We Germans are known for being unique in many things. Driving without a speed limit, minced meat rolls in the morning, the purity law for beer. But the fact that even our pillows stand out from the crowd was new to us. And "stand out" is exactly the right word. In July 2022, the renowned Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article on the 31x31inch format on which most of us rest our heads at night: "German pillows are strangely huge," the headline read. Moreover, they were "too square and too soft." We at The Nest Company blog looked at each other with irritation after reading the report: Yes, the German pillow standard may be a bit bigger. But much more exciting than the size... is the sheer choice that local customers have. They can choose between 400 different options. Now that would really be newsworthy....
Active health care
Before we get into that - and try not to get information overload here - maybe a note first: We all spend about a third of our lives in bed. No matter what we do apart from sleeping - the place should be comfortable and cozy. This starts with the frame, continues with the mattress and the comforter, and ends with the pillow. The latter is perhaps the most important part of active health care. A bad pillow will cause problems with the neck muscles. This means neck tension is certain - and in the worst case, a slipped disc. In summary, the quality of life drops noticeably if you make the wrong choice when buying a pillow.
Buying the right pillow
So how do you do it the right way? There is no simple answer to this. Only there are two guidelines: A good pillow must support the neck. Exactly where a hollow space forms between the spine and the shoulder. And it must prevent the head from tilting up or down while sleeping. Please remember this. Then one only has to decide between classic and very exotic variants, between large, medium or small, between countless fillers and, above all, between hard or soft. Two very basic tips before we get into the individual options below: a pillow should be tailored to both the physique and the mattress base. That is, broad shoulders and hard bases need higher pillows, the narrower the shoulder, the softer the mattress - the lower the head cushion. So much about the principles of slumbering fabric.
The pillow menu
Now that it's really clear that there's no general answer, let's delve deeper. Luxury hotels have long been addressing the sleeping comfort of their guests with so-called pillow menus. The selection offers everything a guest needs for a good night's rest: Variations in filling materials, sizes and degrees of firmness are on the list, as are cushions for side sleepers, back sleepers or stomach sleepers.
Other countries, other pillows
So hotels have picked up on what orthopedists have long known: the 31x31 (or 80x80 centimeter) crumple comfort is only optimal for tall people - or serves as a comfortable side pillow that requires a different, additional format. And yes, Germany is actually the only country that uses this measurement as a standard. The French rest their sleep-heavy heads on 25 x 25 inches (65x65cm), the Swedes on 19x27 (50x70cm). In Denmark, 23 x 24 (60x63cm) is preferred, and in Austria, 27 x 35 inches (70x90cm).
Sleeping in Germany
At The Nest Company, we've been looking into these very issues. So here are basics about the different types of sleepers.
About 20 percent of Germans sleep with their nose toward the ceiling. This position is often a burden for bed neighbors. This is because it is the most susceptible to triggering snoring. Apart from that, back sleepers have it easier when buying head pillows. All they need is a flat pillow that keeps the skull horizontal and does not reach below the shoulders. Ideally, a so-called neck support pillow is placed in the shopping cart.
Stomach sleepers slumber in the least suitable position. The head is always in a so- called rotational position in the area of the neck and spine. On the other hand, this position ensures that the intervertebral discs are relaxed. 13 percent of Germans sleep like this every night. And so they need the best possible support for this. Belly sleeper pillows are often flatter pillows of a slightly higher degree of hardness. This prevents the head from sinking in and aggravating the neck problem.
By far the most common sleeping position in Germany's beds: more than one in two turns on its axis to find the best possible resting position. With the pillow purchase it applies here a rule of thumb to consider: It needs a supportive pillow that doesn't reach below the shoulder. Since we Germans are proven pillow crunchers, any of the three formats is suitable: 31x31inch (80x80) just like 15x32inch (40x60) or 15x31inch (40x80). It is important that the shoulder axis forms a right angle to the base and the spine a straight line. Otherwise, once again, the pillow will cause back pain.
Fillings without limits
Now that the different sleeping positions and the corresponding pillows have been explained, let's look at the fillings. And here there are really no limits to taste or inclination. First of all, a brief review explaining why there is now such a wide variety of pillow contents. Historically, over the period of the past 2000 years, different materials offered themselves again and again. Sometimes for fashion reasons, sometimes for lack of availability.
From Egypt to Europe
The first evidence of pillows dates back to ancient Egypt. However, these were demonstrably uncomfortable, consisting mostly of metal, wood or ivory. From today's perspective, they would rather be called headrests. The Romans placed more emphasis on comfort and had leather or fabric covers stuffed with reeds, hay or feathers. Let's take a big leap forward - because it wasn't until around the 13th century that bedsteads - and with them pillows - became widespread in today's Europe. In the end, however, it was only the Industrial Revolution, starting in the 19th century, that made utensils of sleeping comfort affordable for the masses. And here we have to mention the Romans again - because what they demonstrated suddenly became en vogue for everyone: feathers in pillows. And with that, we are also at the most common fillers in the pillow:
What to know first: Down provides fluffiness and comfort, feathers are responsible for the supporting force. Thus, the higher the feather content, the firmer the pillow. There are also wonderful three-chamber systems: In the middle are the feathers, in the outer parts the down. More support for the neck is not possible.
This filling material is considered to be particularly form-stable, meaning that a supporting effect is guaranteed. Exceptions: If the flakes are made of latex or Visco foam, the pillow may well become very soft. All flake variants have one thing in common: they ensure good ventilation, which is ideal for sleepers with high sweat production.
Here, fillings made of horsehair, virgin sheep's wool and camel fluff hair are offered in particular. If you choose one of these variants, you need to know the following: Horse hair provides a firm and rather flat filling. Virgin wool and camel, on the other hand, are soft and adaptable. Basically, all animal hair fillings are ideal in case of perspiration. As already indicated, there are countless poster fabrics. These also include filling wadding (made of microfiber or Lyocell), hollow fiber balls (synthetic cotton balls), natural fillings (spelt, millet or Tyrolean Swiss stone pine) the Visco foam mentioned earlier. Who has the choice, has the agony - we want to change this quite dusty German proverb to: Who has the choice, experiences no agony. It is worth planning the purchase of a pillow carefully and seeking advice. After all, we all spend about a third of our time in bed. This should not lead to having to suffer the remaining two- thirds full of neck pain and back pain...