Sobakawa Cloud Pillow
Getting enough sleep is one of life's hygiene factors. If you easily get an untroubled eight hours every night, congratulations - you will probably take it for granted, waking feeling refreshed every morning after a great night, and will have no idea what a huge problem sleeping badly can present. Impaired sleep has so many negative effects throughout the day, from road safety to lost professional productivity - if you have sleep problems, it is well worth exploring whatever it takes to try and correct them, because often simple solutions make big differences. According to the Sleep Disorder Center, over 20% of motor vehicle crashes involve sleep deprivation – that’s terrifying!
For many people sleep disruption is associated with back or neck pain, that develops during sleep when you spend too long in one position... until the pain or discomfort wakes you. Many pillows hold the head at an unnatural angle, so muscle tension inevitably builds during sleep, so you either keep shifting around for the perfect position, or you wake too early. For other people it’s to do with the angle the head is in related to the airway, which can cause the soft palate to collapse into the throat, temporarily closing off the trachea – this is called sleep apnea, and results in the sufferer startling awake abruptly and noisily. Snoring too – more likely to disrupt the sleep of the partner than the snorer – is also affected by the position of the head on the pillow.
Lots of people have found success with pillows filled with beads or grains, such as traditional Japanese buckwheat pillows - these are often used in conjunction with very hard futon mattresses, but still provide great rest. It makes a real difference to use a stuffing material that does not compress and flatten, because it holds your neck in the right position instead of subsiding through the night, and the tiny grains can move into the exact contours of your neck and jaw, to provide very specific support. Buckwheat hulls can be sharp though, and in my partner's experiments seeking the perfect night's sleep with them we also found a slightly musty, grainy smell emitted - not too noticeable, but your face is right next to your pillow remember, for (hopefully) many long hours.
We were delighted then to discover the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow, which is engineered along similar principles - but instead uses lots of hollow beads (10 million, apparently), to similar effect. The result is an extremely light and indeed cloud-like pillow, that moves very flexibly and responsively to adjust to your precise position throughout the night. It's crescent shape is unusual, and requires their bespoke custom bedding to fit, but it's surprisingly easy to get used to, and you do get one free washable pillowcase with each order.
An additional benefit was the coolness - we live in a warm climate, and I use a down pillow, I love to flip it over to the cool side when I wake and need refreshing. With the Sobakawa Cloud Pillow this isn't necessary, because the air circulation between the beads keeps your head beautifully cool as well as supported! I was concerned that the beads would be noisy, crunching together right next to your eardrum - well, I am not sure exactly what the coat them with, but they appear to have that problem sorted, you get no noises from the beads.
The biggest benefit though is the way it supports your head and neck so perfectly, and also without permanently deforming - you can turn it over (or let your skeptical partner try it for the night if she wants to review it!), shake it about, and it reforms to a perfect 'cloud' each time. On the Sobakawa website, they have tested it by placing the pillow over raw eggs and dropping weights onto it, to show you how it absorbs the impact! I don't suggest sleeping on raw eggs, nor dropping your weary head onto it from any kind of a height, but it's a great illustration of how the construction supports forming and shaping to protect delicate structures (that's you) whilst supporting weight (that's you as well).
The Sobakawa Cloud company also produce a mattress topper, which we have not tried - the pillow made such a difference, and wish I had known of the topper at a previous time in my life when I had major hip pain, because this was always aggravated by sleep. Same problem, remaining too long in one position with all your weight acting in one direction, which is what the mattress topper is designed to tackle.
If you want to improve your night’s sleep because of issues with back, neck or shoulder pain, I really recommend giving this inexpensive product a go - $20 is nothing for the priceless gift of sleep. And if you are the partner of a snorer, this could save your night, and your marriage, even if you don’t try it yourself…