If you're having trouble sleeping — which more than a quarter of Americans are according to a Consumer Reports survey — it might be time to update your bed.
However, replacing your mattress can run you upwards of $1,000. If you're looking for a less expensive way to improve your sleeping situation, you can try, or start with, buying some new pillows.
A good pillow should cost between $20 and $40, says Kristin McGrath, shopping expert at Offers.com. "Plan to spend around $20, full price, for a decent pillow that will provide support and hold its shape for years to come," she says. "Plan to spend at least $40, full price, if you need memory foam."
Here's how to know when to replace your pillows.
"Pillows should be used for a maximum of 2 years," says Haniya Rae, home and appliances reporter for Consumer Reports. "You don't want to hang on to them longer than that because they become less supportive."
After 2 years, your pillow might also be less sanitary, she says: "They can become less hygienic if you're not in the habit of washing your pillows at least twice a year, which you absolutely should be. Lots of gross bodily things can build up in there over time."
There are a few other ways to tell if it's time to replace your pillow, aside from how long you've had it, says Lexie Sachs, textiles director at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
"The main thing is that it should be keeping your head, neck, and spine aligned when you are lying down," she says. "Pillows can flatten out. If you're a side-sleeper, which is the most common sleeping position, you want to make sure your neck isn't tilting down." This means your pillow should have a little more height. Stomach-sleepers need pillows with a little less height, and back-sleepers need pillows that are somewhere in between.
Another way to tell if it's time to replace your pillow is to fold it in half and put a large book on it. When you take the book off, the pillow should regain its shape. If it stays folded, the time has come to get a new one. This method works for filled pillows, which have down, feather, or fiber stuffing, Sachs says, but not for foam pillows.
Washing your pillow, like Rae suggests, will make it last longer.
That's why buying a fully washable pillow, or one with a washable cover, is ideal, Sachs says. Foam tends not to be washable or easy to clean, so keep that in mind while buying a pillow.
Pillow protectors, which are a thin sheet that encases your pillow and that you put on before the pillow cover, could help as well. "Pillow protectors are a good idea," she says. "They are discreet, so you won't hear them or feel them. It's a good way to extend the life of a pillow."
"Pillow sales go hand-in-hand with mattress and bedding deals," McGrath of Offers.com says. "That means the best times to shop are 3-day weekends."
This includes the upcoming Presidents' Day weekend, along with Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Fourth of July and New Year's Day might also feature good sales.
"Home sales are big on 3-day weekends," McGrath says. "So, you can expect major retailers like Home Depot, Lowe's, and Macy's to offer bedding and bath sales, which generally include pillows."
Even if you're not buying a mattress, online mattress retailers will often offer sitewide discounts that can be applied to pillows, McGrath adds: "Just use those codes to snap up some pillows."
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