We spend around a third of our lives sleeping, and healthy pillows and mattresses are important for healthy sleep. Different people prefer different things, but in most cases, a good quality pillow and mattress can help you sleep better by keeping your body in a neutral and aligned position that can help you relax more and reduce discomfort.
But finding the right pillow and mattress isn’t always straightforward. Too soft or too firm a pillow and you can end up with neck and shoulder pain; a soft mattress can also cause discomfort and a hard one may not contour your body’s shape, providing less support. Both are important, but here, we’ll look at a particular type of pillow
Pillows from seeds
Pillows and mattresses can be made from different materials. For pillows, feathers are not as common as they used to be, and synthetic fibers have become the norm. But there’s a large variety of synthetic fibers; memory foam has become quite common, and latex pillows are also a thing, as are gel pillows.
But increasingly, one other alternative is popping up: buckwheat pillows.
As the name implies, buckwheat pillows are a type of bedding accessory that is filled with whole, raw buckwheat hulls. They are often used as an alternative to traditional pillows filled with materials like foam or feathers. Buckwheat pillows can be molded and shape to fit the contour of your head, neck, and body, reducing pressure points while supporting the alignment of the neck and spine — at least that’s what people who like them say.
But what does the science say?
There aren’t all that many studies focusing on buckwheat pillows, but one such study from 2021 found that the material wasn’t contaminated with fungi or bacteria, and at the same time, it provided a great deal of comfort for people with health problems
“People testing mattresses, who have problems with neck pain and the area around the cross, have found that they are extremely comfortable, and after a certain time of use the pain of the neck and the area around the cross have significantly decreased,” the authors note.
But another study from 2014 found that in general, we don’t have the tools to objectively evaluate pillows.
“Future studies need to focus on the ideal range of these parameters to achieve optimal pillow comfort, and a reasonable algorithm must be developed to weigh multiple determinants. It is expected that in the future, smart pillows with automatic height adjustment will improve sleep health better than traditional pillows with fixed heights, and will have a huge potential market,” the researchers note.
Other small studies have found some benefits to buckwheat pillows, but also potential risks of allergy. There are few if any large-scale studies that look at all the benefits of this type of pillow and compare benefits in the long term. To make matters even worse, studies generally focus on sleeping pillows, but there’s a world of variety in between a sleeping pillow and, for instance, a yoga pillow or a cervical neck roll pillow.
Ultimately, there’s no definitive scientific answer to this one; while some things are definitely better than others (like consistent support, for instance), you’re best off testing different things and seeing what really works for you.
Overall, buckwheat pillows are starting to become a popular option for people looking for a natural and supportive bedding accessory. They may be especially helpful for people with chronic neck or back pain, or for those who prefer a firmer sleeping surface — but we just don’t have enough information to come up with a definitive conclusion.
In general, the most important thing is to choose a pillow (and mattress) that are comfortable. This means something that offers support for you and is a good balance between softness and hardness. Sure, some people may prefer a firmer sleeping surface, while others may prefer a softer one, but unless you know what you’re doing, it’s usually better to opt for a middle group. It is also a good idea to try out a few different options to find the one that is right for you.
Another consideration is to try and not to skimp too much on things you buy for sleeping. After all, you spend a third of your life in bed; why not make the most of it?