Last August I was in a mild rear-ender car accident. At the time I felt nothing really, just a little stiffness. But a month later it was quite different. My neck was going out of alignment regularly which was promptly followed by upper trap and mid-back tension. I was regularly seeing my awesome chiro/ART dude who was working miracles (it was night and day from when I’d walk in to his office to how I’d feel after I left) but it wasn’t quite enough, I would still be in pain and it even got to the point of taking prescription muscle relaxants.
I took some actions myself: 1) I geared down my workouts quite a bit. Anything that stressed the neck/traps/upper back I stopped doing for about a month. 2) I realized my pillow was really problematic.
And so began the search for the best pillow for the job….
Earlier this year we purchased a Novaform Gel Memory Foam mattress topper from Costco which is made by Sleep Innovations. We quite enjoy it. Eventually Costco started carrying a Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow product as well. Now, I’ve tried 4 other memory foam pillows in the past, ranging from the typical oblong figure 8 memory pillow (one low arch, one higher arch) which are more designed for back sleepers (and are HORRID for side sleepers) to this fancy pillow: http://www.relaxtheback.com/contourside-pillow-974.html
Now, I quite enjoyed the Contour Side Pillow. It’s made for side sleepers in the sense it has a shoulder cradle (the exact reason the figure 8 pillows don’t work). The only problem was it’s somewhat pricey, it definitely takes a long time to get used to (I found myself switching back and forth between it and a normal pillow often in the first few weeks) and well, don’t make fun of me but I hold the world championship belt in snuggling. Makes me prime marriage material. And being a snuggler means as a side sleeper it’s an art how to place my bed side arm under her pillow in a way her head weight won’t make my arm go numb mid-night. The Contour Side Pillow doesn’t allow for this to happen. And that can’t happen!
So I went back to a normal pillow for a few years. But again, the neck pain from the accident needed more support.
The Novaform Gel Memory Foam Pillow made by the Sleep Innovations company was the answer for me:
Alright, so a few tests a pillow must pass to be worth my time blogging a review for it:
1) Snuggle Test: Like I said, snuggling is an art form. For those of you turning your nose up to me right now I have one phrase that should put you in your place: “She’s hot, she’s naked (only weirdos sleep in anything more than undies), she’s got the softest skin ever and she smells good. Why the hell are you NOT snuggling up beside that while you sleep?!?!” Okay, with my logic out-of-the-way. The logistics are the problem. I need my arm under her pillow and my pillow to still be comfortable, as well as her being comfortable. It’s an engineering problem for real! But the Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow does the trick. 1) The pillow is slightly smaller than normal pillows. 2) When I stick my arm up under the corner of my pillow and under her pillow the memory foam actually squishes properly from the underside to make it feel like my pillow top hasn’t changed at all. That’s what no other pillow I’ve ever used can do. Well, except this one which is just stupid (see what I’m saying about dorks and sleeping with clothes on! This guy gets no action because even his pillow is dorky!):
Usually when you put an arm under a pillow the shape is changed all the way up to the face side (top) surface area. Not with the Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow; the face side (top) surface is not affected by a hand or arm under the pillow.
Snuggle Test: A+
2) Firmness Test: I can’t stand when pillows die. If you’re like me and like a medium high pillow, not those neck-breaking-ultra-3-stacked-pillow-high people nor those why-do-you-even-bother-with-a-pillow-that-flat people, I’m sure you’ve found out the hard way that pillows last about 6 months before they lose their magic and flatten just enough to be annoying. This pillow after 4 months usage hasn’t changed a single bit. It hasn’t flattened. It hasn’t degraded. It hasn’t softened. Nothing. It’s just as good as the day I bought it and the memory foam keeps on memory-ing(?). I will say this though, nothing beats the freshly out of the package perfect pillow experience. It’s sorta like great sex. But this pillow was boring right from the get go. Sorta like the bears and the porridge story: not too high, not too flat but instead juuuust right. From day one and day 120. If you don’t like a firm pillow this is not the right one for you!
Firmness Test: A+
3) Heat Test: One of the major flaws of foam is heat retention. Regular foam conducts or holds heat in and if there’s anything I hate more than a flat pillow it’s definitely a pillow that heats up as I lay on it. I wish I had room for a deep freezer just so I could put my pillow in it during the day – that’s how much I love a cold pillow! I’m not sure what sorta space age material the gel foam is but it doesn’t conduct heat. In fact, sometimes when it gets too hot in the bedroom (I mean all the time…oh, wait we’re talking about sleeping) and the body sweats I’ve found it very strange to notice that my hair, face and neck are not sweaty. Which means this pillow’s material is almost dispersing heat.
Heat Test: A+
4) Smell Test: Foam smells weird. So do feather pillows when they get wet (from sweat). This space age gel memory foam definitely has a funk to it. And not in a good way. The mattress topper we bought earlier this year made of the same blue colored material smelled funky too. The solution: take it out of the cover it comes with and let it air out for a couple of days before you use it. Solves the problem entirely. I haven’t smelled the pillow since.
Smell Test: C (F for when first opened; A after you let it air out for a couple of days with the cover completely off)
5) “Natural” Test: When at the Vancouver health show this year this company was selling their Organic Latex Gold chips pillow which is made of natural latex and covered in wool batting. The nice lady was going on about hokey science (by that I mean science that doesn’t have proof/explanation behind it but it anecdotally appears to be true) about how when our face hits natural products we naturally relax much easier versus hitting a pillow that has the smell of artificial, chemical made products which signals our body to respond as if it was a toxin. I was like “whatever” but I laid on her pillow and it was true, the pillow was very soothing in that regard. The Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow is not. In fact, it’s almost unpleasant until you let it air out. So while I understand what she was saying and enjoyed laying on her $100 pillow even the “Luxury” model (which is supposed to be fuller) was still too flat for my liking.
“Natural” Test Score: F (I have personally chosen the Novaform pillow because of the sleep quality I attain with it. If I can find a natural based pillow that matches what Novaform can do in the 4 previous tests I will make the switch).
6) Hypo-allergenic and Anti-Microbial Test: I don’t want my face breaking out in a rash (I had that response to a new feather pillow once), nor do I want tons of bacteria collecting on my pillow after a few months (you’ll know other pillows do that because they start feeling slimy and wet, and generally start turning a yucky yellow color). The Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow is hypo-allergenic (unless you’re allergic to foam) and has an anti-microbial treatment to blunt the growth of organisms.
Hypo-allergenic and Anti-Microbial Test Score: B (some people are allergic to foam)
7) Shape & Size Test: Most memory foam pillows could be classified into three categories:
The oblong 8 “contour” shape:
These pillows are okay for back sleepers but horrid for side sleepers. The above picture is a complete LIE as no side sleeper sleeps like this with their shoulder girdle on this perfect up and down axis. The only way to attain the picture would be to extend the neck, ET style and notice how in the picture she’s sleeping on the front side of her bottom shoulder. Side sleepers don’t sleep like that; we sleep on the back portion of the shoulder usually! Your arm would go numb if you slept on it like it shows in the picture!! Also…usually the bottom shoulder tucks towards the ear a little bit. Therefore with this oblong 8 shape the arch is actually pushed just an inch up which misses the curvature of the neck, leaving it exposed to a lack of support. Don’t buy oblong 8 “contour” shaped pillows if you sleep on your side!!
The side sleeper variation:
These pillows (which I sorta reviewed above and quite enjoyed on lonely nights, lol) have a built-in shoulder “cradle” which solves the problem of oblong 8 shaped pillows for us side sleepers. The Relax The Back version above (click picture for link to site where they sell) also has a face cradle and air vents which make it a good choice if you’re anti-snuggle anyway. But it was sorta pricey at $65 (Tempur-Pedic brand is $99) and like I said, for me it had an awkward break-in period getting used to it and ultimately, it just didn’t work for me.
The original pillow shape:
The Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow takes on the traditional rectangular shape and while that may not be high-tech engineering, the shape works perfectly with the material.
As for size, while this pillow is a queen size, and it’s quite “full” and “firm” I find it a bit smaller than my other queen sized pillows. Not that this is a bad thing, quite the opposite in fact but it’s just that the material doesn’t spread like normal pillows, making them appear larger, instead the gel memory foam compresses.
Shape & Size Test Score: A+ Again, for those that enjoy firmer pillows it’s juuuust right.
If you take a look at the picture of the pillow above you’ll see that its two-part construction consists of a gel memory foam (blue part) as well as a regular memory foam base (cream colored part). Well, the gel memory foam is firmer, keeps the head cooler and feels quite a bit different than the other side (cream colored foam) which is softer, warmer and “cozier.” Some nights I’m looking for more support and some nights I want a pillow to have more give. This pillow is like having both. If you want it softer, you flip to the memory foam (cream colored side); if you want it firmer you simply flip to the gel memory foam (blue side). It’s very distiguishable which is which, even with the pillowcase on.
Okay, enough already. Clearly I dig this pillow. If you’re searching for a good, supportive, firm pillow that will last a long time and is not super expensive (I think it’s about $35 at Costco; only place I know that sells them other than Amazon.com), the Novaform Gel Memory Foam pillow is worth the try (as is their mattress topper). It’s not for everyone but based on the generous amount of criticism and information above you should now be able to judge for yourself.
For more info go check out Sleep Innovations website before purchase.
I look forward to when my head gets to hit this pillow!
BTW, you can now find me on:
Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”
or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org