You may well have tried pillow after pillow and prayed that the next (usually expensive) mattress will be THE one!
So is there a prefered pillow or mattress? Does one effect the other?
Three things to consider:
1. Firstly, are you suffering pain?
This is most important as if you have an underlying injury or irritation, no pillow or mattress will fix it. Sometimes the issue is aggravated by these things but not actually caused by it. Get rid of what is causing the pain and the pillow/ mattress are off the hook.
2. When did you last change your mattress?
The average mattress lifeline these days is 8-10 years. More importantly your body may have changed a lot in this time. Activity levels, diet and of course, your actual sleeping habits will play a large part. The less active you have been, the stiffer your body will become. If your job has changed or you've stopped cycling everywhere, it will effect your body. Any stiffness could be encouraged if you're a heavy sleeper when there is little movement through the night.
As a rule of thumb, your mattress wants to be supportive with a softer layer on the top. This way your body and spine is supported but the soft layer allows for some give on any pressure points (hips/ shoulders). The aim is for your spine to have the least amount of pressure on it, meaning centrally placed and without additional kinks and curves created by lumps and bumps in your mattress!
3. Pil-low or high?
Pillows can vary considerably and are also influenced by the type of mattress you have.
If your mattress is very firm, a soft pillow can feel very uncomfortable as the body is supported and yet, the neck and head are not. Likewise if your mattress is particularly soft, a resistant pillow will still only create a point of tension in the body where you're adjusting between the two varying surfaces.
When lying on your back in bed, your head should be supported enough that when looking straight ahead, you are looking at the ceiling. If you find you are looking at the wall behind you or down towards your feet, this will over time form unnecessary tension and stress through your neck and upper back.
When side lying in bed, a similar principle is in place. Your head should feel supported so the distance between your ear and shoulder is the same on both sides no matter which side you're lying on. Any head tilting, sinking down or being pushed up, can cause irritation in your neck. This support is required the entire time you're asleep, be careful to invest in something that continues to maintain this, some brands begin with the necessary support but then give through the night.
If you lie on your front..... good luck! Speaking as a front lying sleeper, it's near enough impossible to not but some strain on your neck if you lie on your front! Having said that if you can support and raise your torso, (another pillow!) this usually will take some pressure off of your neck. However, it's best to try not to be in this position for too long.
To finish please make sure you are comfortable and do actually sleep! As we are all aware it is very difficult to control what you are doing whilst sleeping, however getting enough sleep is far more beneficial than trying to get everything right but lie awake all night!