Is your pillow hurting your health?

Pillows can help or hurt, depending on their firmness and your sleep position.

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You probably know someone who won't leave home without a special pillow, claiming that a particular bag of fluff or feathers is the key to a good night's sleep. And that person may be on to something. "Anything that will make you more comfortable will improve the likelihood of getting a good night's sleep," says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, a sleep expert at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

But the benefits of pillows don't go much further than comfort and positioning. Sometimes pillows even hurt your health.

Pillows and pain

"If your neck is bent in any way for an extended period of time, you'll get uncomfortable," explains Matthew O'Rourke, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. He says a pillow that's too soft or too firm often leads to neck pain.