Putting the Blackroll Recovery Pillow under the microscope
It's difficult to sleep on a to-do list. I've sunk my head into the «Blackroll Recovery Pillow» for over two months and thought: «Damn it, I'm supposed to write a review for this!» Not exactly favourable conditions for switching off. But the pillow can't do anything about that. On the contrary, it did me good. Let's start at the beginning.
«As if the foam rollers weren't enough, they've made a pillow too» was my first thought when I got my hands on it. A Blackroll pillow. The brand came by its name because it took the fitness world by storm with its black rolls. In the German-speaking world at least, the term «Blackroll» has become synonymous with fascia rolls. But the company hasn't rested on its laurels, instead creating a small empire centring on fitness and regeneration. It's therefore only logical that they've branched out into sleep-related products.
From Blackroll to pillow in 20 seconds
The package includes a genuine Blackroll. The pillow comes rolled up in a super-light black travel bag, so it doesn't just live up to its name, it also fits perfectly in the bag. As soon as you release the fastening on the bag, the memory foam activates and the pillow expands to its full size within a few seconds. It's 5 cm wide, 30 cm long and 11 cm high. The grey cover with green edges can be opened and removed via a zip fastening. It can be washed at 40 degrees, but the foam core can't. I'd like to wash it, though, as the smell bothers me.
What's that smell?
The pillow doesn't smell chemical, rather...ethereal. It must be intentional, as high-tech memory foam doesn't have a strong smell. I soon found out the reason behind it.
«Around 30% natural oils are added when the foam is made, ensuring more sustainable, environmentally-friendly production compared to standard chemical methods.»
I'm not one of those people who's into aromatic oils. But when it helps the environment, I certainly won't turn my nose up at it. And the smell didn't affect my sleep. The Blackroll pillow is «made by Centa-Star», a Stuttgart-based bedding manufacturer. Their website informed me that the source of the odour is verenda oil, also known as castor oil. You might know it as a laxative.
Ricinus was also named as the 2018 «poisonous plant of the year» and the botanical name comes from the Latin, meaning «tick». Great! Have I been lying on a louse-ridden, poisonous, diarrhoea-inducing pillow? Of course not. It's only the seeds that are poisonous. The pillow fulfils STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX® product class I, making it completely harmless. By the way: Ricinus is also known as the «miracle tree» because it grows so quickly. That sounds a lot better.
One long side of the pillow is straight, whereas the three other sides are slightly concave. There's a recess in the centre and the reverse is even. This creates a number of options for placing the pillow under your head. If you lie on your back, your head will rest in the recess, supporting your cervical spine. If you sleep on your side, it fills the area between your neck, shoulders and head well. As a front sleeper, I expected the relatively high pillow to be somewhat uncomfortable, but I was pleasantly surprised. It's softer that I expected. The memory foam adapts well, so much so that I even find this position comfortable.
In use: how did it benefit me?
At first, I thought: «Well, I'll try it for a few weeks and then maybe use it as a travel pillow.» Now it's the only thing I sleep on. The small Recovery Pillow easily outperformed my large down pillows. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that I feel fundamentally good on it. The cover is pleasantly soft. It's comprised of 60% polyester and 40% viscose and is fast-drying after washing. The core adapts well and the pillow stays cool. I didn't sweat.
What's more, I thought long and hard about buying a side sleeper pillow. I thought I'd sleep well, but I've never found one that's comfortable enough for me to stay in that position. Either my arms go to sleep because I've put them under my pillow to support my head or I get neck pain. This got better with the Recovery Pillow. I can lie comfortably on my side, toss and turn less and wake less often.
Who is the pillow for?
A pillow is a kind of insole for a mattress that doesn't fit properly. Those aren't my words, but the well-publicised ones of sport sleep coach Nick Littlehales. He optimises the sleep habits of stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo and, for him, there's only one recommended sleep position: on your side. If you lie on your side and your spine creates a horizontal line, your head and mattress shouldn't be more than 6 cm apart. Your pillow has to fill this space. No more and no less. The Recovery Pillow does this job well for me. And as, according to Blackroll, almost 60% of people sleep on their sides, I assume that the needs of this majority were specifically addressed during product development.
Pillow on tour: yay or nay?
If you've found «your» pillow, it makes sense to take it with you when you travel. After all, it's likely that the mattress at your hotel won't be the perfect fit. While specialists including Littlehales create entire «Sleep Kits» and send them all over the world, if you at least have one personal thing with you, it can help to find a good sleeping position. I've thrown some hotel pillows off the bed in recent months and never begrudged the small additional effort. The approximately 800g Recovery Pillow is easy to unroll and roll up and the travel bag is breathable. Even if you roll it up shortly after waking, it still springs back the next time you unpack it with no stale smell. Mine still smells faintly of its natural oils.
Verdict: this is my kind of thing
Blackroll makes products with a sporty look, which are «made in Germany» and well marketed. The pillows come with a small «Sleep Manual» and there are further tips online. The entire package fits together. But I'm not really interested in the extras. I simply sleep better on the Recovery Pillow. It's pretty soft and compact, but it still supports your head well. That's enough for me. And the best part? My pillow isn't a memory foam reminder of my to-do list anymore, now it's just a pillow. What does that mean for you? It's tough to say. Everyone's different and there are lots of factors at play when we sleep. But the customer reviews show that I'm not alone as far as my positive experiences are concerned.