My neck pain started when I was in my early 20s. It began abruptly, and it was severe enough to cause me daily migraines for a period of years. It took me a while to figure out what was wrong, but after seeing a chiropractor, I found out I have a misaligned jaw, which pulls my upper vertebrae out of alignment.
Regular chiropractic treatments help to restore alignment to my spine, but my jaw issue is permanent. That means that if I do not take steps to protect my posture while I am sitting, standing, and lying down, it is easy for my neck to slip back out of alignment between appointments.
So by now I am pretty much an expert when it comes to managing neck pain. And one absolute necessity if you want to keep your neck aligned while you are sleeping is a pillow which provides you with proper neck support.
A regular pillow doesn’t do this. As a result, one of two things is likely to happen:
If bad sleeping posture becomes habitual, the resulting alignment issues will also become chronic, leading to neck pain at night and during the day.
There is quite a bit of variety in neck pillows. Before you can buy a suitable pillow, you need to take stock of your needs. Here are some key questions to ask.
Some pillows are designed for back sleepers, while others are best for side sleepers. There are even some options for stomach sleepers. Purchase a pillow which will support correct neck posture in the position that you tend to sleep in.
If you know your exact alignment problem, you can buy a pillow that will help correct it. For example, my neck does not have a strong C-curve. So it helps for me to sleep on my back on a roll pillow, which helps to restore the curve.
Different shapes of neck pillows are designed for different purposes:
There are so many different materials you can go with for the filling and casing of your pillow. Some options include memory foam, microbeads, water-filled pillows and buckwheat.
Think about this when selecting a material. Buckwheat and gel foam cooling pillows are good options in warm climates, but may not be as great for sleeping in cold environments.
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Now that you know a bit more about how to shop for a neck pillow, let’s take a look at some popular and highly-rated pillows in a variety of categories.
If you need a wedge pillow which will also provide support for your neck and back, this popular pillow may be a good option.
If you have GERD or another condition which necessitates that you sleep at an incline, this pillow’s soft slant and memory foam contouring will ensure that the strain on your muscles is minimal. I would still recommend something other than a wedge pillow if you are able to lie flat, but if you cannot, this is a good option.
The majority of buyers have commented that this pillow is comfortable and does a great job treating GERD, allergies, and other issues. A few however have said they found it too large or didn’t like the angle. Read the dimensions carefully before you purchase.
This is another wedge pillow which may be suitable for those suffering from neck and back pain. It is very reasonably priced and highly rated.
This is another pillow to consider if you have allergies, asthma, GERD, etc. Because it has the firmness and cushioning needed to provide comfortable support, it is easy on the back and neck compared to many other wedge pillows.
According to the majority of buyers, this pillow has just the right elevation to be effective without causing neck or back pain. A few buyers said they thought it was flimsy, but they were very much in the minority.
If you are looking for a pillow which isn’t too different from a standard pillow but which is designed to offer more ergonomic support, look no further than the Coop Home Goods Adjustable Loft Pillow. This memory foam pillow is incredibly popular, with more than 10,000 reviews online.
If you like the softness of a down pillow, but you want the support that comes from sleeping on a memory foam pillow, you will find that this is a great hybrid. You should also consider it if you regularly are unhappy with the level of fullness or flatness of other pillows. With this one, you can make adjustments yourself so that it is perfect for your needs.
Despite its adjustability, a few buyers have complained that it is too flat. But for those who need a flatter pillow, it may be a fabulous choice. Most customers have been very happy with it, with some commenting that it eliminated their neck pain.
This affordable memory foam pillow is highly rated and features a unique patented design. Because it is ventilated, it is an excellent option for sleeping in hot locations.
This comfortable contoured memory foam pillow is ideal for keeping your head cool, all while providing the support your neck needs for comfortable, healthy sleep.
Most customers report that this is a very cozy pillow which holds its shape very well. The cool side does apparently do a great job ventilating, but only if you do not place the pillow in a regular pillowcase. So you will need to keep it in the shell it comes with if you want to enjoy that feature.
This pillow is a great choice for neck pain because it is specifically designed to function as a cervical pillow. It is reasonably priced and highly rated.
This pillow is ideal for both back and side sleepers, providing excellent neck support to alleviate stiffness and pain. Like the pillow above, it is ventilated and great for sleeping in hot weather.
Most customers reported that this pillow did a fantastic job relieving their neck pain. A few reported it wasn’t very contoured. Judging from pictures, I would say that it looks like it provides mild contouring, but some patients may need a little more support.
This unusually-shaped pillow is designed to offer radial support for your head. It is available with both medium soft and medium thick levels.
This pillow may look unusual, but it features what looks like a very smart design. Side sleepers not only can keep their spines aligned, but can enjoy restful sleep without excessive pressure on the ears, thanks to patented ear holes.
Many customers have commented that this pillow provides them with amazing neck support, and that indeed it relieves pressure on the ears. A couple customers said that the pillow did not last long because the foam breaks down, but most buyers have had only glowing praise for this pillow.
Another neck pillow for side sleepers is this contour memory foam pillow. Like some of the others on this list, it is ventilated, and thus ideal for warmer climates.
Consider buying this pillow specifically to provide neck support if you are a side-sleeper. I think it would also work fine for a back sleeper.
This is a comfortable pillow which provides great support. It holds its shape well, and is cool and breathable. As far as drawbacks, a few buyers said there was a chemical odor when they first bought it. This is common with memory foam pillows, and tends to dissipate within a short time period.
One more side sleeper pillow which you should think about is this very highly rated one from Drift. Soft yet supportive, it contains a hidden zipper which allows you to adjust its height. The shape is designed specifically to accommodate side sleepers.
The shape of this pillow makes it perfect for side sleepers since it leaves room for the sleeper’s shoulder. You should avoid it if you are a back sleeper however, as it will not provide adequate neck support.
Both the shape and thickness of this pillow look to be ideal for sleeping on one’s side and keeping one’s neck aligned. It is great that you can remove stuffing if you want to flatten it. Of course, the drawback is that there is no way to add any extra filling—something pillow manufacturers never seem to think of.
For back sleepers, one highly rated option to consider is this pillow from beegod. This one actually would be fine for side sleepers as well.
Consider this pillow if you want something which is soft and fluffy and similar to a traditional pillow, yet is still helpful in managing neck pain.
Quite a few buyers said that sleeping with this pillow reduced their neck pain. If however you need something which holds its shape and molds to the form of your neck and head, you would be better off with memory foam. Some users may find it too fluffy.
One pillow with a great shape for reducing neck pain and allowing comfortable sleep on either your back or side is this one from SLEEPHI Collection.
The pillow has an indentation in the middle. That means that if you lie on your back, there will be a slight convex curve under your neck for extra support. This will help maintain the curve of your neck. At the same time, the traditional pillow shape should allow you to sleep on your side comfortably if need be from time to time.
The simple, smart design of this pillow makes it ideal for back sleepers. A couple of customers mentioned that the pillow may need fluffing now and again as the stuffing moves around, but so long as this doesn’t bug you, you should find it to be a great pillow.
For those in search of a roll pillow, this semi-roll has the right shape to offer stability and support. It is incredibly popular, with hundreds of reviews online. It is also very reasonably priced.
This is actually more of a knee pillow than a neck pillow—most users will find it too large to use as a neck pillow. But a few customers have commented it worked for them, and it may be useful for traction for a few minutes a day for others.
This pillow is comfortable, supportive and versatile for a range of uses. The biggest drawback is that its size prevents it from being an ideal choice for a fulltime neck pillow (for most users). If you do use it for your knees, that can reduce back pain, which in turn may stop some indirect pain referral to your neck and head.
This neck pillow is very affordable, popular, and highly-rated. It has a traditional roll shape ideal for back sleepers.
This roll pillow can be used under your neck or your knees to provide extra support.
Most customers who bought this pillow said they found it comfortable under their necks, and that it provided adequate support. Check the dimensions however to make sure it won’t be too much/little for your needs. Also note that it will not hold its shape like memory foam, but the price is right if you are on a budget.
For those who lie prone and want to be able to sleep with their faces pointed straight down (so as not to twist the neck), a pillow which allows you to breathe is essential. This face cradle cushion may fit your needs.
If you want to lie prone for a massage or a short nap, you can use this face cradle cushion. I wouldn’t really recommend sleeping face down for long periods (it is hard to breathe), but for short rests, it should be fine. Again, stomach sleepers who twist their necks to the side should switch to side or back sleeping. There is no “good” way to sleep that way.
This comfortable, large face cradle cushion provides plenty of room for all head sizes, and doesn’t push against your face. But some users report it is a bit flat for them.
This popular travel pillow has thousands of reviews online, a reasonable price, and strong ratings. It is available in a range of colors.
This cozy pillow is ideal for flights, train rides, bus rides, and so on. Interestingly enough, the flatter back also means you can use it while lying down in bed on your back.
This is a large, comfortable travel pillow which is versatile enough to use sitting up or lying down. Note that in hot climates, it may be a bit stuffy. But aside from that, there really are no major drawbacks.
Another travel pillow to consider is this one from BCOZZY. It wraps around fully to provide support even if your head tends to tip forward. You can buy it in a variety of colors.
Use this pillow when you are on a long flight or train or bus ride. It is fully adjustable, so you can customize the fit to your needs.
According to buyers, this is a very comfortable product, especially once you take time to adjust it to support the posture you are sleeping in. A couple buyers mentioned the stitch quality was not that durable, but perhaps they subjected the pillow to too much stress while traveling.
Neck pain is … well, a pain. And trying to treat it can be too. But if you are sleeping on a non-ergonomic pillow, you are fighting upstream when you don’t have to be. Try sleeping on a neck pillow which provides the support you need, and you will be treating your neck pain and its underlying cause in your sleep. Soon, you may wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day.
Peekaboo! Barbara speaking. I'm currently the Chief Editor at Sleep Titan and my job is to make sure that the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed on all of our amazing content! The lovely people here at Sleep Titan often tell me that my Friendly Superpowers come out after a glass of wine, but personally, I prefer a strong IPA. The sort of strength that screams alpha all the way! Maybe that's the reason why everyone wants me to have a drink around here. Right?!