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You need to replace your bed pillows — a sleep doctor explains how often and why

They can get pretty gross over time (even if you wash them). Here's when you should change them and which ones to buy.

We can all agree that a good night's sleep is one of the best parts of life. The right pillow is an essential element to getting a truly restful slumber. The thing is, most people go to bed on the same pillows for years and years. According to experts, this could be harmful to your sleep hygiene and your overall health.

Quick overview
  • Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows Standard / Queen Size (Set of 2)

  • Amazon Basics Down Alternative Bed Pillow, Standard (Set of 2)

  • Sleep Restoration Bed Pillows for Sleeping, Queen Size (Set of 2)

  • Luxome Layr Adjustable Firmness & Loft Pillow

A survey by Ergoflex, a UK-based pillow and bedding company found that the average person uses the same pillow for three years and two months. The same study reports that out of 2,200 men and women, only 18% knew they should replace their pillows after a certain time. We reached out to a sleep health doctor to learn when the ideal time is to toss those old pillows for brand new ones and exactly which affordable pillows are worth the investment.

How often should we be changing our bed pillows?

Dr. Shelby Harris, Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis, said she recommends replacing your pillows once every one-to-two years. She tells Yahoo Life that this is due to "wear, loss of support and/or staining/hygiene concerns."

Though your pillowcase serves as a protective barrier between your face and the pillow, dust mites and harmful bacteria that you can't see still get into the pillow's fibers and surface, settling in there to stay. Harris said that regularly replacing your pillow is important "to stop the accumulation of dust mites, allergens and sweat from impacting the hygiene of your bed."

While replacing your pillow every couple of years is usually the rule of thumb, Harris does point out that there are a few exceptions, which are dependent on how your pillow looks and feels.

"If your pillow still feels good and looks clean, you might not need to replace it as often, as it does depend on the quality of the pillow and what you find comfortable," Harris said.

How often should you change your pillows?
Over time, your pillow can accumulate dust mites, allergens and sweat, even with a pillowcase on top. (Getty)

What are the best affordable pillow recommendations?

While there are tons of premium pillow options from brands like the Oprah-approved Cozy Earth and the viral favorite Brooklinen, Harris said there are a few affordable favorites on Amazon that she constantly recommends.

"Consider pillows from brands like Beckham Hotel Collection, Amazon Basics and Sleep Restoration," she said. "They're known for being both comfortable and budget-friendly."

If you're looking for a more premium pillow that's customizable with memory foam inserts and naturally cooling bamboo, sleep experts at Sleepopolis recommend the Luxome Layr Adjustable Pillow. As someone who doesn't play when it comes to my nighttime sleep, this has been my go-to bed pillow for the past two years. Every time I try to switch to another pillow, I never sleep as comfortably or feel as supported as when I use this one. It's well worth the investment.

With over 16,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, it's no surprise that these pillows are a clear shopper favorite. These pillows are cooling and have down alternative fills, making them super soft and less prone to flattening.

$60 at Amazon

It'll be hard to find a pair of pillows this comfortable at this price. Dr. Harris may be onto something when she recommends these affordable pillows — thousands of Amazon shoppers praise them for giving them a restful sleep. One five-star reviewer even said they're "better than expensive pillows."

$24 at Amazon

It's not easy finding hotel-quality bed pillows for under $100, but, according to several Amazon shoppers, these meet the mark. "For the price for a set, it is comparable to a set of hotel premiere pillows," one five-star reviewer on Amazon said.

$28 at Amazon

Available in three sizes (standard, queen and king), this pillow is one of the few high-end options I've tried that's actually worth the price. Dubbed "the world's first customizable pillow," it comes with inserts that allow you to adjust its firmness and loft to your exact preferences.

$140 at Amazon

What pillow type is best for most sleepers?

Shopping for the right pillow can be overwhelming. From down pillows and gel pillows, to latex pillows and even buckwheat pillows, there's so much to choose from. Dr. Harris advised, however, that memory foam pillows are what's usually recommended for an all-round comfortable night's sleep.

"Overall, memory foam pillows are considered top-tier for how they can contour to your head and neck for very personalized support," she tells Yahoo.

While memory foam is preferred for most sleepers, she advises that shoppers should take their own comfort in mind when shopping as what's best for one sleeper may not be what you, specifically, need.

"Still, what's best varies, so choose a pillow based on your own comfort preferences and support needs to get a great night's sleep," she said.

What are some practices for getting a good night's sleep?

When it comes to getting the best night's sleep, there are a few factors that come into play, and Dr. Harris shares her professional recommendations on what to do to ensure that you get the most restful sleep possible.

Once you've settled on the right pillow choice for you, Harris recommends "fluffing it regularly" to ensure that it remains a comfortable surface for resting your head and doesn't flatten too quickly.

If you're a fidgety sleeper who tends to move around a lot, even before you fall asleep, she adds, "Try to be mindful of switching up your sleeping positions to avoid stiffness."

Lastly, she shared that creating the right setting and following healthy bedtime practices can massively influence the kind of sleep you have. "Stick to a consistent bedtime routine for better sleep," she said. "Avoid screens at bedtime (blue light exposure) and make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool."

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.