This is how often should you change your pillow, according to an expert

A woman with dark hair sleeps on a memory foam mattress dressed with white pillows and sheets
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We spend up to a third of our lives in bed so making sure you have the right mattress and pillows can make an enormous difference to your overall sleep quality. But how often should you change your pillow?  A decent pillow that suits your sleep position can be the difference between a restful night's sleep and waking up with aches and pains the following morning. 

Even the best mattresses crafted from premium materials don't last forever, and the same goes for your pillows. Having a decent pillow isn’t just about how comfortably you sleep, they can also have an impact on your physical health  - especially if you suffer from asthma or allergies. 

Pillows tend to need to be changed every one to two years, depending on materials. If you're unsure if your pillow needs to be changed, there are certain signs. A lumpy or bumpy texture, as well as any sagging or deflation are signs your pillow is past its best. Waking up with a sore neck or headache are also strong signs that your pillow should be replaced. 

How often you should change your pillow 

Like any other bedding, even the best pillows don't last a lifetime. Most pillows have a lifespan of a between one and two years, depending on materials, usage and how you care for it. "For a good night's sleep, your pillow should support your head and neck comfortably, so if you're waking up with a stiff neck or your pillow is too flat or lumpy, then it's time for a change," explain Emily and Jonathan Attwood, founders of bedding brand Scooms . "We recommend changing your pillow every 1 to 2 years.”

Replacing your pillows every two years will ensure that your head and neck are supported as well as keeping your sleep surface free of any allergens and dust mites that may have accumulated within the fibres. 

If you want to get the best out of your pillow, Emily and Jonathan also advise buying the best quality pillow you can afford. "As with all bedding, you should always opt for natural materials and choose options that have no plastics or toxins used anywhere in the manufacture or delivery. Not only is this better for the environment, it's also better for your health and sleep too.”

What happens if you don’t replace your pillow often enough?

Woman asleep on her side, hugging a pillow

(Image credit: Getty)

Not changing your pillows on a regular basis can have huge consequences on your health. The first thing that you may notice is neck and back pain. This is because old pillows lose their shape and support. That causes your neck to be misaligned during sleep, leaving you waking up with aches and pains. 

Poor sleep posture and muscle tension which arises from pillows that don’t offer enough support can also lead to morning headaches. An uncomfortable pillow can also make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep which will lead to you feeling groggy and unrested during the day. 

Your pillows can also accumulate a build-up of dead skin cells, sweat, body oils and salvia which causes bacteria to build up and will leave you with yellowing pillows from stains and bad odors, it can also lead to mold and mildew growing too. 

However, pillows can also be a haven for allergens and dust mites which can cause symptoms like sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes and respiratory issues often exacerbating conditions like asthma. And lets not forget our beauty sleep, old, dirty pillows can transfer oils and bacteria to your face which then may lead to acne breakouts and skin rashes. 

5 signs your pillow needs replacing

It’s not just time that’s a good indicator of when you should replace your pillows, there are other signs to look out for too. Here are 5 common signs you need to change your pillow for better sleep and health. 

1. They have lost their shape

Once your pillow loses its shape, it also loses its ability to provide proper support for your head and neck as you sleep. If you're unsure if your pillow has lost its support, there are two handy hacks to tell. 

If you have a pillow that is stuffed with microfibre or is made with memory foam, fold it in half and see whether it springs back to its original shape. If it doesn’t or it takes a while to regain it’s original form then that’s a sign that your filling has lost its shape. If your pillows are made from feathers or down then use the saddlebag hack, to do this place your pillow over your outstretched arm, if it drapes over like a saddlebag then it’s no longer going to be providing you with adequate support. 

2. You're waking with neck pain

The older your pillow is, the less supportive it becomes. This means it gradually loses its ability to keep your neck and head cradled in the right position. This places your neck in a position of prolonged stress, which can lead to neck pain, back pain, headaches and disturbed slumber. 

3. Your allergies are worse

A woman with long dark hair blows her nose in bed because she is sick

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re waking in the morning feeling stuffy, have itchy eyes and are sneezing or coughing then your pillow could be harboring allergens that trigger symptoms. Dust mites are also another reason why your symptoms may be worsening. Dust mites thrive in warm, humid environments (like pillows) and feed on the dead skin cells that we shed and their feces and body fragments which they leave behind are what cause allergies and reactions. You can read more about how to get rid of dust mites in your pillows and mattresses in our guide.

2. Your pillows are starting to smell

If your pillow smells, then it’s time to get rid. Odors can occur from the build-up of sweat, drool, dead skin cells and dust mites. This is common for pillows that are well past their best. However, spring cleaning your pillows and bed sheets can help prologue the life of your pillows. Smells can also arise if you go to bed with damp hair or you get particularly hot and sweaty at night. This is because that moisture can become trapped within the fibers, which then leads to mold and mildew growth, which gives off a musty smell. 

5. Your pillow feels lumpy

Sometimes you can tell its time to replace your pillow purely by felling it. If your pillow is lumpy or uneven then its a clear indication that the filling has broken down. Breakdown of filling means your pillow won’t be supportive and will start to cause you pain in your neck and pain. 

3 pillows to shop in the extended 4th of July mattress sales — still live

Some of the best pillows are still on sale thanks to many bed brands extending their 4th of July mattress sales. But these deals won’t hang around long so if you want to save big on a new pair of pillows then here are the 3 best pillows to shop in the 4th of July mattress sales. 

from $75

Coop Home Goods The Original Adjustable Pillow: from $75 now $60 at Coop Home Goods
If you want to create a custom pillow on a fairly tight budget, The Original Adjustable pillow from Coop Home Goods is the perfect solution. It comes in two sizes, queen and king, and is packed full of memory foam and microfiber which you can add or remove to your own personal preference. This makes this pillow ideal for all sleeping styles,  and it’s good news for hot sleepers as the removable cover is made from a naturally cooling material called Lulltra. Sale prices vary with Coop Home Goods which is what makes this current 20% discount am excellent buy. You can get a queen pillow for $60 (was $75) and you also get free shipping and a 5 year warranty included. 

from $139

Casper Foam Pillow with Snow Technology: from $139 now $125.10 at Casper
This pillow comes in two sizes, standard and king. It’s firm so it’s ideal for back sleepers who need that extra bit of support around their neck area. It’s been designed with hot sleepers in mind as it is made up of three layers of foam with tiny channels that circulate air, helping to dissipate heat and keep you cool throughout the night. The pillow also incorporates Casper's proprietary Snow Technology, which includes HeatDelete Bands and a phase-change material that absorbs and stores excess heat. There is currently 10% off this Casper pillow, bringing the cost of a standard pillow down to $125.10 and you get free shipping. 

Avocado Green Pillow: from $109

Avocado Green Pillow: from $109 now $98 at Avocado Green
The Avocado Green pillow is organic and customisable,  allowing you to adjust your pillow’s firmness by using the extra fill. You can even pick between the traditional rectangular version or the ergonomically curved side-sleeper design. This pillow is made from a breathable blend of organic kapok fiber and shredded organic latex encased in an organic cotton cover. Avocado are fairly sporadic but right now you can get 10% off this pillow, bringing the cost of a standard down to $98 from $109. You also get a 100-night sleep trial, free shipping and a 1 year warranty. 

Rachael Penn

Rachael is a freelance journalist based in South Wales who writes about lifestyle, travel, home and technology. She also reviews a variety of products for various publications including Tom’s Guide, CreativeBloq, IdealHome and Woman&Home. When she’s not writing and reviewing products she can be found walking her Sealyham and West Highland terrier dogs or catching up on some cringe-worthy reality tv.