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It's no secret that a comfortable, supportive pillow is an important ingredient in a good night's sleep. But what may come as a surprise is how often you're supposed to invest in a new one. According to the Sleep Foundation, you should replace your pillow every one to two years for optimal R&R.

Curious about the reasoning behind these guidelines? Us too — so we reached out to experts for some pillow talk. Here, we reveal what can go wrong if your pillow dates back to the Bush administration, plus signs it's time for a new pillow and tips to extend that two-year lifespan a little longer.

Your Sleep Could Suffer

A squashed-down pillow can cause tense, achy muscles.

Pillows lose their loft over time, especially if you don't wash them regularly, says Ann Romaker, MD, professor of medicine and director of the University of Cincinnati Medical Center Sleep Medicine Center. As they flatten, they offer less neck support, which can lead to neck, shoulder and upper back pain.

If you're uncomfortable, you might toss and turn at night instead of falling into a deep, restorative sleep.

Sleeping on a pancake can also hinder breathing. According to Dr. Romaker, 85 percent of people are born with a deviated nasal septum, where the membrane dividing the nasal cavity is off-center to some degree. This can cause congestion, particularly when lying down.

For most people with a deviated septum, elevating your head helps with nasal drainage, she says. If your travel pillow is quite flat, your nose might clog up more.

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