
"The bedroom is the gateway drug to get more sleep," says Robbins, a postdoctoral fellow at New York University. "We drink coffee, we drink wine, we get stressed about our careers. Some of those things are hard to modify, but the bedroom is something we can often control."