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Home / Best Pillows of 2022 / Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Keith Cushner

Written by

Keith Cushner, Sleep Product Expert

Jenny Iyo

Medically Reviewed by

Jenny Iyo, Physical Therapist

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Methodology

We personally test every pillow featured in our reviews and guides to provide accurate, data-driven recommendations. Learn More

Recency Statement Icon

In light of some recent tests, we've updated this page to add the Boll & Branch Down Chamber Pillow as our best luxury pick, and the Marlow Pillow as our best adjustable pick. The Saatva Latex Pillow remains our best overall pillow for neck pain.

We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Products or services advertised on this page may be offered by an entity that is affiliated with us. Learn more about our process here

Neck pain plagues many Americans, and the causes aren’t always clear. If you often find yourself waking up with a sore neck, chances are your pillow could be partly to blame. Your pillow’s job is to hold your neck and head at the right height to prevent unnecessary strain. A pillow that’s too high or too low can cause pressure to build up as the neck tries to compensate for the lack of support.

In our testing, we examine how they stand up to wear and tear, decide who will find them comfortable, and determine whether or not they could help reduce neck pain. Since weight and sleeping position both affect how your pillow feels, we make sure to use testers from multiple weight groups and sleeper types. We also make sure to test all pillows on the same mattress so our ratings are consistent.

The Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Best Pillows for Neck Pain Video

Watch our video below to learn more about our lab’s top pillow picks for sleepers with neck pain.

Read our top picks to learn more about each one’s materials and unique qualities. In the buyer’s guide section, we’ll break down the reasons you could be experiencing neck pain and how your pillow can help. We’ll take a deeper look at how body position and pillow construction can enhance comfort, and we’ll teach you what to look for when shopping for a pillow for neck pain.

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Product Details

Best Overall

Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow
Price: $165 - Queen $185 - King
Fill: Shredded 100% American Talalay latex and down alternative
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who prefer softer pillows that conform closely
  • Those who want a pillow with adjustable loft
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Microdenier padding softens the latex core for a comfortable, balanced feel
  • Removable components allow you to change the loft and feel
  • Encased in a breathable organic cotton cover
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Bottom Line

Usually pillows with strong contouring have a tendency to trap heat. Our testers found the Saatva Latex Pillow to be exceptionally cool, considering how closely it cradles the head and neck.

The Saatva Latex Pillow checked boxes for many of our testers thanks to its adjustable design. This feature made it a hit for our team’s stomach sleepers and side sleepers.

How It Performed

You can choose between using the inner pillow and the core together or using just the inner pillow. Stomach sleepers on our team who prefer flatter models enjoyed using the inner pillow, which has a 2-inch loft and a softer feel. If you sleep on your side, we recommend using both pillows. This configuration has an 8-inch loft that helps keep a side sleeper’s head and neck aligned with other areas along the spine.

A thick gusset helps the pillow maintain a full shape, earning it high marks in our shape retention tests. Thanks to this feature, you shouldn’t need to fluff it very often. Latex and cotton are both naturally breathable materials, so the internal components didn’t retain too much body heat and the pillow slept fairly cool during our tests.

What It’s Made of

The core contains shredded Talalay latex that feels soft and responsive in equal measure. Down alternative microdenier fiber cushion the inner pillow to enhance the plushness without compromising support. The outer cover is made of breathable organic cotton. As a bonus for owners, both the cover and microdenier pillow can be laundered at home, allowing you to avoid inconvenient hand washing or dry cleaning bills. Queen and king sizes are available.

As part of your purchase, you may include two sateen pillowcases for an added charge. Saatva provides free shipping to all customers in the contiguous U.S. The pillow is backed by a 45-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty.

Original Groove Pillow

Best Value

Original Groove Pillow

Original Groove Pillow
Price: $50 - Standard
Fill: Bamboo charcoal-infused memory foam
Firmness: Medium Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who frequently wake up with soreness in their neck or shoulders
  • Budget-conscious shoppers
Highlights:
  • Cervical design elevates the neck and cradles the head
  • Scuba-knit cover is soft, breathable, and machine-washable
  • Shoppers receive discounts when they buy multiple pillows
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Groove pillows

Bottom Line

The Original Groove Pillow offers and ergonomic design and excellent neck pain relief at an affordable sticker price. The solid foam core nicely elevates the neck while cradling the head, making this pillow a good option for side and back sleepers.

Pillows that effectively reduce neck pain can be somewhat expensive, but the Original Groove Pillow manages to be affordable without skimping on quality or performance. The ergonomic design is particularly beneficial if you wake up with stiffness or soreness in your neck.

How It Performed

With a loft of 4.5 inches, the pillow earned its highest ratings from side and back sleepers. The solid foam core feels adaptive, but a firm feel and ergonomic design should prevent your head and neck from sinking too deeply. We were also impressed with the breathable scuba-knit cover, which offset the foam’s heat-absorbing properties to a noticeable degree.

What It’s Made of

The pillow’s core consists of solid memory foam infused with bamboo charcoal to offset heat retention. An ergonomic shape helps alleviate discomfort by elevating the neck and cradling the head, and a mid-range loft of 4.5 inches should be comfortable for side and back sleepers.

The cover is composed of breathable, scuba-knit polyester with a luxuriously soft hand-feel. You can remove and machine wash the cover to keep your pillow hygienic. Wash the cover with whites, then air dry or tumble dry. Weighing a little over 2 pounds, the pillow is very lightweight and easy to reposition during the night. One size is available.

In addition to the pillow’s below-average price-point, you’ll receive a discount of 10% to 20% if you include two, three or four pillows with your purchase. Shipping is free for most orders, but the rate is quite low in the event you pay for delivery. Groove’s sleep trial runs for 100 nights, during which you may return the pillow if it doesn’t meet your expectations.

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Price: $125
Fill: 75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber
Firmness: Medium, adjustable
Who it's best for:
  • Side sleepers looking for an ergonomic shape
  • Hot sleepers
  • People who appreciate being able to adjust loft and firmness
Highlights:
  • Filling can be added or removed to adjust loft and firmness
  • Moderately high loft and medium firmness are well-suited to side sleeping
  • Unique design accommodates shoulders to reduce neck and shoulder pain
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

SleepFoundation readers get 20% off. Discount automatically applied to cart.

Bottom Line

The side sleepers on our team welcomed the recessed design of the Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow. The curved shape offered space for their shoulders and enabled stronger contouring to their necks.

The Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow has a unconventional shape with a recessed middle for the shoulder, designed to fit to your body while side sleeping. This accommodates your shoulders and provides the needed support to reduce neck pain.

How It Performed

The pillow has a relatively high loft that our side-sleeping testers thoroughly enjoyed. This thickness helps keep your head and neck aligned with the rest of your body while sleeping on your side. Although the pillow is specifically designed for side sleepers, our team’s back sleepers weighing up to 230 pounds also enjoyed this model’s mid-range feel.

Latex has a more responsive feel, and this prevented the pillow from sinking beneath the weight of our testers’ heads. Thanks to the use of breathable materials like cotton and latex, the pillow excelled in our temperature neutrality tests. We recommend this model if you tend to run hot or sweat at night.

What It’s Made of

The filling is a blend of latex and polyester fiber that provides enough resistance to hold your head aloft. Latex is a naturally breathable material, and the filling features gel infusions for enhanced cooling. Filling can be added or removed to adjust the loft, which also had an impact on the firmness during our tests. You can also purchase additional fill if you prefer an even thicker profile. The pillow has a breathable cover made of an organic cotton and polyester blend, which you can machine wash for easy care.

The Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow is offered in just one size, suitable for a queen or a king mattress. Shipping is free to the contiguous U.S. The pillow comes with a 45-day return policy and a 5-year warranty.

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Best for Spinal Alignment

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
Price: $89 - Queen $99 - King
Fill: Talalay latex foam
Firmness: Medium firm
Who it's best for:
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People who overheat easily at night
  • Those who enjoy pillows that feel slightly bouncy
Highlights:
  • Talalay latex core conforms closely to the head and neck while ensuring support
  • 4-inch thickness caters to sleepers who prefer lower profile pillows
  • Latex and cotton construction promote breathability
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Brooklyn Bedding pillows

Bottom Line

Many of the latex pillows we’ve tested are too thick for our team’s stomach and back sleepers. The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex model is offered in two profile options, so most of our testers found a comfortable option. It also felt nice and cool.

The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow comes in 2 profile options that back sleepers on our team thoroughly enjoyed. We recommend this pillow if you’re seeking a model that offers enough support to help you maintain healthy sleep posture.

How It Performed

The pillow is available in two loft options, low and high. Our team’s back sleepers found the 4-inch profile of the low-loft option more comfortable because it didn’t crank the neck too high. Meanwhile, our side sleepers found the 6-inch loft comfortable, as well as some back sleepers The latex core conformed closely to their heads and necks, which helped reduce pressure buildup. The medium firm feel ensured that their heads remained supported. You should find this pillow very comfortable if you sleep hot, since latex retains minimal heat. The cover is also very breathable, so the pillow surface stayed fairly cool during our temperature neutrality tests.

What It’s Made of

Talalay latex makes up the pillow core, offering gentle cradling for the head and neck to alleviate pressure points. Latex’s natural responsiveness ensures the pillow won’t sink too deeply beneath your head’s weight. The shell is made of organic cotton, a naturally breathable and moisture-wicking material. The pillow cover may be removed and machine washed on a gentle setting, then tumble dried on low heat. You should only spot clean the latex core. Queen and king sizes are available.

Brooklyn Bedding offers a 30-night sleep trial, during which you may return the pillow for a full refund and free return shipping. The pillow is also backed by a 3-year warranty. Shipping is free to addresses in the contiguous U.S.

Silk & Snow Pillow

Most Comfortable

Silk & Snow Pillow

Silk & Snow Pillow
Price: $75 - Standard $85 - King
Fill: Shredded memory foam core with down alternative microfiber outer chamber
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers who need strong pressure relief
  • People whose loft changes vary night to night
  • Those who enjoy plush pillows
Highlights:
  • Adjustable loft
  • Memory foam and faux down construction
  • Fill contours deeply around the head and neck to alleviate pressure
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Silk & Snow pillows

Bottom Line

We loved the plushness of the Silk & Snow’s down alternative combined with the contouring of the foam. This is a great pillow option if you’re looking to relieve neck pain.

If you experience neck pain at night, you can benefit greatly from a pillow that alleviates pressure. We found the Silk & Snow Pillow provides enough cushioning to cradle your neck, thus relieving pressure buildup, while still maintaining moderate support.

How It Performed

Given the adjustable design, the Silk & Snow was compatible with most of our testers’ sleep positions. Even stomach sleepers on our team, who typically have a harder time finding suitable pillows, found this pillow comfortable. If you sleep on your stomach, you often require low-loft pillows to keep your head aligned with your spine. This pillow allows you to remove large amounts of foam in order to achieve this low loft. The plush fill and memory foam together offer excellent contouring for your head and neck, which goes a long way toward relieving aches and pains. At the same time, we found the pillow retains a medium feel that prevented our testers’ heads from sinking deep into the pillow.

What It’s Made of

The pillow features a core made of shredded memory foam that helps lift the head while remaining quite moldable. The foam core is surrounded by a chamber of microfiber fill that mimics the plush feel of down, offering cushioning for the head and neck. A breathable cotton shell encases the pillow. This cover is also removable and machine-washable for easy care. Silk & Snow recommends you wash on a cold cycle and dry on a low setting.

Silk & Snow offers a 100-night sleep trial, during which you can test the mattress and return it after a mandatory 30-day break-in period. The pillow is also backed by a 3-year warranty. Shipping within the contiguous U.S. and all Canadian provinces is free.

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Best for Combination Sleepers

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow
Price: $99 - Queen $119 - King
Fill: Plant-based down alternative fibers
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People with sharp pressure points
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Cotton cover allows airflow to regulate temperature
  • Plant-based down alternative fill cradles the head and neck to help alleviate pressure buildup
  • 50-night sleep trial
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Sweet Zzz pillows

Bottom Line

The Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow offered excellent cushioning for our testers who experience pressure buildup in their necks. Compared to traditional down, it also slept much cooler.

The Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow features a core made from botanically derived down alternative fibers that deeply cushion the head and neck. This gesture and the medium feel made the pillow popular among our testers with sharp pressure points.

How It Performed

The medium feel offered a comfortable balance of cushioning and support that most of our team enjoyed. Our testing found back sleepers particularly appreciated the mid-range feel, which helped keep their bodies on an even plane while relieving pressure in the neck. You may also enjoy the pillow if you tend to sleep hot because the fibers retain less heat than traditional down. The cover is naturally moisture-wicking, making it a great option if you often sweat at night.

What It’s Made of

Natural cotton makes up the pillow shell, which is breathable and moisture-wicking. The pillow core features two layers of plant-based fibers. The outer layer contains plush fibers that add great cushioning for the head and neck, while the inner layer has firmer, denser fibers for extra support. The pillow is fully washable in household machines. Simply wash it in cold water on a gentle cycle, and tumble dry it on low heat.

Two sizes are available: standard and king. Along with the competitive price-point, you’re eligible for free shipping if you live in the contiguous U.S, and Sweet Zzz offers a 50-night sleep trial. Plant-Based Pillow purchases are backed by 1-year warranties that cover structural defects.

Boll & Branch Down Chamber Pillow

Best Luxury

Boll & Branch Down Chamber Pillow

Boll & Branch Down Chamber Pillow
Price: $150 - Standard $160 - King
Fill: White down
Firmness Soft, Medium, Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Those who normally find down and feather pillows too soft
  • Sleepers seeking extra neck support
  • Animal-conscious shoppers
Highlights:
  • Chambered design creates a plush surface with sturdy support
  • Three density options to suit different sleep positions
  • Shell composed of soft, breathable organic cotton
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Boll & Branch pillows

Bottom Line

Boll & Branch’s Down Chamber Pillow builds on a classic design with thoughtful construction and high-quality materials. Our testers were impressed by the pillow’s plush yet supportive feel.

Boll & Branch has earned a reputation for luxurious sleep products with approachable price-points. The Down Chamber Pillow epitomizes the brand’s commitment to quality and affordability. This pillow is available in three density levels, so most people can choose at least one comfortable option regardless of their primary sleep position.

How It Performed

Our team tested all three of the Down Chamber Pillow’s density levels. The soft design sinks somewhat deeply, resulting in a lower profile that was most comfortable for our stomach sleepers. If you sleep on your back, we recommend the medium density pillow — you should receive adequate support for your neck without excessive elevation. Side sleepers on our team preferred the firm pillow due to its extra loft and thick profile.

During our temperature control tests, we found that the down retains some heat, but the breathable shell promotes enough airflow to prevent uncomfortable warmth. The chambered design distributes the fill evenly, so you shouldn’t need to fluff the pillow too often, but the down and feathers make it feel moldable and snuggly. You may notice a slight odor at first, which is common with down pillows.

What It’s Made of

The pillow is constructed with three chambers. Soft pillows contain down in all three chambers. Down fills the outer chambers of medium and firm pillows, creating a plush surface for your head and neck, while feathers fill the core to provide support and prevent uncomfortable sinkage. The pillow has received certification from the International Down Standard, indicating all geese are humanely treated.

A breathable organic cotton shell encases the fill. The pillow is fully machine-washable. Wash in cold water on a gentle cycle, then tumble dry on low heat. Boll & Branch recommends laundering the pillow no more than once every 3 months to preserve its structure. Standard and king sizes are available.

In addition to affordable pricing for the Down Chamber Pillow, Boll & Branch offers free ground shipping for all domestic U.S. orders. Returns are accepted within 30 days, provided the pillow is in pristine condition with its original tags intact.

Marlow Pillow

Best Adjustable

Marlow Pillow

Marlow Pillow
Price: $65 - Standard $85 - King
Fill: 80% memory foam, 20% polyester fiber
Firmness: Adjustable
Who it's best for:
  • People who usually sleep hot with memory foam pillows
  • Those with persistent neck or shoulder pain
  • Shoppers looking for a pillow with a long sleep trial
Highlights:
  • Pillow can be adjusted for three firmness levels
  • Mesh gussets promote airflow to help you stay cool
  • Shoppers save up to 40% when they order multiple pillows
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Use this SleepFoundation.org link for the most current discount on Marlow pillows

Bottom Line

The adjustable Marlow Pillow features an innovative design with three firmness levels. We enjoyed the plush combo of memory foam and fiber fill, and found the pillow easy to adjust.

There are a fair number of adjustable pillows on the market, but most require adding and removing the fill. This process can be somewhat time-consuming. With the innovative Marlow Pillow, you simply zip or unzip to change the loft and firmness level. Three settings are available, and most of our testers found at least one that felt comfortable and provided adequate neck support.

How It Performed

Our testers evaluated each of the Marlow Pillow’s firmness and loft levels. The loftiest, firmest setting with both sides zipped felt most comfortable to our side sleepers, filling the space between their neck and downward-facing shoulder. With one size unzipped and the other zipped, the pillow has a mid-level loft and medium feel. Our back sleepers preferred this setting, while our stomach sleepers felt most comfortable with a lower profile and softer feel.

The Marlow Pillow’s temperature control varies by setting, since zipping both sides creates a barrier between your head and the mesh vents. That said, the cotton shell is fairly breathable and the memory foam is infused with cooling gel, so overheating shouldn’t be an issue for most people. Plush fill also ensures decent moldability.

What It’s Made of

The Marlow Pillow contains a blend of shredded, gel-infused memory foam and down alternative fibers. You’ll notice some contouring around the head and neck, with added softness from the fiber fill. The cover is 100% cotton. If you want full loft and a firmer feel, close the zipper on both sides. Unzipping one side causes the pillow to slightly flatten and become softer, while unzipping both sides creates a low profile and soft feel.

You should only spot clean the pillow if stains occur. Frequent fluffing may be needed to redistribute the fill and maintain a full shape. Standard and king sizes are available.

The Marlow Pillow carries an approachable sticker price and shipping is free within the contiguous U.S. You’ll receive a 25% discount on your total purchase if you order two pillows, and a 40% discount if you order four. The pillow comes with a generous sleep trial, allowing you to test it up to 365 nights before deciding to return it or keep it. If you opt for the latter, you’ll also receive a 2-year warranty against structural defects.

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Best Neck Support

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow
Price: $100 - Standard/Queen $115 - King
Fill: Down alternative, shredded gel-infused memory foam, solid gel-infused memory foam
Firmness: Adjustable
Who it's best for:
  • Combination sleepers
  • Those who tend to sleep hot or sweat in bed
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Each pillow comes with three inserts that allow you to customize the loft and firmness
  • Bamboo-derived viscose shell is exceptionally soft and breathable
  • Customers who buy two pillows receive a 50% discount on the second model
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

Shop Luxome's only sale of the year: 30% off sitewide

Bottom Line

The Luxome LAYR is one of the most customizable pillows we’ve tested. Each insert has a distinct feel, and all of our testers found at least one configuration that felt thick and supportive enough.

The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow’s adjustable design accommodated most of our testers regardless of their loft and firmness preferences. Each pillow comes with three inserts. Luxome encourages you to mix and match the inserts to find your ideal loft and firmness levels.

How It Performed

The softest insert is best if you enjoy exceptionally plush pillows. Stomach sleepers on our team enjoyed the soft feel that provided an even sleep surface. The second insert feels slightly firmer, but also provides deep cushioning for your head and neck. This option performed best among our back-sleeping testers, whose needs tend to be more flexible. Meanwhile the firmest insert delivers even support, which made it popular among our side sleepers. You can also remove inserts to customize the loft for your needs. Thanks to the breathable components, the pillow slept fairly cool during our tests despite the foam inserts’ heat-retaining tendencies.

What It’s Made of

A cover made of viscose derived from bamboo encases the inserts. The softest insert is made from down alternative fibers, the medium feel features shredded gel-infused memory foam, and the two firmest inserts contain solid gel-infused memory foam. Mesh panels on the side promote airflow throughout the interior and the fabric has moisture-wicking properties. The cover and insert shells are machine-washable, but you should avoid laundering the foam or down alternative fill. Standard/queen and king sizes are available.

The LAYR Customizable Pillow carries an approachable price-point. If you order two pillows, you’ll receive a 50% discount on the second model. All customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free ground shipping. Luxome allows returns and exchanges within 30 days of the delivery date as long as the pillow is clean and not damaged.

Brooklinen Down Pillow - Firm

Best Firm Down

Brooklinen Down Pillow - Firm

Brooklinen Down Pillow - Firm
Price: $69 - Standard $89 - King
Fill: Canadian white down with feather core
Firmness: Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers looking for a high loft pillow
  • People who prefer the plush, airy feel of a down/feather pillow
  • Hot sleepers
Highlights:
  • Lofty, authentic down fill
  • Down and feathers promote cooling
  • Dense feather core improves support while maintaining a plush feel for the head and neck
Sleep Foundation Exclusive Offer!

New Brooklinen Customers can use code HOLIDAY15 to get 15% off their orders

Bottom Line

The Brooklinen Down Pillow has a high loft perfectly suited for sleepers who need strong neck support. Unlike some high-loft pillows that elevate the head too high, the cushioning of the down prevents the pillow from uncomfortably cranking the neck.

Many down pillows we’ve tested sink deeply and do not offer enough support, but the Brooklinen Down Pillow is a notable exception. This pillow is available in three firmness levels, and the firm option provides excellent support to keep the neck elevated and comfortable.

How It Performed

The firm feel of the Brooklinen Down Pillow has a chambered design with softer down at the surface and denser feathers making up the core. This ensures you’ll receive more neck support without sacrificing the plush feel of natural down. The higher loft felt comfortable to many of the side sleepers on our team. The down and feathers compressed a bit during our lab tests, but the pillow provided enough cushioning for this group. Stomach and back sleepers may prefer one of the softer options.

What It’s Made of

Down – which refers to the soft inner plumage of geese and ducks – is a popular pillow material due to its naturally soft and airy texture. The down and feathers in this pillow slept exceptionally cool during our tests, and the cover is made from smooth cotton in a sateen weave. You won’t need to worry about this pillow absorbing and trapping body heat like those made of foam. The fill materials have certification from the Down Association of Canada (where the down is produced), ensuring the down is ethically sourced.

Down pillows can be very pricey, but the Brooklinen model is more affordable than other down pillows we’ve tried. Brooklinen offers an exceptionally long 365-night sleep trial and 1-year warranty for the pillow.

Why You Can Trust Us

Our team at Sleep Foundation includes experts and testers with years of experience in the sleep product industry. We have tested over 300 pillows in order to determine which ones are best suited to sleepers with different needs. Our team includes back, side, stomach, and combination sleepers, as well as sleepers of different body types. This allows us to represent as wide an array of sleep preferences as possible in our findings.

How We Evaluated These Pillows

During the testing process, our team members lie on each pillow for a period of time to evaluate firmness, support, pressure relief, and other performance features that are relevant to sleepers with neck pain. Testers shift around to evaluate the pillow’s feel and contouring in different positions, and they handle the pillows at length to gauge moldability. We use thermal sensors to measure heat retention and VOC meters to test for off-gassing. The picks above reflect the pillows that out-performed all other models.

What Is Neck Pain?

The neck is responsible for bearing the entire weight of your head, and it’s not surprising that this delicate part of the body is highly susceptible to injury. The 2018 US Burden of Disease study found that neck pain is rising in importance as a leading cause of disability among the American population. Most sources estimate that between 25 and 30 percent of people suffer from neck pain every year. While many episodes of neck pain resolve naturally, for some it can become a chronic condition with adverse consequences for their quality of life.

Neck pain can be caused by a number of factors. It may stem from an injury or a chronic condition such as arthritis, or it may arise from daily habits such as poor posture or too many hours of sitting at a computer. While symptoms vary, people with neck pain often experience:

  • Neck pain, especially during repetitive activities or long periods of sitting upright
  • Limited range of motion
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Poor sleep quality

If you have severe pain or additional symptoms, or if you’re not sure what’s causing your neck pain, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor to rule out underlying conditions.

Regular exercise and a healthy body weight are thought to have a positive impact on chronic neck pain. The American Chiropractic Association notes that neck pain often goes hand-in-hand with high stress levels and obesity.

Neck Pain and Sleep

The 8 hours you spend in bed every night is a critical time if you experience neck pain. The positions you adopt as you sleep can either relax your neck or put it under additional strain. As part of your sleep setup, a supportive pillow should promote proper neck and spine alignment.

Not only can an unsupportive pillow exacerbate your neck pain, but studies show that the wrong pillow can be the direct cause of discomfort during the night. This leads to nighttime awakenings, creating a vicious circle that makes it difficult to get the rest you need to recover from neck pain.

Your pillow is unlikely to be the sole source of your neck pain. However, choosing the right pillow and adopting a healthy sleeping position can help ease pressure on your neck. You should replace your pillow when it’s no longer able to provide the proper support.

How to Choose a Pillow for Neck Pain

If you experience neck pain, choosing the right pillow can be a key step toward living pain-free. The right pillow will depend on your individual needs. We’ll walk you through the most important considerations, including how to choose the best material, shape, and thickness for your individual sleeping style.

What to Consider When Purchasing a Pillow for Neck Pain

Most people don’t give much thought to their pillow, beyond choosing a pillow that’s nice and squishy for immediate comfort. This means that when we do realize our pillow may be contributing to our neck pain, we may not know how to go about choosing the best pillow. If you’re in this position, you may be susceptible to misleading marketing and end up choosing a pillow that’s ill-suited for your needs.

To help you get started, we’ve made a list of the most important factors. Focusing on these factors and having a basic understanding of pillow features and construction can help you find the pillow that works best for you.

  • Loft: The loft determines the angle of your head in relation to your spine. A pillow that’s too high or too low can force your neck to bend at an unnatural angle, causing strain and discomfort over time. That’s why sleep experts recommend choosing a pillow loft that keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine. When choosing your pillow, don’t forget to consider the width of your shoulders and size of your head. If you’re not sure of your ideal loft, you may wish to purchase a pillow with an adjustable loft.
  • Support: In addition to being the right height under your head, a pillow should also adequately support your neck. This is most often seen in cervical pillows, which typically have raised edges and gently contour to the neck instead of leaving a space where the neck is unsupported. This design is especially helpful for side and back sleepers.
  • Firmness Level: The pillow firmness will determine where your head comes to rest, so it’s important to give this aspect careful consideration. 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. Pillows that are too firm may cause pressure points, for example in the ears when side sleeping. On the other hand, pillows that are too soft may sag under your head and fail to provide proper support.
  • Pressure Relief: A good pillow provides pressure relief by taking strain off your neck and contouring to reduce pressure points. For the best pressure relief, choose a pillow that’s the appropriate shape and size for your sleeping position, and the appropriate firmness to alleviate pressure at contact points.
  • Shape: Today’s manufacturers offer a varied assortment of ergonomic pillows that provide enhanced support by adapting to the shape of your head and neck. Some people also choose to add another pillow to their setup, one popular choice being a small roll under the neck in addition to the main pillow. Pillow shape is a matter of personal preference, but if you can’t find relief from your neck pain, one solution may be to try a cervical pillow. This type of pillow is specifically designed to offer strong cervical support, which can help reduce neck pain and improve sleep quality.
  • Price: Investing in a good pillow is crucial to your overall health and your neck health in particular. Pillow prices vary widely depending on their materials and design. When shopping for a pillow, keep in in mind that certain types of pillows will last you for years, while others may need to be replaced after a year or two as their materials wear out and lose their loft or conforming abilities.
  • Quality Materials: Within broad categories such as memory foam or feather pillows, the quality of your individual pillow plays a significant role in determining its longevity and comfort. Some pillows can be washed occasionally and properly dried to fluff them up and increase their lifespan.

What Pillow Materials are Best for Neck Pain?

The best pillow for neck and shoulder pain is firm enough to hold your head at a healthy angle, but soft enough to alleviate pressure points. Most sleepers find success with either a memory foam, latex, buckwheat, or feather pillow, as these materials offer the best balance of support and pressure relief.

  • Memory Foam: Memory foam molds in response to heat and pressure, contouring to form a supportive cradle around your head and neck. Memory foam pillows are hypoallergenic, cheap, and widely available, either in solid or shredded form. However, they have a limited lifespan, and the material’s slow response to pressure may be frustrating if you’re a combination sleeper. The material is also prone to trapping heat.
  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat hulls naturally interlock and hold their shape, making them a great choice for head and neck support. As a natural material, buckwheat is naturally breathable, resistant to allergens, durable, and environmentally friendly. On the downside, buckwheat pillows tend to command a high price-point, and they may take some getting used to as they aren’t as soft as other traditional pillow types and do make some noise as you change positions.
  • Feather: Good quality feather pillows are soft and offer excellent conforming. They’re also often customizable, allowing you to adjust the loft by taking out feathers or adding more. Unfortunately, feather pillows tend to lose their loft as the feathers get compressed over time. Many people also find that the feathers may become displaced under the weight of their head, affecting the support they provide.
  • Latex: Natural latex has a buoyant feel that holds your neck in place while minimizing pressure points. Many latex pillows feature pincore holes for improved temperature regulation. The major downside to latex is that latex pillows usually come in one solid piece, so you can’t adjust them into a customized shape. While many people turn to latex as a natural and sustainable option, organic and other certifications tend to raise the price tag.
  • Down: Made from the inner feathers of ducks and geese, down is exceedingly soft and lightweight. Down pillows can be reshaped to suit your preference. Due to down’s high price tag and ability to provoke allergies in some people, many sleepers opt for down alternative pillows, made from polyester fibers. Unfortunately, both down and down alternative pillows easily lose their shape and tend to be too soft to adequately support the neck.
  • Polyfoam: Most polyfoam pillows offer some contouring and boast a quicker response to pressure than memory foam, although like memory foam, they will trap heat. Polyfoam pillows are lightweight, affordable, and hypoallergenic. However, they develop permanent indentations over time and will need to be replaced more often than other pillow types.

What is the Best Pillow Positioning for Neck Pain?

Sleep experts recommend either back or side sleeping if you experience neck pain. Sleeping on your stomach causes your head to bend at a sharp angle and arches your spine, which puts unwanted pressure on your neck. If you strictly sleep on your stomach, you should choose a pillow with a low loft to minimize pressure.

For best results, back and side sleepers should ensure that their head, neck, and top of the spine form a straight line. Sleeping with a pillow that’s too high or too low can cause aches and pains. Likewise, sleeping with your head rolled to one side or the other is also likely to cause neck pain.

  • Side with Elevated Neck: In order for side sleepers to avoid neck pain, it’s important to keep your head in line with your spine. The best pillow for side sleepers with neck pain should have a loft that equals the distance between the ears and the edge of the shoulders. This means that if you have bigger shoulders, you’ll usually need a higher loft. Since your neck sits naturally higher than the head, cervical pillows might be worth considering. Cervical pillows are designed with an elevated area that helps support the neck and promote proper alignment.
  • Back with Two Pillows: Usually, pillows for back sleepers should have a medium loft that raises the head just enough to sit in line with the neck. But back sleepers face a similar problem to side sleepers in that most pillows don’t support the higher curve of the neck. If you have trouble finding a properly supportive pillow, you may opt for a small rounded pillow under the neck for added support in addition to the main pillow.

Other Tips for Sleepers with Neck Pain

In addition to choosing the right pillow, you can reduce neck pain through lifestyle changes like adopting proper posture, taking stretching breaks, and generally being more active. People who experience neck pain should avoid shoulder bags, slouching, and long periods of sitting at the computer.

  • Choose the Right Mattress: Your body’s overall position is influenced not only by your pillow, but also your mattress. Plusher mattresses allow your body to sink down further, meaning you’ll need a lower-loft pillow. The opposite holds true for firmer mattresses, which will require a higher pillow to maintain proper alignment of the neck and spine.
  • Engage in Physical Therapy: From daily habits to more serious regimens, there are plenty of exercises you can do to relax your neck muscles and relieve strain on the neck, shoulders, and upper back. A certified massage therapist or chiropractor may also be able to help. Always consult a health professional before starting any kind of treatment.
  • Use Ice or Heat: Many people with neck pain receive instant relief from a hot or cold compress, or from taking a warm shower. This may not cure your neck problems, but it can be a helpful short-term solution.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What pillow types are best for sleepers with neck pain?

    The best pillow for neck pain is one that has the right loft, firmness, and shape for your preferred sleeping position. Preferences vary among types of pillows. Some people find that memory foam pillows relieve their neck pain while others are much more comfortable with microfiber filling.

    There are also variations within pillow types — memory foam pillows are available as a solid piece or with shredded foam filling, and each variant works well for some people but not others. Instead of focusing on the type of pillow, it is more important to determine the loft, shape, and filling that will work best with your body type in your preferred sleeping position. Reading independent reviews can help you understand these factors, as can speaking to any health care professionals treating your neck pain.

  • What pillow loft works best for sleepers with neck pain?

    The correct pillow loft for alleviating neck pain is one that will hold your head and neck at a neutral angle in alignment with the natural curve of your spine. The right loft therefore depends on your preferred sleeping position. For example, side sleepers usually need a medium to high-loft pillow, while stomach sleepers require lower pillows so as not to crane their neck upwards. You should also consider how far you sink into your mattress, since one that cradles you deeply may require you to use a lower-loft pillow.

  • How firm should a pillow be to help alleviate neck pain?

    Pillows should be firm enough to support the neck without creating pressure points, but the precise firmness of a pillow depends on your usual sleeping position. Back and side sleepers usually require firmer pillows than stomach sleepers, while combination sleepers and people whose firmness preferences change may want to consider an adjustable pillow.

    If you prefer very soft pillows that do not adequately support your neck, you may enjoy a memory foam pillow with significant pressure relief. While the core of the foam should still provide enough support, its contouring qualities may make it feel subjectively “softer” and therefore more comfortable.

Still have questions?

Our product experts have extensive experience testing just about every sleep product on the market. Send an email to [email protected] or call us at (877) 672-8966 with your questions and we’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

About Our Editorial Team

author
Keith Cushner

Sleep Product Expert

Keith is a sleep product expert with nearly a decade of experience researching, developing, and testing sleep products.

author
Jenny Iyo

Physical Therapist

DPT

Dr. Iyo is a Doctor of Physical Therapy at an orthopedic clinic in Seattle. She specializes in hands-on therapy and tailored exercise programs.