Pillow Talk: How to Know When It’s Time for a Refresh

Whether you choose to snooze with a single, soft pillow or prefer to snuggle with a family of firm but feathery friends, it’s easy to get attached to that one pillow you know works for you.

White pillows on bed
Frank Rothe/Getty Images

But regardless of your pillow preferences, these relationships can grow toxic with time. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, nearly 70% of people say a comfortable pillow is important to getting a good night’s rest. Many people hang on to their pillows much longer than the recommended two-year lifespan, however.

As pillows age, they collect and breed nasty allergens that are unsanitary and can also be harmful to your health. It’s true; pillows can become petri dishes of sweat, dead skin, dust mites and other irritants. This dirty buildup can trigger allergies and even asthma.

Pillows break down over time, sacrificing support and comfort. They show their age with every pillowcase refresh. Once clean, fresh and full, they gradually deteriorate in both appearance (lumps, stains) and feel (flat, lifeless).

Rest easy and allergen-free every night by following these three pillow tips:

Out with the old, in with the new. Hotels pay close attention to the entire sleep environment – and so should you. From the mattress to the sheets to yes, the pillows, hotels take proactive precautions to ensure all guests enjoy a clean, restful night’s sleep. SleepBetter.org offers a helpful, simple test to know when it’s time for a replacement. Fold your pillow in half and let go. If it does not return to its original shape, it’s time for a swap. And there are ample options available in every price range.

Seal the deal. According to WebMD, using plastic or vinyl covers with zippers made specifically for allergy sufferers can help protect against harmful irritants that lurk within your pillow. These custom covers seal your pillow from allergens, so you don’t inhale them while sleeping. Some plastic covers can be noisy and uncomfortable, but there are many great alternatives available.

So fresh and so clean. According to CNN, pillows should be washed every three to six months in hot water with liquid detergent. Memory foam pillows should not go in the washing machine, however. Most are antimicrobial, which means they don’t need to be washed.

Your pillows should provide support or comfort – not make you sick or wake up with a sore neck. So if they’ve outlived their expiration date and are causing you discomfort, don't be afraid to let them go.

If you found this article helpful, consider sharing it on TwitterFacebookPinterest, or Instagram or emailing it to any van lifers who might benefit from a better night’s sleep. Sharing is caring!