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

Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Lauren Fountain

Written by

Lauren Fountain, Certified Sleep Coach

Jenny Iyo

Medically Reviewed by

Jenny Iyo, Physical Therapist

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Methodology

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

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After recent tests, we’ve updated our picks to include the Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow - Medium/Firm as our best pick for neck support and the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow as our best pick for pressure relief. The Saatva Latex Pillow remains our best overall pick.

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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. 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.

Our team has reviewed countless pillows. 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. Our top pick pillows for neck pain have been chosen for their performance and given accolades that highlight their strengths.

The Best Pillows for Neck Pain

Read our top picks to learn more about each one’s materials and unique qualities. 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. 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.

Product Details

Saatva Latex Pillow

Best Overall

Saatva Latex Pillow

Saatva Latex Pillow
Price: $155 - Queen $175 - 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
Saatva Latex Pillow

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The Saatva Latex Pillow will check boxes for many sleepers thanks to its adjustable design. The core contains shredded Talalay latex that feels soft and responsive in equal measure, while the inner pillow is cushioned with down alternative microdenier fibers to enhance the plushness without compromising support. The inner pillow can be removed, reducing the loft and giving the surface a firmer feel. This customizable design makes the pillow suitable for back and side sleepers alike.

A thick gusset along the side helps the pillow maintain a full shape, so you shouldn’t need to fluff it very often. The outer cover is made of breathable organic cotton and the internal components won’t retain too much body heat. As a result, the pillow sleeps fairly cool. 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.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“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.”

GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded

Best Value

GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded

GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded
Price: $170 - Standard $250 - Queen/King
Fill: Shredded memory foam and microfiber
Firmness: Medium
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People seeking pressure relief for the neck
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Shredded memory foam fill can be added or removed to change loft
  • Cover composed of cooling Ghost Ice fabric
  • 101-night sleep trial
GhostBed GhostPillow - Shredded

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The GhostBed GhostPillow – Shredded caters to many different sleep positions and personal sleep needs thanks to its adjustable design. The adjustable loft and balanced feel also make this pillow ideal for sleepers who experience neck pain at night. Each purchase comes with two pillows, which works out to be a good value compared to competing foam pillows.

The fill consists of shredded memory foam, polyfoam, and down alternative clusters that can be added or removed from the pillow whenever you like, creating the profile needed for your sleep needs. Regardless of your chosen loft, the plush fill gives the GhostPillow – Shredded a medium feel. The pillow contours closely to cradle the head and neck and alleviate pressure, but it shouldn’t sink too much.

The cover is composed of proprietary Ghost Ice fabric that feels cool to the touch. The material helps to offset some of the foam’s heat-absorbing properties, resulting in less heat buildup and cooler sleep. The cover can be removed and machine washed whenever the pillow needs to be cleaned.

GhostBed ships the pillows for free anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Your purchase includes a 101-night sleep trial, which is generous for a pillow, and you’ll also receive a 5-year warranty against structural defects.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“Our testers really enjoyed how the GhostPillow cradled the head and neck. If the pillow wasn’t thick enough for a particular tester, adding more fill did the trick.”

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Best for Side Sleepers

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow
Price: $120
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
Eli & Elm Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow

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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.

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., and the pillow includes a 45-day return policy as well as a 5-year warranty.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“The side sleepers on our team welcomed the recessed design of the Cotton Side-Sleeper Pillow. The curved shape offers space for the shoulder and enables stronger contouring to the neck.”

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

Best Luxury

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

Cozy Earth Silk Pillow
Price: $263 - Standard $311 - King
Fill: 100% long-strand mulberry silk
Firmness Medium soft
Who it's best for:
  • Hot sleepers
  • People with sensitive skin
  • Shoppers who want to invest in a long-lasting pillow
Highlights:
  • Plush mulberry silk provides luxurious softness and exceptional support
  • Shell composed of breathable, moisture-wicking viscose derived from bamboo
  • Durable design resists clumping and pilling
Cozy Earth Silk Pillow

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Few materials can match the softness and durability of mulberry silk, but most pillows containing silk fill carry expensive price-points. The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow is an exception to this rule thanks to its luxurious construction and affordable price-point. The fill consists of silk strands that provide plush cushioning for the head and neck without sacrificing even support or sinking too much beneath your weight. People with neck pain who have struggled with softer pillows in the past are good candidates for this model.

A shell made of bamboo-derived viscose encases the silk. The fabric is highly breathable and wicks moisture away from the body to keep you comfortable on hot or humid nights. Silk also has cooling properties, so the pillow is a great choice for people who tend to sleep warm. Shape recovery is another strength of this pillow. The fill shouldn’t shift or clump even after prolonged use, so you won’t need to fluff the pillow very often.

You may wash and dry the pillow in commercial-size machines. That said, laundering the pillow too often can affect its structural integrity and cause permanent damage. Cozy Earth recommends spot cleaning or dry cleaning instead, and using a protector can help keep the pillow clean. Standard and king sizes are available.

Cozy Earth offers free shipping for orders within the contiguous U.S. The company permits returns and exchanges within 100 days of the purchase date. Your Silk Pillow is backed by a manufacturer’s warranty that covers defects such as shifting fill for up to 10 years.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“The Cozy Earth Silk Pillow performed well across our various product tests. The fill is soft yet supportive, and the moisture-wicking shell should suffice for anyone who tends to sleep hot.”

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
Silk & Snow Pillow

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

The pillow features a core made of shredded memory foam that can be adjusted to achieve a loft that is most comfortable for you. The foam core is surrounded by a chamber of microfiber fill that mimics the feel of down. 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, the pillow retains a medium feel that prevents the head from sinking deep into the pillow. The cotton cover is removable and machine-washable. Silk & Snow recommends a cold wash cycle and low dryer setting.

Given the adjustable design, the Silk & Snow is compatible with most sleep positions. Even stomach sleepers, who typically have a harder time finding suitable pillows, should find this pillow comfortable. Stomach sleepers require low-loft pillows to keep the head aligned with the spine. This pillow allows them to remove large amounts of foam in order to achieve this low loft.

Silk & Snow offers a 100-night sleep trial, with 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.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“We loved the plushness of the Silk & Snow’s down alternative combined with the contouring of the foam – it’s a great recipe for a pillow if you’re looking to relieve neck pain.”

Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow - Medium/Firm

Best Neck Support

Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow - Medium/Firm

Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow - Medium/Firm
Price: $260 - Standard $335 - King
Fill: 100% 700 fill power European white goose down
Firmness: Medium/Firm
Who it's best for:
  • Sleepers seeking a pillow with better neck support
  • Side and back sleepers
  • People wanting a firmer down pillow
Highlights:
  • Breathable and soft cotton sateen shell
  • 700 fill power European white goose down relieves pressure while supporting the neck
  • 365-night sleep trial
Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow - Medium/Firm

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The Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow – Medium/Firm has an above-average firmness level for a down pillow, offering significant support to the head and neck. Sleepers seeking the signature plush feel of down without sacrificing neck support may want to consider this pick.

A shell made from cotton sateen encases the pillow, which is naturally breathable and soft. The denser weave, double-stitched edges, and German piping along the perimeter help prevent the feathers from poking through and escaping. The core features 700 fill-power European white goose down that contours to the head and neck to relieve pressure. The fill also boasts a Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certification, ensuring the materials were sourced with animal welfare in mind.

Our tests found the pillow’s firmer feel makes it an excellent choice for side sleepers, who often need extra support to keep their head and shoulders aligned with the rest of the body. Back-sleeping testers also appreciated that the pillow prevented their heads from sinking excessively, as this can throw off alignment between the neck and spine.

Two sizes are available: standard and king. The pillow is fully machine-washable, provided your appliance is large enough to accommodate it. Wash in cold water on a gentle cycle, and tumble dry on the lowest heat setting.

Customers living in the U.S. receive free shipping. Quince offers a generous 365-night sleep trial, during which you can try the pillow and return it for a full refund if it does not meet your needs or preferences.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“The Quince Luxe Goose Down Pillow – Medium/Firm has a firmer feel than many other down pillows I’ve tested. It offered great support to the neck without sacrificing that plushness that down is known for.”

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
Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow

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The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow comes in a low profile that is well suited to back sleepers, especially those seeking a model that offers enough support to help them maintain healthy sleep posture.

The pillow is available in two loft options, low and high. Many back sleepers may find the 4-inch profile of the low-loft option more comfortable, to avoid cranking the head too high. The 100% Talalay latex core conforms closely to the head and neck, which helps reduce pressure buildup, while the medium firm feel ensures that the head will remain supported. Hot sleepers should find this pillow very comfortable, since latex retains minimal heat. The organic cotton cover is also very breathable, so the pillow surface stays fairly cool.

Shoppers can pick between a queen and king size. 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.

Brooklyn Bedding offers a 30-night sleep trial, during which customers 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.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“Many of the latex pillows we’ve tested are too thick for stomach sleepers, but the Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex model had just the right height for the stomach sleepers on our team. It also felt nice and cool.”

Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

Best Adjustable

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
Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow

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The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow has an adjustable design that should accommodate most people regardless of their loft and firmness preferences. Each pillow comes with three inserts. The down alternative insert is exceptionally plush and best suited to people who enjoy soft pillows. An insert with shredded memory foam feels slightly firmer, but also provides deep cushioning for the head and neck, while the solid memory foam insert delivers even support. Luxome encourages owners to mix and match the inserts to find their ideal loft and firmness levels.

A cover made of viscose derived from bamboo encases the inserts. Mesh panels on the side promote airflow throughout the interior and the fabric has moisture-wicking properties, so the pillow should sleep fairly cool despite the foam inserts’ heat-retaining tendencies. 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. Additionally, those who order two pillows 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.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“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.”

Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

Best Pressure Relief

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
Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow

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

The Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow features a core made from plant-based down alternative fibers that deeply contour to the head and neck, making it great for sleepers with sharp pressure points. Hot sleepers may also enjoy the pillow since the fibers retain less heat than traditional down.

Natural cotton makes up the pillow shell, which is breathable and moisture-wicking. The medium feel offers a comfortable balance of cushioning and support that a wide range of sleepers should enjoy. 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. 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, Sweet Zzz ships free to customers living in the contiguous U.S, and it offers a 50-night sleep trial. Plant-Based Pillow purchases are backed by a 1-year warranty that covers structural defects.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“I tend to experience pressure in my neck, and the Sweet Zzz Plant-Based Pillow offered excellent cushioning. Compared to traditional down, it also slept much cooler.”

Sweet Night Original Pillow

Best for Back Sleepers

Sweet Night Original Pillow

Sweet Night Original Pillow
Price: $63 - Standard $69 - Queen $74 - King
Fill: 90% Shredded Gel Memory Foam, 10% Shredded Comfort Foam
Firmness: Medium Soft
Who it's best for:
  • Those who want a pillow with adjustable loft
  • Hot sleepers
  • Value seekers
Highlights:
  • Shredded memory foam fill can be added or removed to change the loft
  • Soft, breathable cover
  • Very approachable price-point
Sweet Night Original Pillow

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For some who live with chronic neck pain, pillow loft and firmness preferences vary from night to night depending on their general discomfort level. These sleepers are prime candidates for adjustable pillows. The Original Pillow by Sweet Night is a standout adjustable model stuffed with shredded memory foam that can be added or removed to change how thick the pillow feels. Adjusting the loft can also affect the firmness level, though this pillow maintains a comfortable balance of contouring and support regardless of its overall volume.

The cover is composed of breathable fabric that helps keep sleepers cool despite the foam’s heat-absorbing properties. Since the foam is shredded, the bamboo is quite moldable and well suited to people who enjoy clutching or cuddling with a pillow while they sleep.

The cover can be removed and machine washed whenever it needs to be cleaned, though Sweet Night recommends hand washing in order to preserve the fabric’s lifespan. The foam should never be cleaned. Standard, queen, and king sizes are available for the pillow.

The Original Pillow’s sticker price is quite low compared to other adjustable, shredded foam pillows. Sweet Night also offers free ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Each purchase includes a 100-night sleep trial and three-year warranty.

Lab Notes – What Our Testers Thought

“The Sweet Night Original is a great choice for sleepers who like to snuggle and mold their pillows at night. The moldability also makes it great for relieving pressure in the neck and shoulders.”

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 in different positions. 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 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, 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 for those who 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 the 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

For people who 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. 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 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 contour to the neck instead of leaving a space where the neck is unsupported.
  • 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 the 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.
  • 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 the 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 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.

  • Memory Foam: Memory foam molds in response to heat and pressure, contouring to form a supportive cradle around the 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 for some combination sleepers. 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 owners 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 the 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 users 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, and pillows made with this fill material can be reshaped to suit the user’s preference. Due to its high price tag and ability to provoke allergies in some people, many sleepers opt for down alternative, 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. 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.

  • Side with Elevated Neck: In order for side sleepers to avoid neck pain, it’s important to keep the head in line with the 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 people with bigger shoulders usually need a higher loft. Since the neck sits naturally higher than the head, cervical pillows have an elevated area under the neck that helps support the neck and encourage 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. Those who have trouble finding a properly supportive pillow 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?

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About Our Editorial Team

author
Lauren Fountain

Certified Sleep Coach

Lauren is a Certified Sleep Science Coach with extensive experience researching and testing a wide variety of 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.