Generally, synthetic pillows will last between 6 months and 2 years. Contrast this with the 10+ year life of a high quality down pillow!
Symptomatic people may need to replace their synthetic pillows after ONE YEAR. It's kind of like replacing running shoes. Serious runners and runners with foot problems, often rotate their shoes every three months or so. The shoe could still be adequate for recreational use for many years, but has broken in too much to provide maximum support for high mileage or for supporting a foot problem. So it goes with neck pillows. Some people are comfortable using their synthetic pillows for many, many years without replacement. Others, usually those with more serious symptoms, can become uncomfortable after 6 months.
To determine if you need a new pillow, try these simple tests:
For down and feather pillows, fold your pillow in half (or for larger pillows, into thirds) on a hard, flat surface and smoosh out the air. If the pillow stays folded when you release it, you need a new pillow. It should spring back to its original shape and fluffiness. Make sure you test the pillow after it's well-aired out from your night's sleep. If it's damp it won't fluff out. Down and feather pillows, if well cared for, last for many, many years.
For synthetic fiber pillows (e.g., Qualofil, Polyfil, etc.), put your pillow on a hard, flat surface and fold it in half (or thirds, for larger pillows) to smoosh out the air. Put a heavy shoe on it. The pillow should toss the shoe and bounce back to its original shape. If it doesn't, you need a new pillow. Fiber fillows can last from 6 months to several years.
For foam, latex, and molded orthopedic pillows, it's a bit more difficult to tell when you need a new pillow. These pillows need to be replaced when they lose their resistance to deformation (they bottom out too easily) and when they no longer return to their original shape after deformation (after you press on them with your hand, they don't return to their original shape within two minutes for memory foams, and right away for conventional foams.) Foam pillows last from 6 months to two years.
Exposure to moisture, heat, or weight hastens the breakdown of any pillow. Neck pillows should not be used as seat cushions or back supports.
What other clues indicate I need a new pillow?
- Your pillow no longer looks or feels the way it did when you bought it.
- Your pillow is stained or visibly dirty.
- Your pillow is lumpy or out-of-shape.
- Your pillow has become uncomfortable.
- Your back, neck, knees or ankles are really sore after a night's sleep.