What Are Cooling Pillows and How Do They Work?
A good pillow is often overlooked in the quest for a perfect night’s sleep, with people instead opting to invest their faith and money in luxury mattresses.
However, there isn’t much point having a heavenly cloud to lie on if you spend half the night awake tossing on it with your face stuck to a hot sweaty pillow.
A cooling pillow does what it says on the tin. You put it in your bed, lie down on it and it offers you night after night of fresh blissful uninterrupted sleep.
Along with giving you a chill that would put an ice queen to shame, certain types of cooling pillows often have the added benefit of easing chronic pain, neck injuries and migraines. Some even claim to reduce snoring. Hallelujah to that!
But what makes them tick, and what features do they boast? Let’s take a closer look at the science behind the sales talk.
Cooling pillows usually work off one of two principles-
1. Breathable pillows are filled with certain materials that allow air to pass through the fibres easily. This added ventilation prevents heat from building up, as well as encouraging evaporation of moisture and sweat, meaning cooler sleep for the user.
2. Water or gel filled pillows have a simple yet effective function. The pillow uses a gel pouch or gel fibres which have a cooling effect on the body when slept on. Some manufacturers recommend placing the pillow in the fridge for an hour before using to give it an icy boost, however, this is not strictly necessary as gel has a naturally chilling effect anyway.
Read Our Cooling Pillow Reviews
Shredded Memory Foam Pillows offer fantastic support and are great at keeping the neck in line while sleeping. Shredded memory foam goes that extra step, giving some much needed ventilation while moulding around your body and moving with you as you sleep.
This is the best cooling pillow for back and side sleepers. Along with the breathable foam interior, this pillow also boasts a cooling cover comprised of 60% polyester and 40% rayon derived from bamboo.
Available in three different sizes, this shredded memory foam pillow is suitable for all ages and bed sizes. Foam can be added or removed to adjust comfort level, meaning you can tweak the pillow to create the ultimate place to rest your weary head. Bliss!
The Coop Home Goods Shredded Memory Foam Pillow conforms to all safety regulations and is Certipur-US, meaning the foam is free of toxic chemicals and PDBEs. It is guaranteed to stay firm and comes with a 5-year warranty.
Pros and Cons
- Comes in a variety of sizes
- Has a 5-year warranty
- Hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant
- Foam can be added or removed for custom adjustment
- Machine washable
- Fresh foam can be malodorous and needs to be aired once removed from the packaging to dissipate the smell
Gel Fibre pillows are filled with a synthetic gel. They are engineered to imitate the soft feel of a natural down pillow, with added ice appeal. They have a soft to medium consistency, so suit back and stomach sleepers, but generally don’t have the firmness required for side sleeping. The stuffing is pliable and will support and cradle the head without shifting during the night. One of the main advantages that gel fibre pillows has over memory foam is that the filling is flexible and can be adjusted easily.
This cooling pillow is manufactured using super plush gel fibres for extreme comfort. The 100% cotton shell combined with the cold gel filling ensure a dry, refreshing, uninterrupted night of restful sleep.
Hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant, these pillows are the perfect choice for people with allergies and respiratory issues. As they are not made from memory foam, there is no ‘fresh foam’ smell. Available in a range of sizes, these gel fibre pillows are the ideal sleep solution regardless of bed size.
Pros and Cons
- Pliable, adjustable filling
- ‘No Shift’ construction means your head is supported all night
- Machine washable
- Not supportive enough for side sleepers
Memory foam gel pillows are the definitive cooling-meets-comfort solution for night sweat sufferers. The gel layer absorbs heat from the neck and head, diffusing it, while the memory foam underneath offers support and helps to keep the spine aligned while you sleep.
This pillow is a genius multifunctional product for seasonal night sweaters who are too hot to handle in the summer months but are cool creatures once winter closes in. The gel side lowers body temperature and neutralises body heat, while the memory foam on the reverse side is a toasty little cushion for colder weather. Why buy two pillows when you only need one?
Neck and back pain are no match for the dense memory foam filling of the pillow, and the cooling gel top layer eases hot flashes, sinus pain, headache, congestion and can even reduce snoring, making it an ideal gift for that special someone in your life who raises the roof.
The Cr Sleep Reversible Memory Foam Gel Pillow is free from toxic substances. It is hypoallergenic and resistant to mould and dust mites.
Pros and Cons
- Reversible, dual function
- Can reduce snoring
- Hypoallergenic, antimicrobial and dust mite resistant
- Eases neck pain
- The gel gets warm over time
- Has the unpleasant ‘fresh foam’ smell. However, this should dissipate once aired
Ventilated pillows use special aeration technology which allows for maximum air circulation, not only creating an airy atmosphere, but also vaporizing any moisture quickly so you stay cool and comfortable from dusk ‘til dawn.
This pillow combines a gel-infused memory foam filling with Air Cell ventilation technology designed to diffuse any heat and wick away moisture. The added ventilation evaporates sweat faster, meaning it is less likely to wake you up. The memory foam also supports the head, neck, shoulders and back, promising you the best night’s sleep, every night. Optimal neck positioning has been proven to aid respiration, which promotes deep restful sleep.
Chronic pain sufferers will reap the rewards of the medium-firm gel memory foam, which fosters refreshing sleep while promoting a neutral head, neck and shoulder position. The result? A relaxed posture that maximizes both physical and mental recuperation. Amazing!
At 24”x 16”x 4.5”, the Cr Ventilated Memory Foam pillow is a standard size. Whether you’re a back, belly or side sleeper, the square design has you covered, making a comfortable prop regardless of age or weight.
The Aircell Gel-Infused Dual Side Covers give this pillow added functionality all year round. The cool summer side is composed of 50% ice fabric and 50% polyester, guaranteeing a silky, fresh feel in those hot, humid months. For the colder winter season, simply flip the pillow over to avail of the 65% polyester and 35% tencel, giving a softer, cosier feel while still remaining breathable for that all-important ventilation.
There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the potential health implications of foam pillows and the chemicals that are used during their production. However, the Cr Memory Foam Pillow has been certified CertiPUR-US, so it doesn’t contain any toxic substances such as formaldehyde, PBDE, or methane chloride.
Pros and Cons
- High-quality memory foam that holds its shape
- Cooling effect
- Eases chronic pain
- Hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites, mould and bacteria
- Has the typical unpleasant ‘fresh foam’ odour, although this should dissipate once unboxed
- The pillow itself cannot be machine washed. However, the outer cover is removable and washable
Gel mats are multifunctional cooling inserts that can be used as pillows, mats or cushions. The gel is naturally chilled; however, the coldness can be amplified by putting the mat in the refrigerator or freezer before using. Gel mats are a portable option for people who travel regularly and have restricted suitcase space.
This cooling mat is a true all-rounder. Buy it to help quell those pesky night sweats, and you will surely find a multitude of other uses for it around the home. Alleviate hot flashes, neck pain, headaches and fevers with its coolness. Soothe your aching muscles and joints by placing it directly on your body like an ice pack, or even place it on your lap underneath your laptop to absorb the heat.
Filled with gel to give a soft, flexible feel, this mat will accommodate the contours of your body with no risk of leaking and no refills required. The 12”x 22” pad fits the width of a standard pillow, making it ideal for placing over or under the pillowcase.
Unlike other brands, the Penguin Cooling Mat has a fabric cotton blended cover for ultimate luxury. The gel is not segmented, meaning there are no rough ridges or grooves to interrupt comfort.
It can be rolled up and carried easily, making it perfect for use during long journeys, camping or regular travelling.
Pros and Cons
- Luxury cotton blended cover gives added comfort
- Extremely portable
- It can be difficult to get used to the feeling of sleeping directly on it, rather than on the surface of your own pillow
- Becomes warm over time
What Causes Night Sweats?
Sweating. We all do it to some extent. However, for a small percentage of the population who sweat excessively, it can be a debilitating and life-limiting hindrance.
At a basic level, sweating is a natural mechanism which prevents against overheating. The hypothalamus (one of the body’s major glands that controls body temperature) stimulates the 2 million sweat glands and when sweat emerges through the skin, it releases heat energy which cools the body.
Sweating is normal in certain situations such as during hot, humid weather and after exercise. However, sometimes, for a variety of reasons, the sweat glands can go into overdrive, causing excessive perspiration. Night sweats are defined as periods of heavy sweating that occur at night (often during sleep), resulting in wet bedclothes and pyjamas.
Apart from the disruption to sleep patterns and the heavy laundry loads they cause, night sweats are usually relatively harmless. However, they can be an indication of an underlying medical issue, or the result of medication side effects.
Hyperhidrosis is a disease characterised by constant excessive sweating. It can be localised to particular areas of the body, or can affect the body as a whole. Hyperhidrosis is sometimes triggered by a medical condition (such as the illnesses listed below), although often, there is no known cause. When unexplained, it is known as idiopathic hyperhidrosis. If suffering from hyperhidrosis, sweating will be ongoing throughout the day, but may be worse at night.
The endocrine system is a collection of glands that secrete hormones which regulate the body’s systems. So, it makes senses that if there’s a hormonal imbalance, that glands such as the hypothalamus will be thrown off kilter, resulting in extreme perspiration and night sweats.
The most widespread conditions relating to hormonal imbalance are:
- Menopause (hot flushes)
- Overactive thyroid/thyroid disease
Any illness or infection that causes a fever can prompt night sweats. Common culprits include colds, influenza and tuberculosis. Bacterial infections such as endocarditis and osteomyelitis can also elicit nocturnal overheating, as can H.I.V.
Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, often triggers sweating. This is routinely seen in diabetics when the pancreas creates too much insulin, but it can also occur in non-diabetics too. Common non-diabetic causes of hypoglycemia include pregnancy, anorexia and excessive alcohol consumption.
Obstructive Sleep Apnoea
Studies have shown that sufferers of untreated apnoea are up to three times more likely to have night sweats. Obstructive sleep apnoea is a condition that narrows the walls of the throat, restricting breathing and interrupting sleep. It is common in overweight people, as well as people who have suffered a stroke.
Some cancers such as lymphoma and leukaemia carry night sweats as an early warning sign. Other symptoms to watch out for include sudden unexplained weight loss and inexplicable fever.
Certain types of medication list night sweats as a side effect. Antidepressants are a frequent offender. Prednisone steroids and antipyretics such as aspirin and acetaminophen have also been known to be a trigger too.
Night sweats have also been known to occur as a result of anxiety, obesity and substance abuse.
How to Treat Night Sweats
Effective night sweat treatment depends on the initial cause. If your episodes are as a result of a hormonal condition such as menopause or thyroid issues, then getting your illness under control will help. If your sweats are caused by a medication, then you may not have any option but to put up with them for the time being, although you could speak to your doctor about adjusting your dose.
If night sweats cannot be cured, then management may be the only option you have to minimize the effect they have on your life. There are many triggering factors and some simple lifestyle and environmental changes can give a surprising amount of relief. Although the root cause will remain, there will be less interruption to your sleep.
Diet and Exercise
A diet high in fat and sugar causes sugar levels to spike and dip, exacerbating night sweats. Spicy food, salty food and caffeine are also well-known offenders. Don’t panic- you won’t have to completely forego your vices. Moderation is the key. Avoid eating late in the evening and try to make sure that there is 2-3 hours between your last meal and bedtime. You’ll be sleeping like a baby in no time!
Exercising reduces the levels of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, meaning anxiety related night sweats can be reduced. It will also help to maintain a healthy weight, which gives added relief. Great reason to get those running shoes on then! However, make sure that you get your exercise out of the way earlier in the day to avoid becoming amped up close to bedtime.
Talk about stating the obvious! In truth, lots of people associate comfort with being wrapped up like a burrito in their duvets, thus overlooking some of the most basic aspects of keeping cool when it comes to sleeping. Running a fan in your room at night, or setting the air conditioning to come on are simple ways of minimizing night sweats. During winter, set your thermostat lower, or if you are worried about keeping the rest of the house warm, you can just turn off the radiator in your own bedroom.
Have a ready supply of chilled water at your bedside to sip. Your dreams of a hotel brochure-esque bed with layers of blankets and comforters does not tie in well with overactive sweat glands. Remove any excess covers before you go to bed. Aim to keep as cool as possible without being uncomfortable.
It might sound counterintuitive, but wearing light, loose cotton pyjamas can actually help to drop your core temperature while you sleep. Special sheets and pyjamas are available that wick moisture away quickly, keeping you dry and comfortable for longer.
Applying a clinical strength antiperspirant at night will give you a sweat-busting edge. Cooling sprays, gels and pillows also give a huge boost to your crusade.
Reducing stress levels will ease night sweats. Mindfulness and meditation are great relaxation techniques that can be practised in short bursts throughout the day. Doing 10 minutes of deep breathing at bedtime will help to switch off your mind and chill out. If you’re lucky, it may even put you to sleep!
Apart from shortening your lifespan and resulting in a range of physical ailments, night sweats which lead to a lack of sleep can have a devastating impact. Mentally, concentration and cognitive functions are impaired. Stress, irritability and low mood are common side effects, which bleed into every other aspect of life from close personal relationships to working ability.
Don’t be disheartened by seemingly incurable sweating episodes. Small steps and modest changes can make a huge difference, and there are plenty of products available to assist in your mission for a dry, refreshing sleep. Goodnight!