We can all agree that a good night's sleep is vital for our physical and mental health. The perfect sleeping environment requires a certain level of interplay between various bedding elements including mattress, topper, protector, sheets and pillows.
One thing that is often forgotten, however, is the importance of maintaining your bedding throughout each element's respective lifecycles. Because when it comes to bedding, the notion "not everything lasts forever" speaks true.
We know a mattress can last for decades when properly looked after, but what about your pillows?
How often should you change your pillow?
Continue reading to find out.
Table of contents
- What is the average lifespan of a pillow?
- When is it time to throw away your old pillows?
- What happens when you don't change your pillow?
- Maintenance is equally as important as age
- Don't challenge death to a pillow fight
What is the average lifespan of a pillow?
For a range of reasons that we will get into in a bit, experts recommend replacing your pillows every 1 to 2 years.
But wait, although this is considered the standard rule of thumb, it doesn't necessarily apply to all pillows.
As there are numerous materials used to fill pillows, there is some variance on the aforementioned lifespan with certain materials lasting longer than others.
According to Tuck.com, these are the average lifespans for particular types of pillows:
- Polyester pillows - 6-24 months
- Feather pillows - 18-36 months
- Memory foam pillows - 18-36 months
- Down pillows - 2+ years
- Latex pillows - 3-4 years
- Synthetic Down pillows - 18-24 months
When is it time to throw away your old pillows?
Unless you bought new ones recently there's a very good chance you can't remember exactly how long you've had your current pillows for, which is fine because there's a range of things you can look for to determine the current health status of a pillow.
Ask yourself the following questions and if anything resonates we recommend you replace your pillows!
- Can you fold your pillow in half?
- Is your pillow relatively flat without any bounce back?
- Does your pillow feel lumpy to touch?
- Is your pillow stained with yellow spots?
- Do you suffer from headaches when sleeping or when you wake up?
- Do your shoulders hurt at all in the morning?
- Do you wake up with neck pain?
- Do you ever suffer from an itchy throat or skin rashes when trying to sleep?
We should note that if you are indeed suffering from aches or pains across your shoulders or neck, it might be just as much to do with the type of pillow you are using as opposed to just it's age.
In which case, check out our journal entry covering latex vs memory foam pillows.
What happens when you don't change your pillow?
Aside from potentially ruining your sleep and gradually turning you into an insomniac (we joke), a pillow past it's use-by date can cause a number of adverse effects for you and your health.
Old pillows can cause...
The accumulation of dead skin cells and dust mites
The human body sheds roughly 30-40,000 skin cells every day and guess when and where the majority of that shedding takes place? Yep, in your bed, when you're asleep.
Now guess which little critters love to feast on those dead skin cells? Okay, we gave it away in the title but good for you!
Dust mites do indeed love to fill their little belly's full of dead skin cells. They thrive on the particles and when you combine that with a typically warm environment you've got all the ingredients for a dust mite cocktail!
The critters themselves are harmless but they've been known to cause eczema flair ups and aggravate certain allergies.
Your pillow to become a breeding ground for other germs and fungi
We all perspire during sleep. Many of us share our bed with our pets. A lot of us share a bed with our significant other. And all of us like the occasional breakfast in bed.
Unfortunately, all of these scenarios contribute to a build up of germs in our bedding.
In fact, according to a 2005 study conducted by the University of Manchester in which researchers inspected a range of pillows that had been used anywhere from one and a half to 20 years.
The results were significant with researchers finding each and every pillow hosting anywhere from 10 to 16 different types of fungi.
Now don't fret too much because for most people the germs are harmless. Unless, of course, you live with asthma, a compromised immune system or chronic respiratory disease. If that is the case then you might be inadvertently contributing to your own suffering by continuing to use an old pillow!
Unnecessary neck pain and headaches
Overall sleep quality depends on a range of things and one of them is the alignment between your mattress and pillow.
You want them working in tandem as it helps to properly support your neck, head and spine.
As a pillow ages it can become soft, floppy and weak, which is not conducive to good neck and back support!
If you are suffering from regular neck pain or headaches during or after sleep, a memory foam pillow or something similar might be up your alley.
Maintenance is equally as important as age
What do we mean when we say maintenance?
Washing, washing, and more washing!
Even if your pillow is relatively new, if you don't look after it you're going to experience some or all of the nasties mentioned above.
Experts recommend cleaning your pillows at least once every six months, but that's the bare minimum!
Unfortunately, unless your pillows are made from down or synthetic down, you won't be able to put them in the washing machine.
In any case, check the tag for specific washing directions because you might get lucky. But if it doesn't say machine washable on the tag, we recommend spot cleaning or soaking your pillows in a mild liquid detergent, and then air drying.
Also, check out our guide on how often to wash sheets if you're wondering when to wash other elements of your bedding.
Don't challenge death to a pillow fight...
Unless of course, you're prepared to deal with the reaper cushions! (Sorry, we couldn't help ourselves)
Anyway, there you have it, everything you need to know about when to replace your pillows.
Because sleep is such an important facet of life we hope you've got your situation sorted and are well acquainted with dreamland. But if you're still searching for the perfect arrangement, check out our line of bamboo bedding, there's something for every type of sleeper!
- University of Manchester, "Pillows: A Hot Bed Of Fungal Spores", Accessed via Science Daily in 2021