Choosing an adjustable pillow to improve sleep

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The comfort and neck support of your pillow is an important factor in sleep quality. Adjustable pillows -- pillows with removable filler or inserts to allow customization of height and firmness -- are on the rise. So what’s important in a pillow?

Do adjustable pillows make a difference?

The most important qualities of any pillows are neck support and comfort. A stiff or sore neck that lowers sleep quality can often be remedied by finding the right pillow. 
 
Your pillows should be soft and comfortable while maintaining enough firmness to allow proper alignment of your airway parallel to the bed. A collapsed or kinked airway could affect how well you breathe at night. Adjustable pillows can customize the height of the pillow to support your neck at an even level with your head and body.
 
The size and length of your pillow should also be based on your typical sleeping position. For example, side sleepers have a larger distance from the bed to their head because they lie on their shoulders. A taller or fuller pillow would allow better head-neck alignment and enhanced comfort. 
 
While there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about them, adjustable pillows can end the guessing game of picking the correct size, firmness and height of a pillow. 

What should I do if I’m having trouble sleeping?

Adjustable pillows may help you tailor your sleeping habits to treat stiff or sore neck, but if you’re having general insomnia or other sleep issues, evaluate nightly habits first. 
 
It’s important to prepare both your brain and body for a solid night of sleep. This means going to bed around the same time every night, eliminating phone or other screen usage an hour or two before bed, and avoiding exercising before bed. 
 
Changing out or washing pillows every so often can also improve sleep quality. Pillows can trap dust and other allergens that may disturb the nasal passage at night. 
 
If serious sleep issues continue, talk to your doctor about other solutions.
 
Eugene Chio is an otolaryngologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.