Neck pain plagues a significant amount of Americans, and the causes aren’t always entirely clear. If you often find yourself waking up with a sore neck, chances are your pillow could be partly to blame.
The job of your pillow is to hold your neck and head at the right height to prevent unnecessary strain. A pillow that’s too high or too low, or which fails to support the neck itself, can cause pressure to build up as the neck tries to compensate for the lack of support. While your sleep setup might not be the original root of your neck pain, it can play an important role in making it better or worse.
We’ll break down the reasons you could be experiencing neck pain and how your pillow can help. Ultimately, the best pillow for neck pain is the one that works for you. However, we’ll also share our top picks for pillows that stand out for their ability to reduce neck pain.
The Eli & Elm Organic Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow has a unique design that prevents pressure on the shoulders while maintaining healthy alignment of the neck and spine.
The Eli & Elm Side-Sleeper Pillow has a unique shape with a recessed middle for the shoulder, designed to fit to your body while side-sleeping. This accommodates the shoulders and provides the needed support to reduce neck pain. The filling is a blend of latex and polyester fiber that provides just enough resistance to hold your head aloft.
The pillow’s medium feel and relatively high loft are well-suited to side sleepers. Filling can be added or removed to adjust the loft, which will also have an impact on the firmness.
Eli & Elm has included cooling gels in the pillow’s filling to help maintain temperature neutrality and give the pillow a softer feel. The pillow has a breathable and machine-washable cover, made of an organic cotton and polyester blend.
Thanks to dense memory foam and a contoured shape, the TEMPUR-Neck Pillow from Tempur-Pedic offers optimal neck support and pain relief.
The Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Neck Pillow is a cervical pillow that targets aches and pains by contouring evenly to the head and neck. The pillow contains a solid piece of dense TEMPUR memory foam, a material renowned for its durability and conforming ability. The TEMPUR-Neck feels extra firm, resulting in excellent support for side and back sleepers.
Customer can choose from four sizes and corresponding lofts. The small size, which measures 3 inches thick, is ideal for sleepers with smaller gaps between their neck and shoulders. The large size offers a 4.5-inch loft best suited to sleepers with a gap of at least 6 inches. The medium size, which is 4 inches thick, should be the best option for anyone who falls in the middle of these measurements. The travel size TEMPUR-Neck also measures 4 inches thick.
The pillow is encased in a hypoallergenic polyester cover that can be washed and dried in any household machine. While Tempur-Pedic does not permit returns for the TEMPUR-Neck, it is backed by a five-year warranty against physical defects. Shipping is free within the contiguous U.S., and delivery charges are reasonable for customers in Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
The Coop Home Goods Eden pillow is an adjustable crowd-pleaser, made with cooling gel memory foam and microfiber and is backed by a 100-night sleep trial and a 5-year warranty.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow, a well-rounded pillow that adapts to the needs of various sleeper types. The pillow is designed to sleep cool, with a shredded gel-infused memory foam and polyester fill.
This pillow has a medium soft feel that is most comfortable for stomach sleepers and back sleepers. That said, the filling is adjustable so users can add or remove as much as they need to suit their sleeping style. The Eden pillow is delivered with a half-pound bag of filling so you won’t go short.
A big bonus is the cover, which is removable and machine-washable. It’s made of a breathable polyester-viscose rayon blend with a stretchy polyester liner and a thick gusset to help the pillow hold its shape. The pillow itself can also be washed and dried once a year.
Hypoallergenic and cruelty-free, made in the U.S. Available sizes include standard, queen, and king. Coop Home Goods offers a 100-night sleep trial with free returns. After this, the pillow is backed by a 5-year warranty.
The SleepEasy Easy Sleeper Pillow is shaped to cradle the head and alleviate neck tension.
An unconventional shape sets the SleepEasy Easy Sleeper Pillow apart from its competitors. Containing a single piece of memory foam, the pillow elevates the neck to improve alignment while a grooved midsection cradles the head. This design reduces stiffness around the head and neck without creating an uncomfortable dip – a common complaint regarding other cervical pillows.
The Easy Sleeper can also improve your posture, making it a good choice for people who primarily sit while working. The pillow has been approved for children 13 and older. The breathable, machine washable cover is composed of polyester and cotton, and includes a zipper made of recycled plastic.
Compared to other ergonomic neck pillows, the Easy Sleeper carries a very affordable price-point. SleepEasy ships pillows worldwide, and most customers receive their pillow within seven business days. The company issues full refunds on all returns within 30 days of delivery, provided the pillow is in good condition and shipped in its original packaging.
The innovative Restore Pillow from Level Sleep offers targeted neck support and ventilated holes to relieve pressure on the ears, and comes with a full year-long sleep trial.
Level Sleep has designed an innovative pillow with removable inserts for a customizable sleep experience. Adding or removing the inserts allows users to tailor the Level Sleep Restore Pillow to any one of three loft levels. Additionally, rotating the pillow 180 degrees provides a different level of neck support. This construction makes it easy to switch between side and back sleeping.
The pillow is made of solid memory foam with a medium firm feel for sturdy support. The center of the pillow cushions the head while sleeping on your back. In turn, the sides are optimized for side sleeping, with breathable ear wells to prevent pressure points from forming where the ears hit the pillow. A stretchy, machine-washable cover completes the offer.
Level Sleep offers a generous year-long sleep trial and forever warranty, both of which are significantly longer than average for a pillow.
The Proper Pillow comes with optional foam inserts and multiple height options to suit sleepers of all sizes.
The Proper Pillow provides a combination of pressure relief and support for a wide range of sleepers due to its innovative and customizable design. Inside the pillow’s quilted cover is a molded inner orthotic memory foam pillow that features a hole in the middle and curved areas for the neck on the top and bottom. The top side and the bottom side have varying thicknesses to accommodate sleepers of different sizes.
This unique shape is especially beneficial for back sleepers, for whom it supports the natural curve of the neck to promote healthy spinal alignment. Side sleepers can also find support by using the sides of the pillow, rather than the middle.
The pillow comes with an additional foam insert that allows sleepers to add an extra bit of loft to the pillow, which is especially beneficial for sleepers who are 6 feet 2 inches or taller. The pillow’s pressure-relieving, medium feel does a good job of providing support.
The pillow’s quilted cover adds some additional plushness, and is easily removable for machine-washing.
Proper Living Co. offers free shipping on orders over $50 within the U.S., and backs the pillow with a 60-night return policy.
Sweet Night offers a bargain option with the Original Pillow, a shredded memory foam model that’s versatile enough for all sleeping positions.
The Sweet Night Original Pillow is a shredded memory foam pillow sold at a very attractive price-point. The shredded memory foam conforms closely but allows plenty of room for airflow to keep the pillow cool.
A zippered cover allows you to adjust the feel to your liking, so you can choose the loft that works best for your sleeping style. This makes it a viable option for side, back, and stomach sleepers who suffer from neck pain.
The Sweet Night Original Pillow is available in standard, queen, or king sizes, and Sweet Night offers a 30-night sleep trial so you can fully explore the pillow’s possibilities. After this, the Original Pillow is covered by a 3-year limited warranty against manufacturing and workmanship defects.
Available in three sizes, the Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow offers excellent support and a relatively soft feel thanks to its plush polyester fill.
For sleepers who find memory foam neck pillows too firm or dense, the Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow from Core Products may be a more comfortable alternative. This pillow is filled with polyester fibers that provide a soft, cushioning feel. However, the pillow is still highly supportive. Its design features raised sides to keep the neck upright and a center groove where the head can rest comfortably.
Customers can choose from three sizes, each geared toward different sleeper types. The petite size measures 4 inches thick on the sides, and is best suited to people with smaller gaps between the neck and shoulders. The midsize is a bit wider and longer, but also offers a 4-inch loft. The standard size, which matches the dimensions of a conventional pillow, is 5 inches thick for sleepers who need more support.
The removable polyester-cotton cover can be washed and dried in any household machine. All customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free ground shipping, but Core Products delivers worldwide. The pillow is backed by both a 90-day return period and a one-year warranty.
The adjustable EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow is designed to alleviate neck pain for all sleep positions.
The EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow contains solid memory foam, but unlike many competing cervical pillows, this model can be adjusted for loft. The fill consists of two pieces of memory foam, the smaller of which can be removed to lower the pillow’s thickness by approximately 1 inch. This feature is particularly useful for back and stomach sleepers who prefer thinner pillow profiles, as well as anyone who wants more cradling for their head without sacrificing neck support.
The pillow is encased in a cover made from blended fabric with rayon derived from bamboo, a highly breathable material that sleeps cool and wicks moisture away from your body. The cover can be removed and laundered in your household machines. Customers can choose between three different sizes that measure between 3.9 and 4.8 inches thick with the removable piece intact.
Compared to other ergonomic neck pillows, this model has a slightly softer and more adaptive feel. Sleepers who find other memory foam pillows too stiff will likely feel more comfortable on the Contour Memory Foam Pillow. Its price-point is also quite reasonable. EPABO offers a 30-night sleep trial and will accept used pillows, provided they are in good condition.
The neck is responsible for bearing the entire weight of the 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, neck pain sufferers often experience:
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.
The eight hours you spend in bed every night is a critical time for those who suffer from 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 lead to 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 for your neck pain. However, choosing the right pillow and adopting a healthy sleeping position can help ease pressure on the neck. You should replace your pillow when it’s no longer able to provide the proper support.
For neck pain sufferers, 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.
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 a proper one. Shoppers in this position may be susceptible to misleading marketing and end up choosing a pillow that’s ill-suited for their 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 how pillows work can help you find the pillow that works best for you.
The best pillow for neck and shoulder pain is firm enough to hold the 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.
Sleep experts recommend either back or side sleeping if you suffer from 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. Strict stomach sleepers 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.
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 suffer from neck pain should avoid shoulder bags, slouching, and long periods of sitting at the computer.
Your pillow likely isn’t the only reason for your neck pain, but it can definitely exacerbate the issue. We spend so much time on our pillows that a strained position can cause significant pain the next day. Using a supportive pillow is crucial if you want to give your neck a chance to recover overnight.
The most important consideration when choosing a pillow for neck pain is that it keeps your head, neck, and spine in a straight line. Pillows can go about this different ways, but many neck pain sufferers find that the best pillows for neck pain incorporate features that contour to support the neck.
Any pillow that fails to keep your neck at a neutral angle compared to your head and spine is inadequate for those who suffer from neck pain. Since everyone has a different body and sleeping style, there’s no one type of pillow that could be considered the worst for neck pain. However, most people find that excessively soft or flat pillows, such as those made from polyfill or down, fail to provide the needed support to prevent neck pain.
Depending on your sleeping style, you may find that tucking a rounded pillow under your neck can help ease the strain. This is especially true when sleeping on your back, as the neck sits so much higher than the head in this position. A rounded pillow supports just the neck, leaving your head free to relax on the flatter main pillow instead of forcing it to bend at an awkward angle.