What is the best pillow for you?
Is there anything more infuriating than rolling around your bed at night, knowing the clock is against you and you have mere hours of precious, potential sleep ahead of you before you have to be up for work, only to fail to drop off to sleep? In my opinion; there really isn’t. A lot of the time psychology is to blame. The more you worry about not being able to sleep, the less likely you are to get to sleep. The fact that there’s essentially a deadline only compounds the situation.
Beyond the stress of not being able to sleep, what other factors could impact your ability to nod off? Well, your pillow and sleeping position is a huge one. If you can’t find a comfortable pillow then you’re going to find it hard to drop off initially and then the stress cycle begins. That’s why it is recommended that you consider a number of different factors when choosing your pillow. It is an important choice that can affect your overall health, so choose wisely.
The first thing you must consider is how you sleep.
Ask yourself; are you more comfortable sleeping on your back, side or stomach? If you’re a back sleeper you should not be using thick pillows because they will cause your head to push forward, giving you a sniff neck when you wake up.
However, if you’re a side sleeper then you have a natural advantage because that is, by all accounts, the healthiest way to sleep. It relieves pressure on your vital organs and decreases the likelihood of sleep apnoea and acid reflux. If you’re a side sleeper you could also consider putting a pillow between your knees as well.
However, the downsides of side sleeping are that it can cause chronic and painful ear conditions such as CNH, or Chondrodermatitis nodularis chronica helicis. What is CNH ear? This is when the pressure of a conventional pillow causes friction which leads to painful lesions where your ear meets the surface of the pillow. It is for that reason that doctors recommend that you buy a side sleeper pillow with an ear hole, this enables you to sleep comfortably on your side without suffering from the pressure of a conventional pillow.
Probably the least recommended way of sleeping is sleeping lying on your front because of the odd way it contorts your body. I sometimes try to sleep on my front as I naturally incline that way on occasion, but I always find it very uncomfortable, as much as I want to enjoy it.
The next thing to consider is the material.
There is everything from memory foam to hypo-allergenic hollow-fibre stuffing, feathers and even natural alternatives. However, what pillow filling is best for you? Memory foam is good for people with certain allergies, however it may be a little hard for some people. It also has a rather strong chemical smell which may put people off.
Fillings such as feathers are a fancy alternative yet they aren’t advisable for people with allergies and they have an annoying habit of poking through the fabric and into your face, so that’s not ideal.
Hollow-fibre stuffing is a synthetic alternative which, if of sufficient quality, provides great bounce and lift to your pillows while remaining hypo-allergenic. That is to say; it won’t irritate you.
It is always advisable to buy a pillowcase with your pillow to increase its life-span and hygiene.
Finally, consider the quality.
Pillows can range from £10 to £150. Are you guaranteed better quality the more you pay? I have a lovely pillow at home that did cost me about £50, but you can really feel the difference. You will be sleeping on this choice for possibly years to come, so it is very much worth the investment. If you have a medical condition such as CNH and you require a side sleeper pillow with ear hole, then it is a no brainer. Invest in your health.
Are you a back or a side sleeper? And what are the implications?
Side sleeping by far the most prevalent way of sleeping and although it is quite hard to truly know how people sleep since we move around so much and are unconscious of our movements, 63% of people surveyed reported that it is their preferred sleeping position.
Side sleeping has a lot of advantages. It is recommended that pregnant women sleep on their left side during pregnancy because it improves their circulation since the heart is located on the left side of the body. This benefits both the mother and the baby. Furthermore; side sleeping is much better for pregnant women than sleeping on one’s back because to do the latter puts extra pressure on the lower back, which can cause all kind of problems. It also wins over sleeping on one’s front because, well, there’s a huge baby-bump in the way!
Side sleeping is also good for those suffering from acid reflux or heartburn. Because of the location of the stomach and the effects of gravity it is again recommended that people suffering from this condition sleep on their left side. This stops the acid making its way back up the oesophagus during the night thereby making it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
However, there are also downsides. Side sleeping can cause a condition known as Chondrodermatitis nodularis chronica helicis, or CNH, which is when one’s ear rubs against the pillow too often and results in a very sensitive lesion which is very painful to the touch and makes sleeping also impossible. That is why doctors recommend a special side sleeper pillow with ear hole in order to free one’s ear from the pressure of a conventional pillow. For more information on what is CNH.
Another disadvantage is the dreaded ‘dead arm’ that can result from sleeping with your bodyweight against your arm. This restricts the blood flow and can lead to pins and needles. Also the shoulder is supporting a lot of the body’s weight which can exacerbate existing shoulder problems and also cause neck ache.
Finally; it is harder to comfortably wear earplugs while side because the earplugs push against the pillow and into your ear, causing pain and discomfort. This again can be alleviated by buying a special earplug pillow. For more information on sleeping with earplugs visit this blog post.
While 63% of people are self-reporting side sleepers, only 13% of people say they sleep on their backs. This is strange considering that many doctors agree that this is the best way to sleep. It is great for the spine and neck because the back is kept in line and not bent and contorted in some weird fetal-like position. If you have a good mattress it should nicely support the curvature of the spine and if one doesn’t use a pillow then the neck is left in a neutral position with nice, open airways. Converse to this is using too many pillows which can make breathing more difficult.
There are other benefits to sleeping on one’s back too. If you face isn’t mushed up against your pillow then you are less likely to develop wrinkles! A boon for all image conscious women out there.
Yet, as with side sleeping, there are down sides to back sleeping.
First, people are much more prone to snoring and sleep apnea when they sleep on their backs. In fact; there is such a link between the two that doctors actually recommend side sleeping as a treatment for sleep apnea. The problem is especially acute for people that are overweight.
Additionally an important caveat must be made with regards to back sleeping. Just because it is better for the spine doesn’t mean that it is better for your overall health. Sleep quality is one of the most important determinants of health and back sleepers do report lower sleep quality than side sleepers.
So there you have it. Which is better? I’m a side sleeper and I can’t see myself changing any time soon!
Glue ear is also known 'serous otitis media' and is essentially a condition that occurs when your middle ear fills with fluid. This is usually due to a dysfunction of the Eustachian tubes. They become inflamed or blocked and stop the middle ear from equalising its own pressure. Instead a vacuum is formed inside the middle ear which draws fluids from the surrounding tissue, blocking the ear and opening the door to infection.
The condition is usually treated with ‘grommets’; tiny tubes which are placed into the eardrum thereby allowing air to flow freely between the middle ear and the outside, essentially bypassing the Eustachian tubes. While the insertion of grommets is a relatively simple procedure performed on an outpatient bases, it can lead to permanent scarring of the eardrums and in some cases a degree of hearing loss.
The real key to getting a handle on glue ear is fixing the problem at the source. A lot of people’s glue ear is caused by nasal irritation or allergies and so steroid nasal sprays have been a first line of defence in subduing the inflammation and thereby opening up the Eustachian tubes.
There is, however, another approach. The link between glue ear and food sensitivity goes back at least 60 years but recent research has confirmed the link. In 1994, 104 children with glue ear were tested for food sensitivities and 4 out of 4 tested for positive for such. Interestingly; 86% of them saw improved symptoms when problem foods were removed from their diets.
The foods most likely to cause glue ear are wheat, milk, yeast, egg, corn and soy. Eliminate those and your symptoms may improve, although the condition has a large number of root causes of which this is just one.
This is the story of the The Original P.W.A.H™, how it came to be and what it can do to help you if you suffer from any kind of ear pain while sleeping.
It all began with my mum, an Englishwomen by the name of Judy. She has suffered from chronic ear pain throughout her life and has been unable to have diagnosed precisely what the problem is. She was fine day to day however whenever she went out on a windy day or put her head on a pillow she experienced an extreme amount of ear pain and discomfort. This lasted for many years with little resolution, Judy thus being resigned to a life of sleepless nights and big woolly hats.
However, this all changed when she went on a trip to Africa. While travelling through the Sahara desert her guide set up camp for the evening and, to Judy’s horror, produced several hard sand-bags for everyone to use as pillows! For somebody suffering from an ear condition such as hers this was the worst possible situation to be in. A night under a beautiful canopy of stars was destined to be ruined by excruciating ear pain as her ear was squashed against the unforgiving mixture of compacted sand and sack-cloth.
It is at that moment that she had an idea - an idea super simple yet super effective. She would poke a hole in the sandbag in order to create a pocket of air that she could rest her ear in. The rest of the bag would support her head and her ear would have nothing harsher than fresh air pushing against it. The idea worked and despite sleeping on a rough sand-bag she had a wonderful night’s sleep.
It is from this simple idea of creating an air pocket in which she could rest her ear that ‘The Pillow With A Hole’ was born. She has since patented the invention and sells her hand-made pillows through her website http://www.thepillowwithahole.co.uk/. The Original P.W.A.H™ has proven through the testimony of her customers to be an effective treatment for conditions such as CNH (chondrodermatitis nodularis helicis), pressure sores, skin lesions and general pain caused by the pressure of a conventional pillow.
She has also found that some of her customers have bought the pillow so that they can comfortably wear earplugs in bed. This is because both CNH and earplugs cause the same uncomfortable sensation that a pillow with a hole alleviates.
Finally, it should also be said that she also offers a full money back guarantee on all of her pillows, such is her confidence in their efficacy. If after receiving the pillow you don’t believe it is for you, you can always send it back in the same condition in which you received it. However, we’re sure you will find it an ideal cnh pillow.
There was some interesting news from the United States recently that should concern all those suffering from mystery ear pain. The story centres on a young boy from North Carolina. For years he was subject to ear pain and hearing problems, but he didn’t have an ear condition at all. He had a stomach disease which was causing the ear pain! Now we all know that the ears, nose and throat are all connected, but the ears and stomach? That’s new information and something we should all be aware of.
The boy saw lots of doctors over the years for his symptoms, which were fairly typical of an ear condition. Bloody discharge, hearing loss and pain would all suggest a problem will the ear itself. Indeed; his doctor described it as an advanced form of ‘swimmer’s ear’ as his ears were continually red and inflamed. This also narrowed his ear canals and made it difficult for him to hear, making his life pretty miserable!
To get to the bottom of his condition his doctors decided to perform a biopsy on the ear. In doing so they found that he had a skin condition that can occur as a side effect of Crohn’s disease, which is a condition that causes swelling and irritation within the digestive system. In rare cases, those with Crohn’s disease can exhibit a number of skin disorders such as eye inflammation and mouth sores. However, people with such severe complications are usually already diagnosed with the disease. It is exceedingly rare for somebody to not know they have it, only to find out through secondary symptoms.
In fact, the boy didn’t have any stomach problems what so ever and so the doctors could never have suspected Crohn’s disease as the cause. The surprising result was further compounded by the fact that nobody had reported similar ear symptoms occurring in anybody else with the disease. It was a true anomaly.
He has since taken medication to reduce the inflammation and has experienced a significant increase in his hearing and no longer suffers from bloody discharge, although his ear canals are still somewhat narrow.
There are a number of key differences between the pain experienced when an earache is the result of a cold and when it is the result of an infection.
When an earache is the result of an infection it is usually experienced as a sharp or dull pain that can range from mild to extremely painful. Even if the fluid within the middle ear is not itself infected, it puts extra pressure on the eardrum which causes it to throb.
However, if your earache is the result of a cold, there are other symptoms which would indicate it as such. When your earache is the result of a cold, you may have trouble sleeping, exhibit a fever, and display green or yellow mucus when blowing your nose. Since a cold will resolve itself, an earache from a cold will also resolve itself. That being said; earaches can be very painful and distracting and if you feel it is warranted you may wish to visit your doctor to see what the best treatment would be. Paracetamol may be all that is prescribed however they can be easily bought over the counter at any chemist.
It is worth remembering that although earaches can manifest through having a cold, there is sometimes a secondary infection of the middle ear. In this case the ear infection usually comes on suddenly and is very painful in the beginning. This is because the sensory nerves in your eardrum signal the increased pressure with pain. However, after your eardrum stretches a bit, the earache pain may subside.
Earplugs are a fantastic way of blocking out ambient sounds, so when is there a more logical time to use them than when you’re sleeping? Whether you want to block out the sound of your partner snoring, the intrusive sound of your neighbours TV or even just the street outside, earplugs are an ideal solution.
However, if you have ever tried sleeping with earplugs you will know how difficult it can be. First it should be said that you should never try to make your own earplugs out of bits of cotton wool or other household items because they can easily get stuck in your ear canal giving you a more permanent sound dampening than you would otherwise want. You should buy the specially made foam earplugs or, even better, ones that are custom made to fit your ear. Good examples of these can be found here: https://www.proguarduk.co.uk/
If you have the regular foam earplugs then the best way to insert them is to first wash your hands then roll the earplug between your thumb and forefinger to soften it. Once it is softened give it a squeeze and pop it into your ear. Don’t push it too far into your ear canal as it can impact the wax which again would block up your ear more permanently than you would like. Once it is in your ear, let it expand to its normal size and it should be fitted pretty snugly. Always clean them thoroughly in the mornings to make sure ear infection causing bacteria doesn’t doesn’t build up on them.
Personally, I sleep on my side and therefore even with the best fitting earplugs my ears inevitably get sore and uncomfortable. The pressure of the pillow on my ear can often be a bit too much, resulting in a throbbing sensation which can wake me up, achieving the exact opposite result from what I wanted – a peaceful night’s sleep. I find that a pillow for earplugs is the best solution to this. These pillows are normally made for ear conditions such as CNH however the small hole in the pillow is ideal for allowing me to wear earplugs while I sleep without putting undue pressure on my ear. There are a few manufacturers of these although I find The Original P.W.A.H™ to be the best since the hole goes all the way through the pillow and they are a family run UK company.
Hopefully by following this short guide you can enjoy a quiet, pain free night’s sleep. Although, there IS one other quick fix solution – eliminate the source of the noise – please read my follow up guide on body-disposal for more information.
Good news for tinnitus suffers! There is in development a new treatment that uses the vibrations made by music to improve and perhaps even cure the symptoms of tinnitus. Gratifyingly it has been reported that symptoms improved in practically all patients during the first trial.
The way it works is by re-wiring your brain by exposing it to sounds of a certain frequency and therefore of certain vibrations. Although some people’s tinnitus is a physical problem, such as the build-up of wax, many others’ is the result of the brain dialling up its sensitivity so that it interprets almost any stimulus as a constant sound. One theory suggests that we all have these sounds in our ears however, like when you live next to a busy road, we can normally tune it out. However, for whatever reason, those with tinnitus react differently to it and that is why it is experienced more often during times of stress or after a particularly stressful incident such as a mugging.
One of the reasons it has been so hard to find the fundamental cause of tinnitus is that we can’t study it in isolation since our hearing is so intrinsically linked to so many other parts of our bodies. Like when you are in a quiet room and you hear an unexpected noise – your body tenses up involuntarily. Well, that kind of response isn’t good for scientific tests and it has impeded progress in the area. Furthermore; this kind of physiological response can exacerbate tinnitus. Because our bodies are great at making us alert and aware in times of stress – the more stressed we get the more we notice our tinnitus and so a vicious circle is put into effect. Masking the sound temporarily helps but doesn’t last much after the sound has stopped.
The therapy is was only taken twice a week and the patients experienced promising early results.
While not on general release, its inventors will be looking to conduct larger trials soon and if released this really could be a wonderful breakthrough for those suffering from this annoying condition, me included.
Going back to the central premise of this invention; the idea behind the new treatment is that when people lose the ability to hear very high frequencies, the nerve cells in the brain that used to process such sounds begin responding to a lower frequencies instead. They also react when there isn’t any sound, which causes the tinnitus that people experience in the quiet. The researchers believe that this loss of high-frequency sound is one of the primary causes of tinnitus in some people. This could certainly be true in my case. I burst my eardrum trying to clear my ear after a flight and after that I started to get tinnitus. Perhaps the damage I did to it resulting in losing my ability to hear very high frequencies. I must endeavour to find out.
So this new therapy, named ‘Ultraquiet therapy’ reprograms the nerve cells to get them working again by exposing them to high-frequency vibrations. This reprogramming doesn’t last forever and treatment will have to be sustained but I think a few sessions a week with the device to be free from ‘the hum’ would be a price worth paying.
More information can be found here.