The Internet Debates: Is Sleeping on Stained Pillows Okay or Not?

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Socks or no socks to bed and top sheet or no top sheet are among some of the biggest sleep debates on the internet, but a new viral post just added another one to the conversation: stained pillow or no stained pillow? 

Cam Thomson posted a stock photo of what he calls, “The Yellow Pillow” on X, stating that his girlfriend is mad at him for showing her the pillow. The post has since received 4.6 million views, with the comment section discussing if using an old stained pillow is acceptable. (1)

“It’s not my fault the pillow is yellow and bestows upon me the most peaceful slumber,” Thomson responded to his post. (1)

Other comments echoed his sentiment, explaining they’ve had their yellow pillows since childhood and it’s been the only pillow they’ll sleep on

Some even regret getting rid of their yellow pillow saying, “My life has been on a downward spiral since I threw mine away when I was like 23” or “I got rid of my yellow pillows maybe a year ago and I legit haven’t rested comfortably since.” (1)

On the other side of the argument, other people were calling out the cleanliness factor of using these yellow pillows saying, “do you know you can machine wash pillows,” or “do none of you use pillow protectors?” (1)

An Expert’s Input

Is sleeping on a stained pillow okay or is it time to switch it out for something new? We talked to Stephanie Hewitt, certified sleep expert and founder and CEO of Rise & Rest Sleep Coaching to find out. 

She told Sleepopolis that you should aim to replace your pillows every one to two years. 

“After two years the average pillow accumulates nearly two million dust mites and dead skin cells,” Hewitt explained. “A pillow also begins to lose its shape which can affect neck and head positioning.” 

Does this mean the yellow stains you may see on your pillow are harmful? Not necessarily. 

Hewitt says that it’s definitely a sign it’s time to wash or replace your pillow, but the stains themselves aren’t necessarily harmful. 

“Pillows are a very intimate item and often harbor respiratory pathogens that can seep through the surface layer and into the filling,” she said. This is why it’s recommended to change out your pillow every one to two years. 

While sleeping on a yellow stained pillow may not sound pleasant, Hewitt explains that our brains can form a strong association between comfort and the worn-out pillow. 

She also points out that people can become mildly superstitious about what they sleep on in order to fall asleep

“Our bedding becomes part of our bedtime routine and it can be difficult to make adjustments,” Hewitt said. 

This is why it’s important to practice good sleep habits so when it’s time for a new pillow, your sleep transition can be easier. 

How to Prevent Pillow Yellowing

If you are someone who is sleeping on a yellow stained pillow, there are some things you can do to help revive your pillow or prevent it from yellowing. 

Hewitt told Sleepopolis her top four tips to preventing yellowing:  

  • Use pillow protectors
  • Add a pillowcase (breathable materials like cotton can create a needed barrier against sweat and body oils)
  • Wash your pillow at least every four to six months 
  • Rotate and flip your pillow regularly to expose all sides to the air

Ultimately the pillow you sleep on is your personal choice. While some may prefer a new crisp white pillow and others adore their yellow stained comfy pillow, it’s important to remember to balance comfort and hygiene

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  • Thomson, Cam. @largemotorcycle on X. X. October 21, 2024. 
  • Hewitt, Stephanie. Personal Interview. October 2024.

Julia Medina

Julia Medina

Julia is a Staff News Writer for Sleepopolis. From sleep news and education to the latest sleep trends, her goal is to keep you informed about what's going on in the world of sleep, dreams, mattresses, and more. Julia graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in communications and minors in film and sociology. In her free time she loves exploring new cities, relaxing with a good tv show, and getting some good quality sleep.

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