Do you ever feel overwhelmed by just how many bits and pieces go into making the best bedroom environment possible? Not just your mattress but your topper, your blanket and, of course, your pillow! But with this exciting series of guides from Brand Name, you'll be able to stay more informed than ever before. We truly believe that the perfect night's sleep is out there for everyone, and that staying on top of all of the latest shopping intel is the quickest and most efficient way to obtain it!


So hold on to your hats! Today, the Brand Name staff is back again with another fascinating, informative look into the wide world of pillows. Previously, we discussed all the different materials with which a pillow can be filled as well as the many shapes and sizes of particularly special pillows. Today, we're going to dive right back in for a look at the following topics:


  • The best material choices for your pillow COVER
  • How your SLEEPING POSITION might affect what pillow to buy
  • ​Some handy TIPS and TESTS for determining if your pillow might need replaced

That's a lot to cover, so there's no need to keep this introduction going on any longer. Let's get down to business and start with our first topic of the day!

​What is a Pillow Cover?

The term "pillow cover" refers to the outermost layer of your pillow, which surrounds and completely contains the interior filling or stuffing. It is important to note that a pillow cover is NOT the same as the perhaps more commonly known "pillow case". The pillow case is a thin, removable cloth pouch which can easily be slipped on and off the pillow and is usually sold together in a set with the rest of your bedsheets. Pillow covers are thicker, come with the pillow upon purchase, and usually either feature zippers or fastenings or are completely non-removable.


A good pillow cover is important for many reasons. First, it protects your sensitive face and neck from the pillow's interior filling. This can be extremely vital as some fillings, such as feathers, contain sharp, pointy bits while others, like wool or some synthetic pellets, can cause your skin to itch following extended contact. In addition, a quality pillow cover will improve your sleeping experience by being yet another layer of soft, comfortable material. In addition, the pillow cover can serve to keep your head and neck cool in warm weather by allowing air to flow through the pillow and not trapping heat or moisture such as sweat.


As with pillow fillings, mattresses, mattress toppers, and pretty much any other bedroom goods or accessories, pillow covers can be made from either natural materials or synthetic ones. In general, any sort of soft fabric can be a pillow cover, although some are more widely used than others. The most common pillow cover materials - along with their benefits and drawbacks - are listed below.


​Linen

Historians and anthropologists believe that linen was one of the first fabrics used to cover pillows, especially among the wealthy and aristocratic. From these illustrious roots, linen has managed to maintain its popularity throughout the years and remains one of the most commonly found pillow covers today. (In fact, linen is so omnipresent that, for many decades, ALL types of fabric were referred to as "linen," regardless of which they were or not! This phenomenon can still be observed in many old books.)


An all-natural material, linen is made from "bast," a type of woody fiber found in the stalks of the flax plant. Traditional manufacturing processes successfully use time, heat and moisture to separate these fibers from the rest of the plant, so the fabric can be made without needing to add any unnecessary harsh chemicals. The fibers are arranged in long, straight lines, which is where the name "linen," derived from "line," actually originates.


Linen is extremely lightweight and breathable. Linen pillow covers are a solid option which many sleepers still choose today. However, it is important to consider that linen can be thinner and less durable than other materials, and may not last as long in comparison. It is also one of the more expensive natural materials, due to the extremely specific manufacturing process needed to create high quality linen.

​Cotton

Like linen, cotton is a plant-based material which is both harvested and processed as naturally and sustainably as possible. Cotton is derived from the seed pods of the cotton plant, and is inexpensive to harvest and manufacture. As a result, cotton is one of the cheapest, easiest to find and most readily available of the pillow cover materials. In fact, cotton's presence in our daily lives is so great that the majority of your clothing wardrobe in addition to your bedsheets, tablecloths and possibly even your window curtains are likely made out of cotton!


Cotton is less lightweight than linen, but is still extremely soft and comfortable. However, cotton needs to be washed and treated very carefully, especially in its 100% all natural form, as it can retain stains and must be cleaned at certain temperatures and with certain methods to avoid shrinkage. Improperly treated cotton can shrink between 10 and 15 percent after only a few uses - if you're not careful, you could soon find your pillow cover no longer fitting your pillow!

​Other Natural Materials

It is possible to make pillow covers out of wool, although it is thick, can retain heat and may be difficult to clean or possess a distinctive smell. As a result, synthetic alternatives to wool (see the sections below) are frequently used instead. Natural wool, when it is used, results in one of the most expensive pillows currently available for purchase.

Bamboo has gained popularity in recent years due to being an all-natural, hypoallergenic, vegan material which is lightweight but also in many cases easier to produce than other fabrics. The texture and feel of a bamboo pillow cover is similar to a linen one - for that reason, fabric made from bamboo is sometimes referred to as "bamboo linen".

​Blends

Blended pillow covers are made from part natural material and part synthetic. The most common blends include bamboo and rayon and cotton and polyester. The general goal of a blended cover is to retain all of the benefits of natural materials, such as comfort and breathability, but to eliminate the drawbacks including stain retention and price.


The most important thing to understand about blended pillow covers is that no two blends are created equal. It is almost impossible to write in great detail about blends because each producer or manufacturer will create their own. Blends are also not particularly well regulated at this point in time, so one "mostly cotton" pillow cover might truly be "half and half", while another similarly advertised might be only 30% cotton but feature a whopping 70% polyester. It is also crucial to note that blended fabrics might retain some of the drawbacks of their synthetic ingredients, including a shorter lifespan and lower overall quality when compared to something all-natural.


In conclusion, if you are interested in purchasing a blended pillow cover, you should research the manufacturer in detail to determine as much information as you can about the blend's actual composition and properties before deciding to buy it.

​Synthetic Materials

Pillow covers can also be made from any number of synthetic materials. Some which you might find on the market include rayon, lycra and microfiber. However, by and large, the most commonly used fabric in the manufacture of pillow covers is polyester. Polyester is marketed as both looking and feeling like cotton while also being more elastic, more durable and less likely to develop wrinkles as quickly. Typically, polyester is also slightly less expensive than cotton.


When purchasing a synthetic pillow cover, you should try to be as aware of possible as its chemical makeup. In the past, some synthetic bedroom goods have been made or treated with chemicals that harm the environment or those which are hazardous to human health. In particular, they are sometimes treated with flame retardants or insect repellents as they do not naturally possess these resistances as substances such as bamboo or natural latex do. (This may have been another reason why blended fabrics have become more popular, as the inclusion of natural ingredients can boost these resistances.)


Aside from polyester, another of the most commonly found synthetic pillow covers is fleece. While polyester is designed to mimic cotton, fleece is designed to be similar to wool, fur or other "animal pelt" materials. Fleece is typically thicker and more insulating, and can be excellent for pillows used during the winter or in other instances of cold weather. However, it may be stifling or cause overheating if used in more hot or humid climates. Fleece is also frequently used to create textures and decorations, so it is often seen on the covers of throw pillows or other smaller "form over function" items.

​Consider Your Sleeping Position

Even once you've picked out your perfect filling (remember, see our article here for more information!) and pillow cover material, there are other factors to take into consideration when determining exactly what your ideal pillow looks and feels like. One which a lot of people do not even begin to think about is your sleeping position - whether you frequently spend the night on your back, side or stomach.


The reason why sleeping position can affect the makeup of your ideal pillow primarily revolves around the concept of support. Your head, neck and especially your shoulders and upper spine will be in a slightly different position depending on the orientation of the rest of your body.


Different sizes and thicknesses of pillows can provide the ideal support for all different configurations of your head, neck and shoulders. You should especially focus on making sure that your neck is balanced and comfortable, as it performs the vital function of bearing the weight of your head while you are asleep.


How important is sleeping position? Well, to put it bluntly, poor sleeping position caused by a bad pillow can lead to permanent misalignment of body parts including but not limited to the hips and spine. If your body is not comfortable, you will wake up in pain and extreme discomfort - not to mention, you'll likely feel even more tired than you were when you went to bed the night before. So pick a pillow which promotes good neck posture and head and shoulder alignment and you're just about guaranteed to wake up each morning feeling well-rested, chipper, and ready to face the day!


Of course, choosing a pillow is often a matter of personal preference, but numerous sleep studies have identified the following trends and tendencies:


  • Back sleepers often prefer a thinner and smaller pillow which fits snugly underneath their neck. A pillow which is too thick or fluffy will thrust their neck too far forward and can result in waking up with headaches or muscle cramps. Too much time spent on your back with an improper pillow can even result in spine misalignment or pulled muscles in the upper back area. You can even look for a pillow which is thicker at the base in order to preserve the natural curve of your neck during the night ​

  • Stomach sleepers may find that they do not need a pillow at all, as their neck is already in a comfortable, extended position as they sleep. However, for those that do need that extra bit of comfort, a thinner pillow is recommended - perhaps one even thinner than those regularly used by back sleepers. Using a pillow that is too thick while sleeping on your stomach can cause your neck to over-extend, leading to strain, cramping and discomfort the next morning. In addition, some stomach sleepers might choose to forgo the traditional pillow tucked under their head and instead opt for a full-body pillow underneath them. These unique and special pillows can provide needed support to key areas such as the hips and shoulders without risking any over-extension of the neck

  • In contrast to the other two, side sleepers are often encouraged to use a thicker, wider pillow. This type of pillow is able to provide the proper amount of support for the curve between the neck and ear created by a side position. Insufficient support can force the neck to bear too much weight and leave it feeling stiff and sore in the morning. In addition, many side sleepers also utilize a full-body pillow, typically held between their legs and against their stomach in an "embracing" position. This takes some of the pressure off of the hips, which are required to bear a large amount of the body's weight in a side position.

If you're not sure which sleeping position you usually adopt, spend a couple days paying attention to the available details. What position feels most "natural" to your body when you are lying on top of your mattress? What position are you in when you wake up in the morning? Is it different from the one you fell asleep in? You might also consider purchasing a sleep monitoring device or smartphone app, which collects data about your sleep habits and can help you figure out what position you spend the most amount of time in - which, in turn, will help you choose the perfect pillow just for you!

​Is There A Recommend Pillow for Insomniacs?

"Insomnia" refers to a medical condition in which a person has difficulty either falling asleep or staying asleep. In this guide, we provided an in-depth look into the causes and symptoms of insomnia as well as the most effective and efficient method of curing it - creating a healthy sleeping environment tailored to your ideal comfort.


We also discussed the types of mattresses which tend to be good for those suffering from chronic or prolonged bouts of insomnia - but we didn't spend much time on what sort of pillows might be best for banishing the up-all-night blues. Of course, as with all situations, an insomniac's personal preferences might dictate what sort of pillow is best for them to use.


However, in general, we find that pillows which are supportive, not too flat, and made from a durable all-natural material such as latex have been reported to be the most effective.

It's often hard to determine exactly what is causing you to toss and turn all night without getting a single wink of sleep. However, sleep specialists and other medical professionals have determined that one major - and often unidentified - source is experiencing pain or discomfort during the night. Even if you don't consciously feel pain, having a body part in an uncomfortable or unsupported position can result in the brain and body being unable to relax properly or waking yourself up over and over again throughout the night. For that reason, even if you're typically a fan of flatter pillows, if you're plagued by insomnia, we recommend giving something thicker, fluffier and more supportive a try!


The reason why insomniacs tend to prefer pillows made from natural materials lies in the absence of toxic, harmful chemicals, such as those used in artificial flame retardants, insect repellents, or treatments to make fabric softer and/or more elastic. These chemicals, when breathed in during the night, can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing. These can cause a sleeper to wake up repeatedly as their body reacts to the inability to breathe properly. In order to best ensure a long, restful night's sleep, seek out pillows - such as those made from natural latex - which do not contain any of these chemicals.

​Cleanliness is Next to Sleepiness

Of course, even the most perfect pillow in the entire universe might keep you awake at night if you don't do your part to keep it clean! Dirty pillows can become sticky or stained with sweat, smell terrible, and even provide a fertile home and breeding ground for all sorts of nasties - including dust mites, mold, bacteria and more. We're pretty sure that's not the kind of stuff you want rubbing against your face for 7-8 hours every night - is it?


Luckily, keeping your pillow clean and pest-free is a simple process which takes up only a little time and, best of all, can improve your pillow's durability and increase its lifespan. Here at Brand Name, our personal favorite pillow-cleaning methods and tips include:


Wash your pillows regularly. ​Pillows might initially seem like the type of item which you only need to put in the wash every so often. However, you should probably be washing your pillow more frequently than you think! Personally, we like to wash our pillows with about the same frequency as our sheets and towels/washcloths.


But that doesn't mean that we wash them together! For best results, you should wash pillows together with ONLY other pillows and NOT with anything else, even including such "related" items as sheets and pillowcases. Wash two to three pillows together, using the gentle cycle and the lowest heat and spin settings. (Most pillows are washer and dryer safe - however, feather and down pillows are the major exception, and will need to be hand-washed.)


Use the dryer to "fluff" your pillows and keep them light, airy and soft. For maximum "fluffiness," keep pillows in the dryer for approximately an hour on low heat. This will ensure that the pillow is thoroughly dry both inside and outside. A helpful tip - put wool dryer balls or (clean, unused or gently used) tennis balls in the dryer together with your pillows. The balls will encourage your pillows to move around move during the dry cycle, helping ensure that every inch emerges completely dry and as soft as possible!


Lastly, air out your pillows at least once per month - we recommend twice a month during hot or humid weather. To do this, hang your pillow on a clothesline in an area that gets a lot of natural sunlight throughout the day and leave it there until evening. The sunlight will act as a natural disinfectant and prevent any creepy-crawlies from making their home on or in your pillow. Tip for those who live in heavily wooded or otherwise insect-infested areas - you can hang pillows inside or outside as long as you choose a warm, dry location that gets the appropriate amount of sunlight!

​Say Goodbye to Your Pillow at the Right Time

Once you've found the perfect pillow, it will hopefully provide you with years and years of deep comfort and restful sleep. However, there comes a time in every pillow's life, no matter how durable, when it begins to decline in quality. It wears down, becomes thinner, and gradually loses the comfort and support which it once offered. Even a high quality natural latex pillow such as those recommended here at Brand Name will, we are sad to admit, eventually wear out.

It is important that you recognize when a pillow needs to be replaced with a new one.


Holding on to a worn out pillow for too long can result in a swift and noticeable decline in the quality of your sleep. Luckily, there are a few signs you can keep an eye out for or tests you can perform to help you figure out if your pillow still has some life left in it or if it really is time to say goodbye and start shopping around for something new.


​Tips and Tests for Gauging Your Pillow's Lifespan

  • Keep general trends in mind. The majority of pillows will retain their support and comfort levels for between 18 months and 2 years. Sturdier, more durable pillows, such as those made from natural latex, can last up to 3 years if regularly cleaned and properly maintained. Keep track of when you purchased the pillow and start checking on its condition regularly after the 18-month mark has passed.

  • If the stains can't be erased, it's time to replace! Most regularly used pillows will occasionally pick up stains from your sweat, hair products, or even improperly removed makeup. Usually, a thorough washing or even just a spot cleaning can easily remove a pesky stain. However, if your pillow has developed stains which cannot be gotten rid of after 2-3 cleanings, this is a clear sign that your pillow is no longer as durable as it once was. Time to look for a new - and sweat-free one.

  • Give it a sniff. If your pillow smells bad, the culprit could be one of several things. It could be sweat, as mentioned above, or ​perhaps a buildup of shed skin cells on the pillowcase. However, it could also be something much more harmful, such as dust mites, bacteria, mold, mildew or even various insects. If the smell still lingers after a wash or two, it's more likely one of the latter causes and the best course of action for your health - and the health of your entire household - would be to replace your pillow as soon as possible.

  • Try the "fold test". Fold your pillow in half and then let go. If your pillow immediately springs back into its original flat shape, you're totally fine - it probably even has a good few months left! However, if your pillow remains in a folded position even once you are no longer touching it, it has likely become "too flat" and lost all or most of its supportive capabilities. In that case, it's time to start shopping for something new.

  • Or, as a variation, how about the "arm test"? Stretch your arm out to the side and place your pillow on top with your arm positioned as close to the middle as possible. If your pillow stays put, it is still strong, supportive and durable. However, if the two ends of the pillow "hang down" along the sides of your arm, your pillow is no longer giving you the support that you need from it. You should know what that means by now - time for some shopping!


With the tips from this and our earlier guide here, we are confident that you will be more than able to select the perfect pillow and get one step closer to endless nights of unbroken, maximally restful sleep. Match your favorite filling to your preferred cover, make sure the thickness and size is right for your sleeping position, and make sure to keep the pillow clean and disinfected at all times. Then, you've got it!


If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We're always willing to help our valued customers craft their ideal sleep environment!


Of course, a pillow is just one part of the bigger bedroom picture. Head over here to explore our fantastic catalog of natural latex mattresses and other bedroom goods, or here, here and here to learn more about how to choose a mattress to go with that comfy, supportive, durable pillow we've helped you find!




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