Pillow Talk


It has been almost 4,000 years since Jacob used a stone for his pillow. Honestly, it was not the pillow that caused him to dream about angels walking up and down a tall ladder, but our pillows can affect how well we sleep, and perhaps whether or how we dream.

What is the primary purpose of a pillow? To support and cushion the head. When a person lies down to sleep, the head needs to be high enough to keep the neck in line with the rest of the spine. Notice how many people who don’t have a pillow will rest their heads on their arms, a rolled up coat, a book, or even a stone. Ancient beds were made with head rests built in or attached.

For most of us, pillows are neccessary items—we can’t do without them. I know from personal experience that what pillow you have does make a difference. It can be too large or too small, too firm or too soft. The shape may or may not be suitable for its use, or it may have the right or wrong texture.

There are several kinds of pillows to choose from in a number of categories. The most important of these are Fillings, Size & Shape, and Covers.

The most significant category is the Filling, or to quote a well-known aphorism, “It’s what’s inside that counts.” When I was growing up, most pillows were filled with down, or a mixture of down and small feathers, and covered with cotton. Now most are one kind of foam or another. At home, we do have one buckwheat pillow and some wool pillows, but most of ours are filled with polyurethane foam.

A pillow may be filled with natural or synthetic ingredients, or a mixture of the two. Natural pillow fillings include down, buckwheat, wool, cotton batting, and natural latex. There are even pillows filled with air or water. Among artificial fillings are synthetic latex, polyurethane foam, memory foam, and polyester fibers. A large number of pillows use shredded foam.

Pillows share their history with mattresses. Early pillows had the same fillings as early mattresses, including straw, sawdust, wool, horsehair and feathers. The last three are still used in commercially produced pillows, with the feathers now being down off ducks or geese.

As stated earlier, we have a few wool pillows with cotton ticking, bought at Design Sleep in Ohio. The pillows were made in California by a company affiliated with European Sleep Works. They are comfortable, but do need periodic fluffing.

Pillows with horsehair in the filling are almost always high-end products. They usually have double ticking, with the liner designed to contain the hairs.

Buckwheat is very supportive, but a buckwheat pillow can also be shaped to suit its immediate use. Most covers are zippered so they can be opened, the buckwheat hulls poured into a container, and the cover washed. If you happen to lose some of the hulls, or if you just want a fresh filling, buckwheat hulls are available for sale.

Shape & Size is another important category, which is most often determined by the intended use. A few shapes & sizes are body pillows, bed pillows, throw pillows (small and usually square), neck pillows (straight or horseshoe), slim pillows, and dog-bone pillows. The choice here depends on the part of the body the pillow is intended for and the desired level of support.

Body pillows are intended for more than just the head. Bolsters are meant to support narrow recessed parts of the body, such as the lumbar or the neck. Most head pillows have the familiar rectangular outline and are usually 20″ or more in length. Horseshoe pillows are made for supporting the neck even when the user is standing or sitting, such as riding in a vehicle. There are pillows designed to support arms and knees while sleeping. And wedge pillows are designed to elevate the upper body or the feet.

The Cover (or ticking) of the pillow is a significant factor in how a pillow feels. This involves features such as surface texture, fabric weight and flexibility, temperature control, and substance sensitivities (such as allergies). The ticking serves to contain the cushioning materials inside and to protect them. Down pillows need covers with tight enough weave and and seams to keep the down and feathers from leaking out.

Many fabrics find use in pillow covers. Common ones include cotton, polyester and rayon, Also common are fabric blends, sometimes including bamboo fibers. Silk is used on some high-end pillows, alone or in a blend.

Most pillows used in bed are enclosed in pillowcases. These are usually in sets with the sheets. More than just a comfort or fashion item, a pillowcase serves to keep the pillow clean, just as the sheet keeps the mattress clean.

What you are sleeping on includes not only the bed and the mattress, but also the pillows. What pillows are best for you depends on your own personal needs and preferences. You have to experience different pillows to know what is best for you.

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This entry was posted on Friday, November 13th, 2015 at 11:43 PM and is filed under batting, beds, between the sheets, cover, fabrics, foam, latex, memory foam, padding, pillows, polyurethane, silk, wool . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 thoughts on “Pillow Talk”

  1. I would like to find out where I can buy The Easy Rest Pillow that is given away for letting someone demonstrate The easy rest adjustable system. It has a horse shoe bottom and it is perfect for side sleepers.

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