12 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Pillow

Your pillow has been through a lot. It’s your trusty companion, whether you’re sleeping soundly or tossing and turning at night. If you snooze for the recommended 7 to 9 hours, that’s a minimum of 600 hours in a three-month period that your pillow is on-duty.

Just like your mattress, your pillow has a shelf life. Your sleep habits and life circumstances play a big role in how often you should replace it. Below are some glaringly obvious—and oh-so-subtle—signs it’s time to go pillow shopping.

1) You’re Suffering from Sniffles

Many folks are allergic to dust mites without even realizing it. In an interview with Huffington Post, Dr. Mark R. Neustrom explained that approximately two-thirds of allergy sufferers are allergic to indoor dust mites.

If you wash your pillow and its case regularly and are still sniffling and sneezing, it may be time to visit an allergist—and to change your pillow!

2) You Wake Up with a Stiff or Sore Neck

If your pillow is offering the right combo of comfort and support, you’ll wake up without neck pain or stiffness. Over time, pillows tend to breakdown and offer less head and neck support. If fluffing doesn’t fix the pancake appearance, pick up a new pillow.

Tip: Be sure to check out my article on the best pillows for neck pain.

3) You’re Sleeping on Lumps

Let’s face it—sleep should be a pleasant experience, not a bumpy one. If the materials in your pillow are beginning to resemble lumps of coal, it’s definitely time to gift yourself a new, smoother version.

4) It Won’t Fluff

If you’re a feather pillow fan, replace your pillow when you find yourself fluffing the feathers frequently. Your pillow should offer support and comfort with only the occasional fluff.

5) The Pillow Can Be Folded in Half

Okay, so your pillow can probably be folded in half with a little effort. If it stays that way, however, it’s begging to be replaced. Even thinner pillows should spring back when bent.

Note: Even springier pillows that don’t stay folded need replaced eventually. Keep an eye out for other signs of wear.

6) Breakouts are Becoming a Problem

If you’ve noticed an increase in acne, your pillow might be to blame. Even if there’s no visible dirt, oil, dead skin cells, or drool stains, it’s possible your pillow has become a grave yard for all things icky. Be sure to wash the pillow’s case often to cut down on the yuck factor. Or get yourself a better pillow protector!

7) Your Pillow Just Isn’t Comfy

Life is too short for mediocre pillows. If you don’t dream of cuddling with your cozy cushion each night, you deserve a pillow upgrade. Whether you’re a side sleeper, back sleeper, or prefer to snooze on your stomach, there are endless options that will make you dream of bedtime all day long.

8) You Don’t Know Where It Came From

Many people are sleeping on pillows that should’ve been pitched months, if not years, ago. If you’re the owner of an ancient pillow, you probably have no clue what it’s made of or how to clean it. Rule of thumb: If your pillow’s origin is a mystery, you don’t know what materials it’s made of, or how old it is, it needs to go. After picking up a replacement, make a note in your planner or phone with the purchase date and other important information regarding your purchase, including care instructions.

9) Your Sleep Position Has Changed

If you’ve always been a stomach sleeper, but lately you prefer to sleep on your back, it’s time to try a new pillow. As we change and age, our pillow needs and preferences change, too. Pillows designed for side sleepers can be downright uncomfortable for stomach or back sleepers. Be sure to choose a pillow that’s designed for your specific sleep position. One option to consider is the Pancake Pillow—an ingenious stack of six thin layers that make it completely customizable.

10) You’re Pregnant

If you’re expecting a munchkin in the near future, adding a body pillow can make all the difference. These long, versatile pillows can be tucked between the knees, and keep you from rolling onto your back or stomach. If you’re using a body pillow in addition to a standard pillow, be sure the combo is comfy and supportive.

11) When a Snazzy New Pillow Catches Your Eye

Why wait up to 36 months to swap your pillow when an upgrade will boost your mood? There’s no shame in picking up a luxurious new cuddle buddy. This is one purchase you can justify. After all, you spend one-third of your life in bed. It’s not like it won’t get plenty of use.

12) If It Has been 1 to 3 Years

How often you should replace your pillow depends on the type of pillow you use, how frequently it’s cleaned, as well as the overall condition. If you’re concerned that it’s time for a replacement, trust your intuition. Below are some guidelines to follow if you think it might be time:

  • Inexpensive polyester pillows should be changed every six months.
  • Durable pillows, including memory foam options, can be used for 18 to 36 months.
  • Pillows break down at different rates depending on a variety of factors. Some experts urge people to throw out their pillows after only six months, regardless of the material, durability, and condition. Use your best judgment and don’t keep a pillow beyond the three-year mark.

If you want to extend the life of your pillow, there are a few easy steps you can take:

  • Use a zippered pillow protector to ward off critters, dirt, dust, etc. Wash the protector and your pillow case often, at least every three weeks.
  • Wash your pillow every three months, or more often if needed. Be sure to follow the care instructions and let the pillow dry thoroughly before using. And while it’s important to wash your pillow regularly, don’t overdo it. Frequent baths can make pillow fibers break down. Note: Feather pillows should only be dry cleaned.
  • Utilize the dryer to prevent dust mites and other microscopic particles from building up and taking a toll on your health. Use the lowest setting and remove from the machine after 30 minutes.

Remembering to swap your pillow periodically is just as important as replacing your mattress. Your health and sleep quality depends on it.

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