The world of wellness products is vast and confusing. In our new series, Well Spent, Outside staffers recommend the hidden gems that they’re unabashedly obsessed with.
Whenever I make a purchase, a trail of spreadsheets, notes, and bookmarks usually leads to that moment. Last summer the object of my fixation was pillows. I had upgraded my mattress the year before because of nagging neck pain, ditching my $80 hard-as-brick mattress in a box for a “proper” $400 model. This provided some relief, but I was still waking up with unexplainable stiffness. After a bit of Googling, I learned that the lingering aches could also be caused by my pillow.
For months I waded through reviews from Sleepopolis and Wirecutter, saving dozens of options to online shopping carts. I even asked my mom about my childhood pillows after deducing that the pain didn’t start until after I moved out. (They were some variety of Macy’s down alternative.) But the decision fatigue was paralyzing—as was the idea of dropping a hundred bucks on an item I wasn’t convinced about.
Then a friend suggested I visit a local store in Santa Fe called Sachi Organics, a family-run company that specializes in mattresses, bedding, and pillows created with natural fibers, which they also sell online. I walked in the next day, and after telling the woman at the counter what I was looking for, I laid down on a “rejuvenation” pillow she prescribed. It featured two fillings—a layer of soft, comfortable wool on top of beanbag-like buckwheat hulls—encased in smooth sateen made from organic cotton. After about six minutes of being cradled in the pillow’s slight sink, I threw down $90 to take it home, sold on its instant proof of comfort and solid neck support.
In the ten months since, my daily neck pain has completely dissipated. The buckwheat hulls provide better ventilation than other materials, meaning no head sweats—even in the dead of summer. The company recommends removing some of the hulls to get the loft that’s perfect for you (and to save those you don’t use at first to give your pillow some new life down the line). It took me some time to get used to fluffing my pillow, but once I found the perfect distribution of hulls, it felt like the pillow was custom-fitted to my head and spine. (Of course, while this pillow helped ease my discomfort, it’s certainly not a cure-all for more serious afflictions—see your doctor if you have chronic neck pain.)
At the end of my quest for the best pillow, it turned out my pile of research amounted to nothing more than too many options. While that probably won’t change my ways, it was a reminder that sometimes a personal recommendation trumps weeks of online research.