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An ergonomic pillow is designed to accommodate the user’s sleeping or seating position and to minimize any associated tension that may result from prolonged time spent in one position. Ergonomic pillows tend to be shaped differently from regular pillows, and are often made of foam or another form-retaining material that offers greater support. Most ergonomic pillows are used for sleep, although some do exist for lower back support while sitting. They vary in size, from small neck pillows used for long car trips or flights, to very large full-body pillows meant to cradle the entire body during sleep.
It is believed that the most balanced position for the spine is the neutral position, because it minimizes stress in the body. Most people do not maintain neutral position while they sleep. This creates tension at problem spots like the neck and the lower back and results in waking up with a stiff neck or back pain. These problems can often be corrected by using an ergonomic pillow.
A common kind of ergonomic pillow is specifically designed for the neck. These are usually has a slightly elevated region that maintains the natural curvature of the neck and an indented region in which the back of the skull rests. This type of pillow can help both back-sleepers and side-sleepers maintain proper spinal position. Face-down sleepers usually experience the most back tension, because the position causes the natural curve of the lower spine to dip farther than it should. A special slanted ergonomic pillow allows the user to sleep face-down and breathe comfortably through a U-shaped hole in which the face can be placed. The gentle slope corrects the position of the back and allows the spine to maintain neutral position.
Sometimes a special situation may call for a particular ergonomic pillow. Pregnant women can opt to use a full-body pillow that supports both their back and their growing belly. Travelers who like to sleep during trips can use a small U-shaped neck pillow that provides support for their head and neck, should they fall asleep in a seated position. Some people enjoy having an ergonomic pillow to support their neck when they are taking a bath. With so many variants on the market, shoppers should keep in mind what their intended use is (lower back support when sitting, adjustment of sleeping position, traveling, etc.) and buy the right ergonomic pillow for their specific need.