Going home and crashing into your bed is a feeling of relief we all share. Knowing that personal marshmallow is waiting, just cool enough to relax away some of the day’s tension and give the all-clear that yes, you are in fact home, can make a long drive or flight just a bit easier.
Whether you grabbed the fluffiest from the clearance bin or took the time to research and order a speciality pillow online, all pillows eventually wear out and must be replaced. Sleep is the great equalizer, and not supporting your sleep with a clean pillow capable of doing its job correctly is undermining your body’s attempt to recover.
So, how often should you change your pillow? Let’s find out!
Life Expectancy Of A Pillow
Despite the comfort provided at first, even the most expensive pillow will not last forever. Think about its purpose – to provide support for the head and neck. The materials within the pillow give and cradle your head to allow for a healthy and relaxed sleeping posture. Those materials wear down over time and lose the ability to offer proper support.
This is no surprise as your pillow is working very hard to help you rest! Sleeping 6 – 7 hours each night, seven nights a week, is a full-time job plus a bit of overtime. Factor in working without a holiday for an entire year, and your pillow has put in nearly 2,400 hours of support.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests replacing a pillow after two years. Depending on the material, such as memory foam or latex, the pillow might last longer. Keep in mind that higher quality pillows and those filled with natural materials may also have a longer lifespan. While two years is an excellent benchmark, the best way to know for sure is to put your pillow through a few simple checks.
Knowing When To Change Your Pillow
Three straightforward tests help monitor the health of your pillow. When the pillow of your dreams fails any of these standards below, it is time to shop for a new one:
- The Visual Test
- The Smell Test
- The Fold Test
The Visual Test
- Remove the pillowcase and inspect the entire pillow for stains gained from the owner’s body such as sweat or makeup.
- Be extra wary of stains not caused by the user, such as mildew or mold.
- Inspect all around, not just the seams, for any places that have torn open during normal wear and use.
- Check if it is lumpy and lacks consistency in support.
The Smell Test
- Does the pillow have a distinct odor? A musty smell indicates there is mildew or moisture trapped within.
- Funky smells also build when skin cells or dust mites accumulate on the pillow over time. This is normal and has nothing to do with your hygiene, but the smell can be off-putting.
The Fold Test
- For a standard bed pillow, fold it in half and let go. If it does not open back up to its original shape, the fluff is gone, and it is time for you to move on as well.
- Still not sure? Place a small weight, such as a shoe, on top of the pillow. Remove the weight and see if the surface returns to its rightful shape.
- This fold test does not work as well on pillows with natural fillers, such as a down pillow or feather pillows. Try draping the pillow over your arm instead. If it flops down on either side of your arm then it has failed the fold test.
- For large or king-sized pillows, fold it into thirds instead of in half, just to make sure the entire pillow passes.
Why Change Your Pillow?
Even the perfect pillow will stop supporting your sleeping posture, which can lead to back or neck pain and interrupt sleep altogether. For individuals with severe allergies, a build-up of dust or other triggers can lead to a difficulty breaking while asleep. Mites and moisture cause odd smells, making it difficult to get comfortable.
How To Prolong Your Pillow’s Lifespan
Washing your pillow every six months is an ideal step toward keeping it healthy, but not all are washable. Check the tag or save it after removal to make sure you don’t ruin the pillow completely. For instance, memory foam pillows are not washable. Having a protective case around the pillow, but inside the pillowcase that comes in contact with you directly, deters allergens from building up inside the pillow.
Remember, washing a pillow keeps it sanitary but has little or no effect on prolonging the support provided. To combat mites and sterilize your slumber, run a pillow through the dryer on a high heat setting.
Choosing A Replacement Pillow
With all the time and money spent on choosing the right mattress, not taking the time to get the right pillow could quickly waste your efforts. You will spend many hours sleeping on a pillow, so looking at what pillow types are best for your lifestyle and health is time well spent.
There are various internal materials, both synthetic and natural, that may give off an unfamiliar, although not harmful, odor. Going with a polyester-filled variant will be less expensive, but also have a shorter life expectancy. Dr. Michael Breus, commonly referred to as “The Sleep Doctor”, has an exhaustive guide on how to pick the perfect pillow.
Factors such as how you sleep, such as on your back or side, affect the entire reclined posture, and having the correct pillow for your specific needs is the ultimate goal. Personal preferences on firmness and texture are important, and when purchasing a pillow online, be sure to review the return or exchange policies in case you are trying a new style or fill material. Treat yourself to the best rest possible and take the time to sleep well – you deserve it.
Lindsay is a contributor and the senior editor of all content posted on this site. She is in this role due to her somewhat unrivaled expertise through previous retail experience in the mattress and bedding industry.