6 Unmistakable Signs You Need to Replace Your Pillow

Frontal view of a room with a nightstand and lamps on both sides of the bed with pillows arranged by size

by Sleep First 4 min read

Bedroom pillows are the unsung heroes in our bedrooms, helping prop the neck so we can sleep better. But for some reason, we only give them attention when they grow old or lose shape.


bed with pillows


Why Change a Pillow?

Your old pillows can harbor a mix of dead skin, bugs, dust mites, and sweat. Pillowcases could be worse at harboring more bacteria than a toilet seat. Gross. With all the bugs and bacteria moving around your pillow, you could be wondering “when’s the best time to replace my pillow?”


Even if bacteria and mites aren’t an issue for you, there are a few other reasons to consider a pillow change. Maybe your pillows have lost their original shape, or taken an uncomfortable form that impacts your sleep quality. Or your old pillow no longer suits your sleeping needs.


Signs to Change Your Pillows

Well, there are no hard-and-fast rules or strict timelines to make a pillow swap.


1. Awful pillow smells

If your nose picks out an awful smell when you put your head down to sleep, time might be up to get a new pillow. Unpleasant smells are a sign that bacteria and body odors have seeped right through the pillow’s surface. Don’t confuse the odors with the aroma of new synthetic memory foam pillows, which are also smelly. Change your pillows, don't sprinkle baking soda and air them hoping they will smell fresh again.


2. Morning headache or neck pain

Does your neck feel strained or your head pound when your wake up each morning? Your old pillow could be the problem. Take that as a cue to replace your pillow. When a pillow loses its firmness or bounce, you could end up with neck pain. The same thing can happen when you pick the wrong type of pillow for your natural sleep style. If you’re a side sleeper, get a thicker, firmer pillow. Back and stomach sleepers should opt for thinner, soft pillows.


3. Pillow discoloration

Ugly yellow spots on your pillow are the result of body sweat, drooling, oil, and makeup (for those who sleep without washing up). All these can seep through your pillowcase and stain your pillow. If your existing pillows have multiple stains, now might be the right time to do a pillow change.


4. Lumps in your pillow

This is a no-brainer. A lumpy pillow will stand in the way of a good night’s sleep and need to be changed. Lumps can lead to uneven neck support, which increases tossing and turning at night. When there are lumps in the pillow, specific parts of the pillow will feel more comfortable than others. This can make it difficult to reposition itself at night. Get rid of the old pillow.


5. Change in sleep position

If you were a side sleeper, but now you find yourself snoozing on your back, it’s about time to swap your current pillow for one that supports your sleep style. The same holds true for expectant women and individuals who’ve had to change sleep positions due to injury. Your old pillow might no longer serve your needs and needs to go.


6. Pillow fails the bend test

When you bend your pillow in half and let go, does it bounce back to its original position and retain its shape? A pillow that fails this test may have actually lost its ability to prop up your neck in bed. The same goes for pillows that need re-stuffing or repositioning at night. A pillow that loses its shape can disrupt your sleep. Change it.


How often should you replace pillows?

Sleep experts recommend that you replace old pillows every 1-2 years. However, you can instinctively tell whether a pillow needs replacement. A pillow change can ensure you’re using clean, allergen-free and supportive pillows. It’s also crucial to take good care of pillows so they can offer you the comfort and support you need.


Can you wash your pillows?

It depends on the type of pillows you buy. Place your pillows two at a time in the washing machine. Choose a gentle wash cycle and add cool water. Pour a small amount of mild detergent - less than half the amount for a regular laundry load- so you can have an easy time rinsing them, Ru an extra rinse cycle after the pillows are washed. Use the extended spin cycle to remove as much water out of the pillows. Pull out the pillows and fluff them a bit, then hang them out to completely dry.


How do you keep machine-washable pillows soft?

If your pillows are machine washable, throw in a few tennis balls to the load to keep your pillows fluffy.


Buy plush and comfortable memory foam pillows

Think it's time for replacing your pillows? Add a comfortable mattress from Sleep First collection to complete your sleep experience. Our stylish and supportive pillows provide contouring comfort for all sleep styles. If you’re not sure what pillows work best for you, talk to our sleep experts. They can help you find the perfect pillow to pair with your mattress along with a pillow protector to prolong the lifespan of your pillow. We have various types of pillows for any sleeping position, including feather pillows for those who sleep hot and machine washable pillows.


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