If you struggle with sleep, you’re not alone—especially if it’s neck pain blighting those coveted Z’s. Research shows that about two-thirds of people experience neck pain at some point in their lives. Whether you suffer from chronic neck pain or the occasional stiff neck after a poor night’s sleep, a pillow that supports your neck’s natural curvature is essential.
You can expect to pay up to a couple hundred dollars for a quality pillow, so carefully evaluate your sleeping habits when investing the best pillow for neck pain. Keep reading for the lowdown on weighing options and the recommended pillows.
- BEST OVERALL: Classic Brands Conforma Ventilated Memory Foam Pillow
- RUNNER-UP: Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow
- BEST FOR BACK SLEEPERS: Dream Memory Foam Cervical Pillow
- BEST FOR SIDE SLEEPERS: Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Breeze ProHi Pillow
- BEST STOMACH SLEEPERS: Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow
- BEST MEMORY FOAM: EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow
- BEST WATER PILLOW: Mediflow Water Pillow, Memory Foam
- BEST COOLING: Milemont Ventilated Gel Memory Foam Pillow
- BEST ADJUSTABLE: Coop Home Goods Eden Adjustable Loft Pillow
- BEST FOR TRAVEL: Tempur-Pedic All-Purpose Pillow
Popular Types of Pillows for Neck Pain
When it comes to choosing the best type of pillow for neck pain, its important to understand pillow types as this can point you in the right direction. Pillows on the market for easing neck pain are designed according to sleep habits and comfort preferences. People who sleep on their stomachs have different head elevation needs than those who sleep on their backs. Plus, hot-natured sleepers need breathable, cooling materials. Here are some basics to understanding the distinction between pillow types.
The cervical region of your spine is composed of your neck area. Sleeping with a cervical pillow helps support this upper portion of the spine by keeping your head and neck positioned properly and relaxed. Cervical pillows can provide relief from neck, back, and hip pain, and in many cases, can even aid in reducing snoring.
Cervical pillows are available in different designs, and matching the right design to your sleeping habits can make all the difference. Pillows with cervical roll inserts support spinal alignment for back-sleepers, while side pillows have curved edges that cradle the head of side-sleepers. If you often switch from back- to side-sleeping throughout the night, there are designs for that too.
Feather pillows have been around, well, forever. Feather pillows are not only popular because they’re reminiscent of that weekend stay at a luxury hotel, but also because they sleep cool and are extra soft and moldable. Feather pillows are filled with either feathers or down, and because feathers are natural allergens for many people, synthetic alternatives are available.
Feather pillows conform to your head and neck, but they lose their shape more quickly than other materials. While a drawback to some, this makes the feather pillow an ideal choice for someone who is looking for soft support or is a stomach sleeper.
Memory Foam Pillow
Memory foam pillows are popular for their firmness and ability to maintain their shape.
Both the flat and contoured foam options work by compressing around the shape of your head and neck to maintain alignment, which, in turn, offers pain relief.
And if you prefer memory foam, there are many options including shredded, solid, layered, or contoured. A drawback to memory-foam pillows is that they can sleep warm by retaining heat from your head. If heat is an issue for you, look for a foam designed with cooling technologies or that comes encased in a breathable cover.
Water pillows have gained popularity in recent years as a customizable sleep aid to remedy neck pain. The main feature of water pillows is that you can adjust the pillow’s firmness by adding or removing water. A water pillow’s fillable, central water reservoir is encased by an additional material, such as memory foam.
Water pillows aid spinal alignment as the water is distributed under pressure from your head, contouring to your neck. However, water pillows seem to come with their share of headaches: Without proper encasing, the water can feel hard and make noise with movement. Leaking and mildewing can present problems, too.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Pillow for Neck Pain
There are many factors that affect sleep––caffeine intake, stress, sleep apnea, bedding, mattress, pillows, and room temperature all play a critical role in supporting longer and quality sleep. Here we take an in-depth look at pillow features designed for relieving pain and improving sleep quality, plus what to look for when buying the best pillow for your neck pain.
Keeping your neck in neutral alignment can help reduce pain and improve sleep quality. Sleep deprivation is responsible for an increased risk of mental and emotional health issues.
It’s important to note that it can take up to two weeks to adjust to a new pillow. If you experience discomfort, it’s recommended to alternate sleep between your new and old pillows during the transition. When shopping for the best pillow for neck pain, you’ll want to evaluate your sleeping position and preferences regarding pillow shape, height, and temperature regulation––a pillow’s material, allergen specifications, and laundering options should also be considered.
A pillow designed with cervical support should maintain a position that promotes natural spinal alignment. Choose a pillow that is firm enough to fill the space between your head and neck. The amount of cervical support that’s right for you depends largely on your size and weight, but your sleep position also plays a role. A 300-pound back-sleeper needs firmer cervical support than a 120-pound side-sleeper. The practice of properly supporting your cervical spine region during sleep can help reduce neck pain, along with headaches, muscle tension, and lower back pain.
Choosing a pillow that supports proper spine alignment during sleep is critical in reducing neck pain. Spine alignment also influences the quality of sleep you get each night. Alignment is important because when your spine rests in its neutral position while you sleep, all associated muscle and ligament groups rest as well, rejuvenating your entire body.
Sleeping warm often causes restlessness and can be a major deterrent to deep, quality sleep. Cooling pillows offer relief if you struggle to sleep during the summer months or if you’re simply a hot-natured sleeper. There are a variety of pillow materials available to help keep you cool: feathers, organic wool, memory foam, and gel.
Memory foam pillows cool by allowing air movement through ventilation holes and channels. Gel materials are great at repelling heat.
Pillows come in different measurements: standard, queen, and king. Pillowcases are sized accordingly. So how do you decide which size you need? You can start by matching your pillow to your mattress size, although two standard pillows tend to work perfectly fine on either full- or queen-size beds.
But beware, the larger the pillow, the larger the price tag. Your height should also come into play when choosing a pillow size. If you’re taller than average, a standard-size pillow probably won’t provide the support you need. Most pillow manufacturers provide specific height and weight specifications to help you make the perfect choice.
Many pillows on the market today are designed to offer ergonomic qualities for the three basic sleeping positions: back, side, and stomach. Back-sleeping is the healthiest position because it distributes your body’s weight evenly, avoiding strain on your neck and spine.
Back-sleepers should make sure their pillow isn’t too high, which could add unnecessary strain. A neck roll placed under the neck can keep the cervical region in alignment without lifting the head higher than necessary. It’s also recommended that back-sleepers use lumbar support behind their knees while sleeping.
Side-sleepers also need support beneath the neck to maintain alignment, and placing a pillow between the knees prevents the spine from twisting by keeping it aligned with the pelvic region. Stomach-sleepers are in the most danger because stomach-sleeping hyperextends the spine. A thin pillow, or no pillow, is recommended to minimize the hyperextension.
When caring for your pillow, it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on the label. Some pillows are entirely machine washer-friendly (like most feather pillows), other types only recommend washing the pillow cover, and some can only be safely spot-cleaned.
Even if your pillow comes with a cover, you should use a pillowcase and launder your pillowcase weekly to prevent dirt and oil from seeping through. If you faithfully change your pillowcases, it’s only necessary to wash your pillows two to three times per year. However, if your pillow develops an odor, mold, or staining, you’ll want to consider replacing it. If you are a heavy sweater, an allergy sufferer, or share your pillow with a pet, you might want to consider an additional cover to protect your pillow from damage.
Our Top Picks
One of the neck pain-reducing pillows in these categories might help be just what you’re looking for to achieve a pain-free, good night’s rest.
The Classic Brands Cornforma Ventilated Memory Foam Pillow is an economical solution that offers excellent pressure relief and supportive comfort for your head, neck, and shoulders by molding to your shape. The pillow is suitable for side- and back-sleepers. The open structure of this pillow’s memory foam promotes ventilation to help regulate body temperature during sleep and the material is naturally hypoallergenic.
This Classic Brands foam pillow provides lots of features in support of a cool, pain-free night. The pillow comes with a plush velour knit cover that is removable and machine washable, and it’s available in both queen and king sizes.
The Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow is designed with a concave center to cradle the head and a cervical roll to support head and neck alignment. One side supports back-sleepers better, and the other side accommodates side-sleepers.
The pillow doesn’t come with bells and whistles like a climate-control material or a cover, but if you’re serious about finding a firm solution to reducing headaches and neck pain, this pillow provides alot of support. The virgin polyester fiberfill is hypoallergenic and the pillow has a breathable cotton cover. It’s available in full- and mid-size; the full-size fits a standard-size pillowcase.
The Dream Memory Foam Cervical Pillow is an orthopedic pillow with an ergonomic design that offers comfortable neck support while reducing neck and shoulder pain. This pillow is designed with a soft foam material, making it a nice option for back-sleepers who like the comfort and cooling properties of memory foam.
The Dream Pillow’s unique butterfly design supports cervical alignment and reduces neck pain by alleviating pressure on the head and shoulders, which can lessen the dreaded tossing and turning (and in some cases, snoring).
The pillow also comes with a removable 2cm pad to adjust the height according to your sleeping habits, which makes it suitable for side-, back-, and stomach-sleepers. This pillow only comes in standard-size, but it’s hypoallergenic and comes with a machine-washable cover.
Although designed for all sleeping positions, the Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Breeze ProHi Pillow is a good choice for side-sleepers because the pillow’s height keeps the head and neck in alignment with the spine. The Tempur material won’t lose its shape as it adapts to a sleeper’s weight, shape, and body temperature. And the pillow’s dual-sided cooling gel layers help keep sleepers cool.
The ProHi is an optimal choice for side-sleepers because of its height, but the pillow is also available in a low version so buyers can choose the right fit for their frame. It also comes in both queen and king sizes. The company’s specially designed removable cover is machine-washable and cool to the touch.
The Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow is a flat, thin pillow designed with stomach-sleepers in mind. It supports neutral positioning of the cervical region by reducing head and neck rotation. At only 2.5 inches high, the pillow keeps your spine more aligned and the pillow’s polyurethane foam contours to your body’s shape for comfort and reduced snoring, even for many back-sleepers.
The foam’s gel particle technology absorbs heat to regulate temperature and keep you cool all night long. And the pillow’s machine-washable bamboo-polyester cover has odor-resistant and antibacterial features. The pillow comes in a mini and standard size.
The ergonomic EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow has the cervical support to help side-, back-, and stomach-sleepers looking for pain relief. The therapeutic design aligns your head, neck, shoulders, and back with firm support, a nice variety for sleepers who toss from back to side throughout the night.
The breathable memory foam provides circulation to keep you cool. The pillow’s machine-washable, hypoallergenic cover is composed of a breathable bamboo fiber to keep you cool. The pillow comes in standard and queen sizes.
The Mediflow Water Pillow’s Memory Foam with water-based technology works by conforming to the shape of your head and neck. By adding or removing water, you can adjust the pillow for soft, medium, or firm support. The water also adjusts to head movement, so the support adapts when you change positions. The pillow is made with a fully sealed and insulated water pouch, surrounded by memory foam and encased in a hypoallergenic cotton shell.
The foam shell is composed of ventilated memory foam to keep you cool. The pillow comes in standard and queen sizes.
The Milemont Gel Memory Foam Pillow is an affordable option for someone looking to reduce neck pain and stay cool while sleeping. The pillow’s firmness supports the head, neck, and spine and provides enough cushion for the head while keeping the body in a horizontal position.
The pillow’s gel-infused memory foam regulates temperature and ensures breathability. The pillow comes with a double-sided, machine-washable pillowcase––one side containing ice fabric technology for cooling during warm nights and the other side made from polyester to increase warmth, providing comfort in every season. The pillow comes in standard, queen, and king sizes.
The Coop Home Goods Eden Adjustable Pillow is a softer version of the company’s original Premium pillow, infused with a soft, gel-infused memory foam and microfiber fill blend. Every pillow comes with a half-pound bag of fill material so you can accommodate your size and sleep position by adding or removing filling. The height customization makes it ideal for all sleep positions.
The Eden Adjustable is hypoallergenic and dust mite–resistant, and comes with a case made from a bamboo blend. It’s available in standard, queen, and king sizes.
The Tempur-Pedic All-Purpose Pillow can address the varying comfort needs of busy travelers. Whether sleeping on a plane or riding in a car, the pillow is versatile enough to support your cervical region, provide lumbar support for your lower back, or even work as a leg spacer for side-sleepers.
Made from the renowned Tempur material, this travel pillow offers firm support to accommodate your sleep needs in various settings and is small enough to stash in your carry-on. The pillow comes with a removable, washable cover.
FAQs About Your New Pillow for Neck Pain
Here are some common questions that you’ll want to be answered before beginning your neck pain-relieving pillow shopping.
Q. How should I sleep to avoid neck pain?
The ideal sleep position for avoiding neck pain is on your back. Sleeping on your back supports the natural curvature of your spine, relieving pressure from your neck and allowing your muscles to relax.
Q. Is a firm pillow better for neck pain?
Firmer isn’t always better. If you’re a stomach-sleeper, a firm pillow might increase your neck pain. Determine the level of firmness that’s right for you according to your height, weight, and favored sleeping positions.
Q. How many pillows should you sleep with for neck pain?
One pillow beneath your head is sufficient; however, using pillows behind your knees (back-sleepers) or between your legs (side-sleepers) can help reinforce your spine’s alignment.