Dr Chew Heng Hai
A General Practitioner to say the least. He has just gone beyond treating patients in an everyday life to becoming a medical device inventor and researcher to increase the well-being of patients. To date, he has five patented medical devices and is the winner of multiple local and international invention awards including the Malaysian Champion and world top five in Clean Tech Open 2010. Dr Chew is also a regular speaker at international conferences, universities and medical colleges around the world.
“Sleep is one of the most important factors determining our general health. Lack of quality sleep over a prolong duration will contribute to various health problems.”
There are multiple factors influencing quality of sleep. These include work stress, coffee intake, medication, pillow, mattress and bed.
Among all these, pillow probably is the most important factor among all. It is associated with a wide range of medical problems including headache, neck pain, snoring and asthma.
Conventional pillow is made from cotton or cotton-like synthetic material. These pillows have maximum height at the center, so while in use it supports the head most and cause forward flexion of the neck and airway narrowing that contribute to snoring. Compare to a scenario in medical practices: a patient’s neck is maintained in an extended position that supports the back of the neck to achieve maximum airway opening common for patient in coma or under general anesthesia.
Depending on severity of airway narrowing during sleep, a person may suffer from snoring or even obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring is sound produced when breathing air forced through narrow airway. Sleep apnea refers to situation when breathing temporarily pauses during sleep.
Both of these situation restrict airflow and result in decrease oxygen supply to the affected person. As oxygen is an essential component to staying healthy, compromised oxygen supply would contribute to various medical problems ranging from hormone disturbance, depression, high blood pressure, stroke and sudden death in sleep. The problem happens more among obese people and incidences increase as age progress.
In side-sleeping positions when pillow support is too low or too high, there will be nonalignment of the spine which can cause pain for the shoulder, head and neck.
With improper selection of a pillow, a person can have negative health impact as early as the following day. If a person do not have a quality sleep, his or her blood pressure would be relatively higher than the days of a quality sleep. And if the problem is uncorrected, high blood pressure is a common problem that can gradually lead to more serious health risk in the future.
So an ideal pillow should be contoured and firm to provide the support needed. In back-sleeping position, the neck should be supported more than the head for optimum airway opening. In side position the support should be firm and high enough to maintain healthy alignment of the spine. At the same time it should be made from material soft enough for a comfortable sleep.
Latex foam meet the criteria as it can be molded to a desirable shape. Rubber latex possesses a natural anti-fungus and antibacterial properties. With the latest technology, the protein content a potential allergen-is removed makes the pillow hypoallergenic.
In short, a proper pillow selection plays an important role in our health. It deserves due attention in prevention and management of chronic health issues.