Is your pillow harming your health?

There's nothing quite like the feeling of snuggling down into a soft, fluffy pillow at the end of a long, busy day at work. Drifting off into a (hopefully) blissful night's sleep will ensure you wake up feeling well-rested and ready to face the day, and we all know how important it is to get our 8 hours sleep a night to stay happy and healthy! But did you ever stop to think that your pillow could actually be harming your health? We know; it's sooo soft and cosy, how could it be harmful? Well, we're here to give you the lowdown.

Allergens and irritants

We spend around a third of our lives sleeping - well, unless you have a serious Netflix addiction and insomnia, in which case it might be less. The point is, you spend a lot of time in bed sleeping on your pillow, but what about the potential allergens and irritants that could build up on your pillow, night after night, as well as the materials your pillow is made from and stuffed with? Dust mites, mould, fungi, formaldehyde, acetate, polyester, flame retardants - not to mention sweat, skin cells and drool - most of these are present in the average pillow, and they could be having a serious impact on your health!

Is your pillow making you ill?

According to Natural Health Magazine, a number of conditions could arise from sleeping on 'chemical-drenched' synthetic pillows and mattresses. Many pillows are stuffed with polyurethane foam, which releases chemicals slowly into the air over the long-term, leading to nausea and headaches for some people. Dut mistes can build up in your pillow causing sinus congestion and respiratory problems. Even the flame retardant chemicals used on some materials could irritate sensitive skin. The good news? You can choose a more natural pillow to prevent these problems. The bad news? It's not just what your pillow is made of that could harm your health.

How old is your pillow?

Pillows don't last forever and the life expectancy of your pillow will depend on its filling, and how well you care for it, of course. If you're suffering from back or neck pain or other symptoms that seem worst in the morning when you wake up, consider the fact that your pillow could well be the culprit! 85% of us keep pillows well past their use-by date, but how long is too long?

Synthetic pillows

'Microfibre' or polyester pillows are cheap and machine washable - so they appeal to those on a budget or anyone who likes to sleep on several pillows. But they can attract mould and dust mites, so they need to be replaced regularly - on average every two years, which could mean you're not actually getting value for money! To check and see if your pillow needs replacing, try folding it in half and placing a book on top of it. If the book holds the pillow folded, it's time to shop for a new one.

Feather and down pillows

Unless you suffer from feather allergies, these are the best pillows to repel dust mites. After 6 months, feather pillows have 8 times fewer dust mites than synthetic pillows (1) and they last longer too, up to 10 years on average! After plumping your pillow, it should return to its natural shape; if it doesn't, you'll need to ditch it.

Cotton and wool

Wools' wicking properties repel moisture, and wool or cotton pillows are made from natural, breathable material which absorbs less sweat, reducing the risk of mould developing. If you have chemical allergies, natural fibres such as cotton or wool are a great choice and your pillow should last you around 3 to 5 years.


Latex pillows have become increasingly popular in recent years and they're great to provide extra support to anyone who suffers from back pain or shoulder and neck problems. However, latex pillows can get quite hot, and as they're not breathable, they're also prone to mould. Natural latex (rubber) pillows are the best option. They're dust mite resistant thanks to their anti-microbial properites and they can last up to 15 years, making them an affordable choice if you need extra support.

Choosing a healthy pillow

With such a huge variety of pillows out there to choose from, the average pillow shopping trip can be a bit overwhelming for many of us, and you're likely to just choose a pillow you like the feel of, or the cheapest option, if you're on a budget! However it's important to take the time to choose a pillow which won't harm your health and will allow you to get a good night's sleep. Sleep deprivation can make it hard to concentrate at work, and it can lead to an increased risk of obesity and other conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. Make sure you get your shut-eye by following our pillow choosing tips:

  • Look for natural options such as down, buck wheat or millet hulls or kapok - these may be harder to find, but provided they're processed without chemicals they are great pilling stuffers (try shopping online for them)
  • Bamboo fibre is also a great option for pillows. It's environmentally friendly, hypo-allergenic, warm, soft and anti-bacterial, but it could be expensive
  • Replace your pillow regularly and ensure you air it out to prevent mould and bacteria from building up. Synthetic pillows should be washed regularly to kill dust mites
  • Choose natural fibres wherever you can, not only for your pillow but for your mattress and bedding too. Feather and down or wool/cotton pillows are preferable to synthetic fibres such as polyester

READ THIS NEXT: What kind of sleeper are you?

Works cited:


Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 15th Apr 2015 at 10:14

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