man covering ears with pillow

How Your Pillow Plays an Important Role in Recovery


Sober Recovery Expert Author

man covering ears with pillow

Your pillow is your old pal. It’s a reassuring and familiar presence. However, if it’s creating health problems that can potentially drive you into relapse, it’s time to set it aside and get yourself a new buddy. Experts say that if you’ve had your pillow for more than two years, it’s likely already been too long. As a matter of fact, anytime it becomes misshapen and unable to accommodate a comfortable night’s rest, it may become a serious enough issue to impede your recovery efforts.

Maintain your health and sleep hygiene by watching out for these 5 noteworthy signs that it’s time to retire your pillow.

1. Sleepless Nights

Quality sleep is important for addiction recovery. It helps you handle withdrawal symptoms, including depression, disorientation, breathing difficulties and heart disease. If left unchecked, some of these symptoms can easily slip you back into your old habits. If you find yourself constantly rearranging your pillow at night, ruffling or battering it to get some comfort, then you’re not getting the best sleep needed to support your full recovery.

2. Body Pain

If you wake up with back and neck pain accompanied by a headache or migraine, it could be that your old pillow has become too flat. It has lost the firmness needed to provide support for your neck and head in order to align them correctly with the spine. A good pillow will provide this alignment and ensure that you wake up pain-free.

3. Allergies and Respiratory Problems

If you experience bad allergic reactions and breathing problems the minute you get up, it could be your old pillow that’s at fault. Overtime, it absorbs sweat, mouth dribble and dead skin, which can all breed dust mites and other fungi that can cause nasal clogging and serious allergies. You can try replacing your pillow and using specially made anti-allergy covers to prevent it from spreading allergens.

4. Shoe Test Failure

Give your pillow the “shoe test” to see if it’s still good to go. First, fold it in half along its length and place a shoe on top for about a minute. If it quickly returns to its usual state when the shoe is removed, then it’s still OK. But if it takes time to unfold or doesn’t straighten up at all, it has to go. Bear in mind, however, that this test does not necessarily work with very thin pillows used by stomach sleepers.

5. Unattractive Look and Feel

It’s not hard to spot a pillow that has outlived its glory. Perhaps it still bears the mark made by your head from the previous night. Maybe it’s turning yellow and has an odor even when you’ve taken excellent care of it. Generally, if it looks rather flat, lumpy or the fill collects at one end and needs to be constantly evened out, it’s time to let go.

The Right Pillow Type

A good night’s rest that promotes your recovery consists of waking up pain and allergy free. To do this, you have to find a pillow that best suits your allergy and density needs.

If you're experiencing restless nights, body pain and allergic reactions during recovery, your pillow may be the one to blame.

You can start by considering the pillow fill. There are various synthetic and natural fills in the market that can satisfy your special requirements. If you suffer from allergies, for example, switching to a pure wool or memory foam pillow can help reduce your morning allergies. In regards to the right pillow density, what you’ll need is a pillow that keeps your head, neck and shoulders properly aligned with your spine as you lie in your favorite sleeping position—whether that’s on your back, stomach or side.

Back sleepers

If you’re a back sleeper, you would need a fluffy pillow to provide head support but one that is thin enough to keep the alignment from head to back. A denser pillow will drive your head and neck up and impede your breathing.

Side Sleepers

If you favor side-sleeping, you would need a firm pillow to fill the space between ear and shoulder and bring the neck and head in line with the spine. Lower back pain sufferers could find further relief from putting another pillow in between their knees.

Stomach Sleepers

If you’re a stomach sleeper, you may do without a pillow altogether but if you experience back pain, you could place a thin pillow under your stomach to lift your head and bring it in line with the neck and back.

Pillow Care

According to the Sleep Council in the UK, pillows should be replaced every two years. Other experts even recommend replacing it as early as 6 months to a year, especially for allergy sufferers. However, you can help your pillows maintain its optimal shape during its entire lifespan by applying the following care methods:

  • Reduce dust mites by occasionally putting your pillows in the freezer overnight or washing them according to the instruction tag.
  • Throw your pillows in the dryer with a tennis ball to fluff and keep them in shape.
  • Enclose your pillow in a zip-up washable anti-allergy pillow cover before putting it inside your ordinary bedding.

Remember, sleep plays such an important role in your overall physical health. That’s why a pillow that keeps you in pain, tossing and turning at night, and sneezing in the mornings is so counterproductive to your recovery. From now on, view pillow replacement as one of the many other healthy lifestyle changes you are making along with a commitment to sobriety. After all, you do everything in your waking power to make every day count—why not make a difference in your sleep life as well?

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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