Whether you’re navigating post-injury neck pain, a scrolling-induced achy hunch, or something in between, supporting your neck while you sleep can make a huge difference in your quality of rest, not to mention how much neck pain you feel when you’re awake.
What makes a pillow good?
A good pillow is essential in providing comfort and relieving neck pain. To make sure you get the best sleep possible, here are some important characteristics to look for when choosing a pillow:
Support: The primary function of a pillow is to support your head, neck, and spine while you’re sleeping. Look for one made of high-density memory foam, which will provide maximum support for the head and neck.
Firmness: Choose a firm yet comfortable pillow that can properly align your body throughout the night. Supportive pillows, which the experts agree are the best option for people with neck pain, tend to be on the firmer end of the pillow spectrum. Those with neck or back pain will find that both medium-firm mattresses and pillows provide the best support at night. Medium-firm pillows cradle your head and help your body stay in a neutral position and alignment while you sleep. However, the right pillow firmness for you will depend on how heavy your head is, how high the pillow is, what position you tend to sleep in, and the firmness of your mattress. If you’re unsure how firm your pillow should be, try out different types until you find one that feels just right.
Fill: The type of fill your pillow has will also affect the firmness level. Memory foam, latex, and wool create a firmer sleeping surface, while down, feather-fill, polyfill, kapok, and cotton materials are softer and plushier.
Loft: The loft or height of your pillow is a critical factor. The neck shouldn’t be elevated higher than the rest of your spine, so people managing neck pain should avoid overly lofty pillows (typically higher than five inches) to ensure that their head isn’t forced into a painful angle. Remember: the ideal loft for neck pain is one that aligns your neck with your spine. Moreover, you want your pillow to keep its shape all night long. Look for one with a higher loft, as this will ensure it keeps its structure even after years of use. Avoid pillows with shorter fibers as they tend to flatten over time and may not be able to offer proper support for your head and neck.
Contour: Pillows with contoured edges are great for people who suffer from neck pain as they help keep the head and neck properly aligned throughout the night by providing extra cushioning around the pressure points on the back of the neck and shoulders.
Temperature Regulation: Memory foam pillows are great at regulating temperature since they contour around your body’s natural curves while keeping air circulating beneath them, so they don’t become too hot or too cold during use.
Shape: Neck pillows come in various shapes and sizes, ranging from standard rectangular forms to more specialized options that are designed to address neck pain in one way or another. Cervical pillows feature bolsters —or cylinder-shaped portions of the pillow — that nestle into the natural backward-C-shaped cervical curve of your neck to add support. Orthopedic pillows have a more detailed shape with several contours and cavities to support your cervical curve and align your spine with your neck and head. Orthopedic and cervical pillows can help you tackle specific pain points and alignment concerns, while standard pillow shapes can offer you more head support while you sleep.
Sleeping position: Does it matter?
The type of pillow you choose for your sleeping needs should also depend heavily on the position in which you sleep. Here are some tips to help you determine which pillow is best for your sleeping position:
• Back Sleepers: You ideally should use a thin, low-loft pillow that will evenly support your neck and head while keeping them aligned with the rest of your body. Choose a contoured or memory foam pillow if you need more cushioning.
• Side Sleepers: If you sleep on your side, look for a firm but comfortable pillow that provides even support throughout the night. A thicker, higher-lofted pillow will keep your neck and spine in line without causing any unnecessary strain.
• Stomach Sleepers: Sleeping on your stomach can put extra pressure on your neck and spine, so using the thinnest and lowest loft possible is recommended. This will provide enough support to avoid pain or discomfort at night.
No matter what position you sleep in, make sure to take into account any underlying medical conditions when choosing the right kind of pillow for you. Consulting with a doctor or physical therapist can help determine what type of pillow would be best for providing relief from any chronic neck pain or other health issues.
The Best Pillow for Neck Pain
When choosing the best pillow for neck pain, it can be hard to know where to begin. It’s not that there aren’t many options out there—instead, there are so many pillows for neck pain available that all make different claims that it can feel overwhelming.
There are so many options in this category (and no perfect one-size-fits-all pillow), so we pulled together a comprehensive list. Ahead, find the best pillows for neck pain, each of which provides just the right amount of support to ease your pain and transform your nights.
Best Pillow For Neck Pain Overall: Tempur-Pedic Tempur Medium Neck Pillow
Tempur-Pedic is a huge name in the sleep world, and with good reason: The company has been making memory foam products for years. This ergonomic pillow has a wavy shape to follow the natural curve of your head and neck. The pillow’s Tempur material never loses shape and is designed to help relieve pressure and support you while you sleep. Choose from three sizes—small, medium, and large—to find the right pillow for you and your neck.
Best Affordable Pillow For Neck Pain: Epabo Contour Memory Foam Pillow
If you have chronic pain, you’ll want to look for a pillow that thoroughly contours your neck area—much like this Epabo option. Here, a strategic, ergonomic design supports and cradles the head, neck, and shoulders with breathable memory foam. That foam also keeps its shape and feels cool to the touch, allowing you to sleep sweat-free. Just be aware that it can take about two weeks for the pillow to really conform to your body and neck shape before it starts feeling comfortable. Once it’s a good fit, you’ll notice a big difference.
Best Orthopedic Pillow for Neck Pain: Uttu Sandwich Pillow
The gentle wave of the Uttu Sandwich Pillow helps support your neck while you sleep. Unlike some other memory foam pillows, the Uttu has adjustable heights. It was originally filled with a high contour of 4.7 inches and 3.9 inches of low contour. If you remove the middle layer, you’ll get 3.5 inches on the high contour and 2.8 inches on the low contour. This pillow also has a cover made of 40% bamboo viscose for a cooling feel to keep you from overheating at night. It also works for side, back, and stomach sleepers.
Best Memory Foam Pillow For Neck Pain: Tempur-Pedic Ergo Neck Pillow Firm Support
Many people prefer pillows made with memory foam because they are hypoallergenic and support individuals suffering from neck and upper back pain or degenerative conditions. Contoured for ergonomic support, this Tempur-Pedic neck pillow has a firm memory foam interior that conforms to the natural curvature of your head, neck, and shoulders.
This Temper-Pedic Neck Pillow features two different-sized bolsters designed to nestle under your neck to provide varying levels of support. The major difference here is this pillow has a slight slope in the middle for your head to rest on instead of a deeper cutout. For side sleepers, in particular, this may be a more comfortable option. Depending on your body type and overall preference, you can choose from three pillow profile sizes — small, medium, and large — with the large having the highest loft at 4.75 inches and the small having the lowest at three inches.
Best Neck Pain Pillow For Side Sleepers: Eli & Elm Side Sleeper Pillow
The Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow has an unconventional shape with a recessed middle for the shoulder, designed to fit your body while side-sleeping. This accommodates your shoulders and provides the needed support to reduce neck pain.
Best Neck Pain Pillow For Stomach Sleepers: Downlite Flat & Soft Down Pillow
If you’re a stomach sleeper and familiar with waking up with neck pain, your pillow might be at fault. A pillow that is too high is one of the worst things about your sleep. These can push your neck upward and out of a neutral alignment and potentially cause that morning discomfort. Instead, stomach sleepers will want to look for a slim pillow made specifically for the position, like this one by Downlite. The company fills the pillow with down feathers that are Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certified. They’re enveloped in a smooth cotton cover for a responsive and plush feel, but the pillow lies nearly flat against your mattress, decreasing your odds of waking up with a crick in your neck from sleeping prone.
Finding the right pillow can greatly impact your sleep experience, so make sure you research before making a purchase! With these tips on choosing an appropriate pillow, you can rest assured that you’ll get a quality product that offers maximum comfort and relief from any type of neck pain or discomfort caused by poor posture during sleep.