Man face-down on pillow, looking uncomfortable.

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Is it Time to Replace Your Pillow?

· Article

Is it Time to Replace Your Pillow?

Your pillow is comfy. It’s soft. It’s perfect. It’s also eight years old. You probably aren’t ready to toss Old Faithful, but you definitely should.


The average pillow doubles in weight in the first 18 months because dust, saliva, pollen, skin and hair find a way inside the pillowcase, eventually mixing with your pillow fill and, by extension, becoming part of your sleep routine. That’s the main reason why experts say it’s good practice to regularly replace your pillows.


“Every two years — that’s pretty standard,” says Christina Smida, a bedding buyer with Sleep Number. “People just don’t understand how much the pillow can impact you until you get a good pillow and see the difference it can make. When people realize that pillows are 25 percent of the comfort equation, it puts things in perspective. Think about how important that is.”


Smida cautions against sleeping on an older pillow due to the collection of dust mites and old skin cells that could cause allergen issues. That’s also why Sleep Number suggests pillow protectors — washable cotton pillow covers that go underneath traditional pillowcases — for all pillows.


Other reasons to bid adieu to a pillow:


  • Yellowing. Sure, you can wash a pillow, and some might even suggest bleaching it, but experts say pillows only yellow because of sweat. Even if you don’t think you sweat at night, you probably do.


  • Pink eye that lingers. You’ve tried sanitizing your pillow, washing your case in hot water and even drying it in the sun, and you still have recurring eye infections or other viral illnesses. After talking to your doctor, you might consider buying a new pillow.


  • Neck pain. If you repeatedly wake with neck or shoulder pain, this could be a sign your pillow has seen better days.


  • Floppy, with a lack of fold. Fold your pillow in half, squeezing all the air out. If it doesn’t spring back into shape quickly, it’s time to find a new one. The lack of shape memory indicates the pillow is no longer supportive.


  • Sneezing or suffering breakouts. You might have dust mites or mildew. Or both.


If any of these apply to you, or you’re purchasing a new bed, now is a great time to select the pillow of your dreams.


Here’s what you should keep in mind:


  • Consider your sleep style. “How you like to sleep also determines your pillow type,” says Joleen Dilk Salyn, a certified pediatric sleep consultant who runs “Stomach and back sleepers need a thinner pillow while side sleepers will look for a slightly thicker one to offer more support.”


  • Buy the correct pillow. “It’s very critical,” says Dr. Jose Colon, author of The Sleep Diet? A Novel Approach to Insomnia. “If you have too soft of a pillow you can get neck pain.”


  • Talk with a pillow expert. Sleep Number offers an online quiz, but if you go to a Sleep Number® store for their PillowFit® experience, you’ll have more personalized service. Their experts will fit you for a pillow and let you test options while lying on a bed. “We look at your sleeping position, shoulder width, support and fill preferences,” says Smida. “How do you wake up? That’s one question we ask.”


  • Select the right fill. Sleep Number® pillows come in foam, fiber, down or down alternative and in a number of shapes. Getting PillowFit® will help narrow options for you.


  • Read the care instructions. Find out if you should spot clean your pillow or if it’s machine washable. Sleep Number’s foam pillows, for example, are spot cleanable — dropping them in a washing machine could destroy the fibers. Experts recommend using a pillow protector and washing it weekly.



Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds with SleepIQ® technology inside adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. SleepIQ technology tracks how well you sleep each night, giving you personal insights into your sleep so you’ll learn how life affects your sleep and how sleep affects your life. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.

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