The Importance of a Good Pillow

Do you toss and turn at night and feel tired in the morning? Perhaps you feel like you get a good enough sleep, but your body is sore and achy when you wake up. These are all signs that you are not sleeping on the right pillow. In fact, the importance of pillows is something we cannot stress enough! Sleeping on the right pillow can make the difference between a good night’s rest and a fitful one or an energized morning and a difficult start. If you feel like the way you sleep could use some changes, check out this article, as we have outlined how to find the perfect pillow.

The Importance of a Good Pillow

Most people spend at least one-third of their lives with their head on a pillow. The older you get, the more you realize. Not only does the pillow need to be a good one, but it needs to be one that is suited to your body, your health, and the way that you sleep. Check out this list to learn more about how to choose a good pillow.

The Importance of Pillows

Pillows truly affect the way that you go about your day, and you probably aren’t even aware of this fact. Your pillow affects the way that your neck aligns with your spine, which can either alleviate or put more strain on your back, affect headaches, and have an overall impact on how restful your sleep is. In order to determine the best pillow for you, consider the shape of your spine as well as the position you sleep in for most of the night.

Choose a Pillow for Your Sleeping Patterns

Pillows truly affect the way that you go about your day, and you probably aren’t even aware of this fact. Your pillow affects the way that your neck aligns with your spine, which can either alleviate or put more strain on your back, affect headaches, and have an overall impact on how restful your sleep is. In order to determine the best pillow for you, consider the shape of your spine as well as the position you sleep in for most of the night.
Back Sleepers

Those who spend most of the night lying flat on their backs should choose a flat, thin pillow that also supports the head and the spine. Wedge pillows are great for providing this support.
Side Sleepers

Those who spend most of the night lying on their sides need a contoured pillow that provides firm support. In most instances, it is healthy for side sleepers to place a pillow between their legs. This pillow allows the spine to stay in alignment, and will leave the back feeling less strain from sleeping on the side.
Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers do not need much support for their head when sleeping. The thinner the pillow, the better, as this will prevent the head from rising too much and putting strain on the neck. In many instances, stomach sleepers will find comfort from placing a pillow under their stomachs to prevent lower back pain.

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Why Is Sleep Important with Us?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Why Is Sleep Important with Us?

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.

Physical Health

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.

Daytime Performance and Safety

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake.

You can’t control microsleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep.

Even if you’re not driving, microsleep can affect how you function. If you’re listening to a lecture, for example, you might miss some of the information or feel like you don’t understand the point. In reality, though, you may have slept through part of the lecture and not been aware of it.

Some people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they’re sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

For example, drowsy drivers may feel capable of driving. Yet, studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It’s estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.

Drivers aren’t the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all lines of work, including health care workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, and assembly line workers.

As a result, sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause large-scale damage. For example, sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and aviation accidents.

Benefits of Rising Early and How to Do It

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”
Recently, reader Rob asked me about my habit of waking at 4:30 a.m. each day, and asked me to write about the health benefits of rising early, which I thought was an excellent question. Unfortunately, there are none, that I know of.

Benefits of Rising Early

However, there are a ton of other great benefits.

Now, let me first say that if you are a night owl, and that works for you, I think that’s great. There’s no reason to change, especially if you’re happy with it. But for me, switching from being a night owl to an early riser (and yes, it is possible) has been a godsend. It has helped me in so many ways that I’d never go back. Here are just a few:

Greet the day. I love being able to get up, and greet a wonderful new day. I suggest creating a morning ritual that includes saying thanks for your blessings. I’m inspired by the Dalai Lama, who said, ” Everyday, think as you wake up, ‘today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.’ “

Amazing start. I used to start my day by jumping out of bed, late as usual, and rushing to get myself and the kids ready, and rushing to drop them to school and come in to work late. I would walk into work, looking rumpled and barely awake, grumpy and behind everyone else. Not a great start to your day. Now, I have a renewing morning ritual, I’ve gotten so much done before 8 a.m., my kids are early and so am I, and by the time everyone else gets in to work, I’ve already gotten a head start. There is no better way to start off your day than to wake early, in my experience.

Quietude. No kids yelling, no babies crying, no soccer balls, no cars, no television noise. The early morning hours are so peaceful, so quiet. It’s my favorite time of day. I truly enjoy that time of peace, that time to myself, when I can think, when I can read, when I can breathe.

Sunrise. People who wake late miss one of the greatest feats of nature, repeated in full stereovision each and every day — the rise of the sun. I love how the day slowly gets brighter, when the midnight blue turns to lighter blue, when the brilliant colors start to seep into the sky, when nature is painted in incredible colors. I like doing my early morning run during this time, and I look up at the sky as I run and say to the world, “What a glorious day!” Really. I really do that. Corny, I know.

Breakfast. Rise early and you actually have time for breakfast. I’m told it’s one of the most important meals of the day. Without breakfast, your body is running on fumes until you are so hungry at lunchtime that you eat whatever unhealthy thing you can find. The fattier and sugarier, the betterier. But eat breakfast, and you are sated until later. Plus, eating breakfast while reading my book and drinking my coffee in the quiet of the morning is eminently more enjoyable than scarfing something down on the way to work, or at your desk.

Exercise. There are other times to exercise besides the early morning, of course, but I’ve found that while exercising right after work is also very enjoyable, it’s also liable to be canceled because of other things that come up. Morning exercise is virtually never canceled.

Productivity. Mornings, for me at least, are the most productive time of day. I like to do some writing in the morning, when there are no distractions, before I check my email or blog stats. I get so much more done by starting on my work in the morning. Then, when evening rolls around, I have no work that I need to do, and I can spend it with family.

Goal time. Got goals? Well, you should. And there’s no better time to review them and plan for them and do your goal tasks than first thing. You should have one goal that you want to accomplish this week. And every morning, you should decide what one thing you can do today to move yourself further towards that goal. And then, if possible, do that first thing in the morning.

Commute. No one likes rush-hour traffic, except for Big Oil. Commute early, and the traffic is much lighter, and you get to work faster, and thus save yourself more time. Or better yet, commute by bike. (Or even better yet, work from home.)

Appointments. It’s much easier to make those early appointments on time if you get up early. Showing up late for those appointments is a bad signal to the person you’re meeting. Showing up early will impress them. Plus, you get time to prepare.

How to Become an Early Riser

  • Don’t make drastic changes. Start slowly, by waking just 15-30 minutes earlier than usual. Get used to this for a few days. Then cut back another 15 minutes. Do this gradually until you get to your goal time.
  • Allow yourself to sleep earlier. You might be used to staying up late, perhaps watching TV or surfing the Internet. But if you continue this habit, while trying to get up earlier, sooner or later one is going to give. And if it is the early rising that gives, then you will crash and sleep late and have to start over. I suggest going to bed earlier, even if you don’t think you’ll sleep, and read while in bed. If you’re really tired, you just might fall asleep much sooner than you think.
  • Put your alarm clock far from you bed. If it’s right next to your bed, you’ll shut it off or hit snooze. Never hit snooze. If it’s far from your bed, you have to get up out of bed to shut it off. By then, you’re up. Now you just have to stay up.
  • Go out of the bedroom as soon as you shut off the alarm. Don’t allow yourself to rationalize going back to bed. Just force yourself to go out of the room. My habit is to stumble into the bathroom and go pee. By the time I’ve done that, and flushed the toilet and washed my hands and looked at my ugly mug in the mirror, I’m awake enough to face the day.
  • Do not rationalize. If you allow your brain to talk you out of getting up early, you’ll never do it. Don’t make getting back in bed an option.
  • Have a good reason. Set something to do early in the morning that’s important. This reason will motivate you to get up. I like to write in the morning, so that’s my reason. Also, when I’m done with that, I like to read all of your comments!
  • Make waking up early a reward. Yes, it might seem at first that you’re forcing yourself to do something hard, but if you make it pleasurable, soon you will look forward to waking up early. A good reward is to make a hot cup of coffee or tea and read a book. Other rewards might be a tasty treat for breakfast (smoothies! yum!) or watching the sunrise, or meditating. Find something that’s pleasurable for you, and allow yourself to do it as part of your morning routine.
  • Take advantage of all that extra time. Don’t wake up an hour or two early just to read your blogs, unless that’s a major goal of yours. Don’t wake up early and waste that extra time. Get a jump start on your day! I like to use that time to get a head start on preparing my kids’ lunches, on planning for the rest of the day (when I set my MITs), on exercising or meditating, and on reading. By the time 6:30 rolls around, I’ve done more than many people do the entire day.

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