Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Sleep Trouble: Is Your Pillow To Blame?

Most people know what they like in a pillow. But do pillows have anything to do with allergies, neck pain, insomnia and health in general? If you're comfy with your old favorite, should you switch? Here's a roundup of what we know.

Mites and molds
Dust mites and a wide variety of fungi and pet allergens (which provoke allergies in some people) are likely to infest pillows--all kinds of pillows, new and old, feathers, polyester, foam, and other synthetics. The conventional wisdom about the non-allergenic qualities of synthetics, as opposed to feathers and down, has been overthrown. According to Dr. Ashley Woodcock, who led a study recently at the University of Manchester in England, synthetic pillows usually have more dust mites and fungi than feather pillows (there's a "miniature ecosystem" in all of them, he said). It could be that more allergens accumulate in synthetic pillows because their covers are usually more porous. More tightly woven covers may be protective, he suggested, though that remains to be investigated. Other recent studies have had similar findings.