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10 Signs It's Time For New Pillows—And Exactly What You Should Buy Next

Southern Living 9/27/2022 Quincy Bulin

Courtesy of Getty Images © Provided by Southern Living Courtesy of Getty Images

We've all been guilty of keeping a pillow for way too long before. Sometimes it's because we're not sure if we'll find something comparable that we love, or we're simply too overwhelmed by all the options. Other times it's because we've become so used to it that we don't even realize it's in that bad of shape. Staying on top of the condition of your pillow is important because it impacts your sleep, allergies, spine, and skin. Without further ado, here are the most reliable signs it's time for new pillows.

Sign #1: It's Lumpy

This kind of goes without saying, but you should always feel like you're sleeping on a cloud—not a bumpy road. Try and fluff your pillow all you want, but those lumps are pretty tough to get rid of. You'll have much better luck getting rid of the pillow altogether.

Sign #2: You're Sneezing More

Dust mites can get the best of anyone, even more so if you're allergic to them. If you've already been washing your pillow and case on the regular but still feel sneezy and sniffly, it's time to get a new pillow—preferably one that can actually ward off dust mites and other pesky allergens.

Sign #3: Your Neck Hurts

A stiff or sore neck is a sign that your pillow is flattening and has lost its ability to provide crucial support for your head while you're sleeping. 

Sign #4: It Won't Fluff

If your nights are divided between sleeping and fluffing in an attempt to get comfortable, it's time to cut your losses—the pillow will never truly come back to life.

Sign #5: You're Breaking Out

It's gross but not surprising that skin, hair, and body oil build up over time. After all, you do lay on your pillow eight consecutive hours a night. All that gunk could be contributing to an increase in acne (to be fair, washing your pillowcase may be the solve as well).

Sign #6: It's Stained

So embarrassing, right? But it's pretty common. Similar to the above comment, your pillow turns yellow because of sweat, oils, water, drool, and more. These stains aren't just surface level though—they go deeper, where you can't even see them. P.S. A pillow protector will help prevent them in the future.

Sign #7: You Can Fold It in Half

Fold your pillow as a test—when you let go, it should always bounce back into shape. If it doesn't? Leave it folded and throw it straight in the trash.

Sign #8: You're Sleeping in a New Position

You may have a favorite pillow, but if you've recently turned from a stomach sleeper into a side sleeper, you should reevaluate if it's still right for you. If it's still comfortable, you're fine. If not? Time for a replacement.

Sign #9: It Smells Bad

Remember what we said about skin, hair, and body oil buildup? In addition to causing breakouts and stains, it can also leave your pillow with a stubborn smell. Give your pillow a wash, but if the odor persists, give it the boot.

Sign #10: It's Just Not Comfortable

In the end, it doesn't really matter if you feel one, none, or all nine of the above signs. Just because a pillow is in good shape doesn't mean it's a good fit for you.

4 Types of Pillows 

Now that you know you need a new pillow, how do you choose? There's seemingly countless options, but they can be easily broken up into four main categories. A huge consideration when picking a new pillow is what kind of support you need, which is all dependent on your primary sleep position: back, side, or stomach. Different fill types offer different features, and it's crucial to have the right ones.

Memory Foam

This type of pillow is more dense than fluffy, which is ideal for those who need extra neck and head support. Back sleepers and some side sleepers would appreciate this feature the most, but those who run hot won't like how much it retains heat vs. other materials.

Our Pick: Linenspa Shredded Memory Foam 2 Pack Pillow, $22.99, amazon.com

Natural Fill

These are the pillows that use organic materials like feathers and down. They're what you imagine pillows being like—fluffy and soft. The more fill there is, the more supportive it is. Side and stomach sleepers will find their flexible cradling most beneficial.

Our Pick: puredown Goose Feather Down Sleeping Pillow Soft Bed Pillow Set of 2,$59.99, amazon.com

Poly Cluster Fill

Consider poly-cluster fill like the ultimate compromise. Made from polyester clusters coated with silicone to mimic down, they're hypoallergenic and inexpensive like synthetic fill while being soft and fluffy like natural fill. The moldability of poly cluster pillows offers ideal support for side sleepers.

Our Pick: Digital Décor Cluster Fiber Pillow White Down Alternative Hypoallergenic Set of 2, $79.95, amazon.com

Synthetic Fill

You know the $5-10 pillows you can pick up at Target? That's what these are (but there's also nicer ones). Synthetic fill is exactly what it sounds like—a man-made filler, usually polyester. The pros are that they're hypoallergenic and machine washable, while the con is that they don't last as long. Stomach sleepers will love them because they prevent any unnecessary straining.

Our Pick: Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows for Sleeping Set of 2, $44.99, amazon.com

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