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Neck pain is common, and its root cause can be tricky to pin down because so many lifestyle and health factors affect pain levels. Though your doctor should be the first stop on your journey to heal neck pain, you can also make sure that your pillow is providing the cushioning and support you need. 

Our team of sleep product experts has tested hundreds of pillows. The list below represents the best options for people who experience neck pain. We’ll explain why we think each one is worth the money, and walk you through the important factors to consider when shopping for the best pillow for neck pain. 

What’s the Best Pillow for Neck Pain?

The Saatva Latex Pillow does a handful of things exceptionally well, and they happen to be factors that are important for people with neck pain. It keeps its shape for hours so that you can get steady support all night. It’s also easy to customize the pillow’s height – you can separate the two chambers to switch it up from night to night.

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In the next section, we’ll take an in-depth look at each pillow that made this list. Our team draws from a product database that includes nearly 550 individual pillow models. We test these pillows by lying on them in different positions, fluffing them, and even snuggling with them. The picks below all earned high ratings for pain and pressure relief, and each one stood out in a different way as shown in the different accolades we’ve awarded them.

In-Depth Reviews

“The down alternative layer created a comfortable surface, while the shredded latex core prevented me from sinking in too far. No matter what position I slept in, it felt like my head and neck were kept in a neutral, comfortable position. Our field tester has used the pillow for over a month and has already noticed an improvement in her spinal alignment.” – Mark Horiuchi, Lead Product Tester

  • Pros

    1. Comes in two height levels: medium and high loft

    2. Shredded latex fill holds its shape exceptionally well

    3. Core and outer chamber can be used separately from one another

  • Cons

    1. Too thick for most stomach sleepers

    2. Responsive surface isn’t particularly moldable

    3. Latex core can’t be washed

Price Range

$165 – $185

Fill

Shredded Talalay latex and down alternative

Firmness

Medium Soft

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.

“As someone who enjoys snuggling my pillow at night, I really liked the Sleep is the Foundation Loft Pillow. The shredded foam fill was squishy without feeling overly soft. And the price-point is fair compared to other foam pillows I’ve tried out.” – Jackson Lindeke, Director of Product Experience

  • Pros

    1. Highly malleable and easy to mold into your preferred shape

    2. Sleeps very cool for a memory foam pillow

    3. You can adjust the loft level by adding and removing the shredded memory foam fill

  • Cons

    1. Doesn’t keep its shape for long

    2. Has a slight chemical smell upon opening

    3. Internal fill isn’t washable

Price

$90

Fill

Shredded memory foam (gel-infused)

Firmness

Adjustable

The Sleep is the Foundation Loft Pillow is a memory foam model with an adjustable design to accommodate a range of sleeper types. Compared to other adjustable foam pillows that we’ve tested, this model carries a reasonable price-point that should appeal to shoppers on a budget.

How It Performed

During testing, one of our favorite features of this pillow was the adjustable loft and firmness. Depending on how much fill you insert, you’ll get anywhere from a soft to medium feel. At its fullest, the pillow measures 8 inches thick, but you can make the pillow thinner simply by removing some fill. The pillow earned the highest marks from side sleepers, who typically enjoy higher profile pillows. Back sleepers also found the pillow comfortable, especially after removing some of the fill to achieve a medium loft.

The shredded design of the foam fill enables airflow through the pillow, so we found this model cooler than solid foam counterparts. The memory foam has an adaptive feel that gently cradles your head, neck, and shoulders, while still delivering plenty of support to keep your head aloft. It’s a good match for sleepers who enjoy snuggling their pillow at night.

What It’s Made of

The pillow contains shredded memory foam, and you’ll receive an extra bag of fill to use as needed. The foam is infused with a cooling gel engineered to minimize heat retention. The outer cover is made with a breathable fabric blend of polyester and bamboo-derived viscose. You may machine wash the outer cover in cold water, then machine dry on a low-heat setting. The foam is encased in an inner cover that is also machine-washable, but you’ll need to remove all fill before washing.

The Sleep is the Foundation Loft Pillow is available exclusively on Amazon. You may return the pillow within 30 days, and Amazon Prime members receive free shipping within the contiguous U.S. The pillow comes with a one-year warranty.

“What I like about this pillow is its best-of-both-worlds construction. I often find that compression in memory foam pillows can lead to an overly firm feel. With the Silk & Snow Pillow, the inner memory foam layer provides support while the outer layers of microfiber create a wonderful cloud-like softness. It really does feel luxurious.” – Jackson Lindeke, Director of Product Experience

  • Pros

    1. Easy to mold and fluff into your preferred shape

    2. Fill conforms to your head and neck to provide neck support in every sleeping position

    3. Easy to adjust height by removing or adding fill

  • Cons

    1. Holds onto a bit of heat

    2. Chemical-like smell when first unwrapped

    3. The fill is too plush to keep its shape all night

Price Range

$75 – $85

Fill

Shredded memory foam core with down alternative microfiber outer chamber

Firmness

Medium

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.

“This is peak pillow design for side sleepers. My shoulder slotted right into the curve. It was responsive and full enough to support my head, and the breathable latex fill helped me stay cool as a cucumber. The pillow is adjustable, so you can pack in more fill or take some out to give yourself just the right angle for your neck to rest comfortably.” – Danny Noyed, Senior Product Editor

  • Pros

    1. Ergonomic shape that’s designed for side sleepers

    2. Excellent support for side sleepers of all weights

    3. You can remove and add fill as needed to adjust the height

  • Cons

    1. Only holds its shape decently well

    2. You have to remove the fill before washing

    3. Has a bit more of an odor than other latex pillows

Price

$131

Fill

75% Latex and 25% Polyester Fiber

Firmness

Medium, Adjustable

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.

“I’ve been using this pillow for over three years and the all-latex design offers the perfect amount of support for my neck. The latex has a responsive feel that gently cradles my head, so I’ve never experienced any uncomfortable pressure buildup.” – Lauren Fountain, Senior Editor

  • Pros

    1. Solid Talalay latex conforms to your neck’s shape and offers steady support

    2. Low and high loft options available

    3. The pillow’s design helps prevent heat buildup

  • Cons

    1. Not a great match for people who like to shape or mold their pillow

    2. The latex insert can’t be washed

    3. May be too firm for stomach sleepers or people who prefer a softer pillow

Price Range

$89 – $99

Fill

Talalay latex

Firmness

Medium Firm

Proper neck support from your pillow is key to alleviating aches and pains. Materials like memory foam and down tend to sink beneath your weight, but latex — derived from rubber tree extract — is highly responsive and resistant to shape loss. The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow showcases these qualities. The solid latex core is soft enough to cushion sore spots, but you’ll notice significant springiness as your head and neck settle. Two loft options also make the pillow suitable for different sleep positions.

How It Performed

Our side sleepers felt most comfortable on the high-loft pillow. This design provides plenty of padding to fill the space between your head and downward-facing shoulder, which is crucial for proper spinal alignment and less neck pain when lying in the side position. Some of our back sleepers also preferred the high-loft pillow, but others found the lower-loft pillow better suited to their needs. The pillow will probably be too thick for stomach sleepers regardless of loft selection.

Temperature control was a testing highlight. The latex is ventilated with small holes to promote air circulation and the cover is highly breathable, so the pillow should sleep noticeably cooler than competing models with memory foam cores. Our tests also show the pillow excels at shape retention, even after prolonged use.

What It’s Made of

The pillow’s core consists of solid Talalay latex, a material known for natural springiness and durability. A soft Tencel cover encases the latex. You may remove and machine wash the cover whenever a cleaning is needed. The pillow is available in lofts of 4 and 5 inches. Customers can also choose between queen and king sizes.

The Talalay Latex Pillow is affordably priced compared to many competing models made from the same materials, and Brooklyn Bedding offers free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. Your purchase comes with a 30-night trial period. If you decide to keep the pillow, it’s also covered under a 3-year manufacturer’s warranty.

“This pillow is a great mid-loft option, especially for back or combination sleepers. It felt comfortable while I was on my back, supporting my neck while still offering pressure relief. I tend to wake up with neck pain in the morning, and this pillow helped to lessen that by keeping my spine in line with my neck. The fact that it’s vegan is also a bonus.” – Logan Foley, Managing Editor

  • Pros

    1. Top-notch temperature control

    2. Dual-layer system offers neck support and cushioning

    3. Extremely easy to clean

  • Cons

    1. Too thick for many stomach sleepers

    2. Down alternative fibers don’t conform completely to the head’s shape

    3. No option for adjusting firmness

Price Range

$135 – $150

Fill

Plant-based down alternative fibers

Firmness

Medium

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.

“I was amazed by all the ways you can customize this pillow. Not only can you choose more than one fill — you can also choose where in the pillow to place the fill. If you’re ready to splurge on a top-quality pillow that beats the competition in terms of customization, this model is worth the price.” – Danny Noyed, Senior Product Tester

  • Pros

    1. Extremely easy to customize firmness and loft using the layering system

    2. Fill options include memory foam, wool, and latex

    3. Zoned construction lets you prioritize neck support

  • Cons

    1. High price-point

    2. Can take some trial and error to get the right insert combination for your needs

    3. Doesn’t keep its shape all night

Price Range

$349 – $399

Fill

Wool, shredded latex, or memory foam

Firmness

Medium Soft, Medium Firm, Firm

The Noble Head Pillow is a luxury pillow that offers an impressive range of customizable options. The adjustable design makes this model a strong choice for sleepers who need a very particular firmness and loft to optimize comfort and minimize neck pain during sleep.

How It Performed

The pillow has a unique nine-chamber design that allows you to customize each chamber with the fill of your choice. You may add or remove fill as needed to achieve a calibration of loft and support that works for you. Our product testers have encountered very few pillows with this degree of customization, so we recommend it for sleepers seeking a highly adjustable pillow to alleviate neck pain or discomfort.

What It’s Made of

You may choose from three different fill options, each with different performance features and firmness levels. The shredded memory foam fill has a medium soft feel, the shredded latex fill has a medium firm feel, and the wool fill has the firmest feel of all three. Latex and wool are both breathable materials that retain little heat, so hot sleepers may gravitate toward these fill materials. Foam retains more heat but excels at pressure relief, offering the deepest cradling of all three fill materials.

The pillow cover is composed of breathable cotton with GOTS certification to ensure it’s been organically sourced. The wool is GOTS-certified, as well, and the latex has GOLS certification. You’ll receive one bag of extra fill with your pillow, and you may order additional fill free of charge within 30 days. All pillows come with a GOTS-certified organic cotton pillowcase.

Noble Pillow offers free shipping to addresses in the U.S and Canada. The pillow comes with a 30-day sleep trial and 5-year warranty.

“The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow has one of the most adjustable designs I’ve encountered in a pillow. Not only do you get to customize the height, you can also change the firmness simply by swapping layers around. It’s that easy.” – Jeremy Klein, Senior Product Expert

  • Pros

    1. Customizable design offers a wide range of firmness and thickness options

    2. Foam and down alternative inserts offer excellent pressure relief

    3. Machine-washable cover

  • Cons

    1. Foam might emit some off-gassing odors at first

    2. Thinnest configuration may still be too thick for some stomach sleepers

Price Range

$100 – $115

Fill

Down alternative, shredded gel-infused memory foam, and solid gel-infused memory foam

Firmness

Adjustable

Finding a pillow with the perfect amount of pressure relief is often a trial-and-error process that entails trying out different models. The Luxome LAYR Customizable Pillow is an adjustable model that takes the guesswork out of pillow shopping by allowing you to customize the firmness and height until it feels just right.

How It Performed

The LAYR Customizable Pillow offers excellent cushioning, which is beneficial for sleepers who prioritize pressure relief. In addition, the customizable design allows you to fine-tune the amount of cushioning and loft you’ll receive, making the pillow well suited to a wide range of sleep positions. Side sleepers usually need thicker pillows, so you can opt to use the maximum number of layers if you sleep on your side. Back sleepers gravitate toward mid-range pillow lofts and stomach sleepers tend to prefer very low lofts, so if you sleep in either position, you can use fewer layers.

What It’s Made of

The pillow includes three inserts, each with a different firmness and material. You can use whichever number and combination of layers feels best. The down alternative insert has a soft feel, while the shredded memory foam offers a medium firmness. The solid memory foam insert has the firmest feel and contains two foam pieces — one 1 inch and the other 2 inches — to further customize the firmness and loft. Each insert is encased in a breathable cotton cover, and the entire pillow cover is made with bamboo-derived viscose.

You may machine-wash the insert and pillow covers so long as you remove the fill first. Shipping is free to addresses in the contiguous U.S. and the pillow comes with a 30-day return policy.

“The shredded memory foam and resilient kapok fibers in the Layla Kapok offer the perfect mix of cradling and support. Our field tester has slept on this pillow for 4 years and has never had neck pain. He especially loves the ability to fine-tune the pillow by removing or adding foam.” – Tom Ryan, Head of Product Testing

  • Pros

    1. Shredded memory foam and kapok fibers offer even mix of cradling and support

    2. Breathable cover and cooling fill help prevent overheating

    3. Loft is adjustable

  • Cons

    1. May feel too thick for stomach sleepers

    2. Foam might emit off-gassing odor initially

Price Range

$109 – $129

Fill

Shredded memory foam and kapok tree fiber blend

Firmness

Medium Soft

Fibers from the kapok tree offer the same softness and lightness as real down, but without triggering allergy symptoms or using animal-based materials. The Layla Kapok Pillow combines this material with shredded memory foam to create a supremely soft feel. We recommend the pillow to anyone who needs a plush surface to relieve pressure in the neck and shoulders.

How It Performed

Since the Layla Kapok Pillow offers adjustable loft, our testers evaluated multiple profiles. The stomach sleepers on our team preferred a mid-level profile with roughly half of the fill removed. For our back sleepers, three-quarters of the fill provided enough loft without elevating the head too much, while our side sleepers preferred the pillow’s fill at full volume. Breathability proved to be one of the pillow’s biggest strengths during our tests. The shredded fill promotes steady airflow, and the cover is both breathable and moisture-wicking. We also found the pillow quite moldable and snuggly. If the Kapok Pillow feels uncomfortable at first, try removing some of the fill to lower the profile.

What It’s Made of

The fill consists of shredded memory foam and kapok fibers. This blend provides even contouring and exceptional softness, making this pillow the best of both worlds for people who need pressure relief and support. A cover made of poly-viscose encases the fill. The cover fabric is infused with copper for extra cooling. You can machine wash the cover, but first you should separate it from the inner pouch containing the fill. Queen and king sizes are available.

The Kapok Pillow is competitively priced and Layla offers free ground shipping throughout the contiguous U.S. Each purchase includes a 30-night sleep trial. If you decide to keep the pillow, you’ll also receive a 5-year manufacturer’s warranty.

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.

Expert Tested. Sleeper Approved.

Over the past eight years, our Seattle-based Test Lab has performed hands-on tests on more than 4,000 sleep products — and more than 500 of them are pillows. 

As product experts, we stay up to date on the latest news in sleep science and product trends. We use this knowledge to fuel our data-backed recommendations. Many of our testers have worked directly with sleep product manufacturers. On occasion, a sleep health expert might stop by to tweak a performance rating.

When we test a pillow, we collect data across nine major performance categories and combine these results with real-world feedback. We use tools and tech to monitor qualities like conforming, temperature control, and heat retention. In order to ensure our findings are inclusive of all sleepers, our team consists of people with varying body types and sleep positions.

Pillows aren’t one-size-fits-all. The perfect pillow for you is going to depend on general points like your body weight and sleeping position, as well as unique points like if you have neck or shoulder pain, if you sleep hot at night, or if you just like the feel of latex over memory foam. Our goal at the Test Lab is to help take the guesswork out of your pillow-buying process.

So How Did We Choose the Best Pillows for Neck Pain?

For this list, we focused on pillows designed to support the neck, cradle the head, and reduce pain and pressure buildup in these areas while you sleep. Our team ran each pillow through the same series of hands-on tests. In addition to pain relief, other qualities we evaluated during these tests include temperature control, shape retention, and moldability. Price, available sizes and firmness levels, and ease of cleaning also played a role in which pillows made our final cut.

Is Your Pillow Causing Your Neck Pain?

Neck pain can stem from dozens of issues ranging from body weight to lifestyle habits or problems from past injuries. It’s possible for a pillow to cause neck pain, but using the wrong one can also make underlying issues worse and prolong discomfort. The average head weighs around 12 pounds and needs serious support. Generally speaking, you want to be able to sleep on a pillow with your head supported at a comfortable angle and your neck in line with the rest of your spine.

With that in mind, there are a few reasons that a pillow can worsen neck pain: 

  • A pillow that’s too low or high can cause your neck to bend at an awkward angle
  • An unsupportive pillow may let your head sink in too far
  • Pillows without enough conforming or cushioning may put pressure on your head or neck
  • A pillow that isn’t supportive enough can strain your shoulders

If you experience regular neck pain, it’s important to consult your physician to check for any related health conditions. A new pillow is not a substitute for necessary medical care.

What to Consider in a Pillow When You Have Neck Pain

If you experience neck pain, there are a few major factors to keep in mind when shopping for a new pillow. We’ll walk you through them.

Pillow Type

You can find pillow types made from dozens of materials, but they aren’t all the right fit for people with neck pain. The best pillows for neck pain will support your head while keeping your neck at a healthy angle, along with keeping pressure off of sensitive areas while you sleep. 

  • Memory foam: Memory foam compresses under weight and body heat, leaving an imprint (or memory) behind in the foam when you release the weight. It molds to your head’s shape and offers plenty of cushioning and support. You can find both solid memory foam pillows as well as shredded memory foam pillows. They’re typically not too pricey and widely available. Though many sleepers find them comfortable, memory foam pillows tend to retain heat and they’re slow to bounce back to their original shape –– which may not be ideal for combination sleepers. 
  • Down: Down pillows have been a standard for thousands of years for good reason. They tend to be plush, lightweight, and very soft. They’re made from duck and goose feathers and are often expensive as a result. You can also find more affordable down alternative pillows made from polyester or plant-based fibers. As down pillows age, their feathers compress and the pillow loses its structure. Stomach sleepers who need thinner pillows may prefer down pillows, but this loss of shape isn’t a great match for side and back sleepers who need a thicker pillow. 
  • Latex: Made from the same tree as the one that produces rubber, latex is a bouncy material that’s durable and responsive. Latex pillows tend to come in solid blocks or shredded fills. Both are known for sleeping cool and relieving pressure. It’s not usually easy to fluff a latex pillow, so they’re best for people who want a pillow that keeps its shape. Natural latex is often organic and sustainable and tends to be on the pricier side. 
  • Buckwheat: Buckwheat pillows are originally from Japan and provide very strong support for the right sleeper. They’re firm, have adjustable loft levels, and are quite durable. The fill is made from buckwheat seed casings that interlock and create a stable, supportive surface. Many people find them too firm, but side and back sleepers who are willing to trade cushiness for support may really like a buckwheat pillow. They’re generally expensive, but they last a long time and manufacturers often sell buckwheat hulls separately to refill your pillow when it’s time.

Sleeping Position and Support

Your sleeping position plays a big part in determining what kind of support level you need from a pillow. Side, back, and stomach sleeping all position your head and neck at different angles, so it’s important to get a pillow that’s a good fit for your individual needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all option. 

Stomach sleepers tend to experience sleep-related neck pain more often than side and back sleepers do because they sleep with their heads turned. They can also feel pain if they sleep with a pillow that’s too thick because it causes the neck to bend upwards. If you’re a stomach sleeper, choose a pillow with a low loft (or maybe even sleep without a pillow) to make sure that your neck stays in line with the rest of your spine. 

Along with sleeping position, you’ll want to consider head size and body weight. The heavier your body and head are, the more support and pushback you’ll need to keep your head from sinking into your pillow. 

How to Change Your Sleeping Position

If you’re looking to change your sleeping position, know that it’s going to take some time to adjust. Here are a few methods you can try to help you with the swap:

  • Surround yourself with pillows: Putting pillows on all sides can help stop you from rolling back to your usual position.
  • Make sure your head is supported: Get a pillow that’s comfortable and the right loft level for the new sleeping position you want. 
  • Use pillows for extra support: Adding pillows between the knees or under the lower back can ease strain and help align the spine.
  • Consider a new mattress: A mattress with the right level of support for your body weight and new sleeping position can make the change easier. 

Loft and Firmness

Loft refers to how thick a pillow is, while firmness tells you whether a pillow feels soft, medium, or firm to the touch. Together, these two factors create an overall support level. You should use a pillow that has the right loft and firmness level for your body weight and favorite sleeping position. There is no one-size-fits-all option, and even adjustable pillows have their limits. Don’t buy into marketing hype –– focus on what your needs are first and how a pillow is or isn’t built to meet them.

Personal preferences are a factor, but generally speaking, side sleepers need higher loft pillows than back and stomach sleepers in order to keep their neck in a straight line. Stomach sleepers need a low loft option to keep their necks from bending upwards, and back sleepers do best with a model that’s between the two. 

Firmness can affect a pillow’s loft level. If a side sleeper is using a high loft pillow that’s very soft, their pillow can sink too deeply under their head  and allow their neck to bend. It’s important to pick a pillow with both the right firmness and loft level in order to get the best support and to prevent neck pain. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we recommend when it comes to pillow loft and firmness.

Sleeping PositionRecommended Pillow LoftRecommended Firmness
StomachLess than 3 inchesStomach sleepers often prefer soft and medium soft models, and some stomach sleepers sleep with no pillow at all.
Side3 inches to 5 or more inchesMedium to firm pillows are best to keep side sleepers’ heads evenly supported.
Back3 inches to 5 inchesA pillow with medium firmness keeps back sleepers’ heads in a neutral position.
Combination3 inches to 5 inches, adjustableCombination sleepers should go for a medium to medium firm pillow or choose one with a customizable firmness level.

Shape Retention

A pillow’s fill material can affect how well it keeps its shape through the night. Some materials, like down and polyester, tend to compress and flatten over time, while others like latex and memory foam hold their shape well all night. Shredded foam pillows are usually somewhere in between, depending on how full the pillow is.

If you experience neck pain and need a pillow with a consistent shape and height, you may want to avoid pillows with more malleable fill. Go for one that won’t require fluffing instead, like a solid block of foam or latex. 

Cooling Properties

Like mattresses, pillows can trap air and hold onto body heat. If you often wake up from overheating, using a cooling pillow can help prevent you from having to shift sleeping positions or swapping pillows to cool down. Go for a model with a naturally cool fill like latex, or choose one with gel infusions or perforations. Pillows with shredded fills typically sleep cooler than those with solid constructions because they have more airflow.

“We discuss the right pillow height a lot, but firmness is just as important. I used to sleep on a down alternative pillow, but it was soft enough that my head was sinking in way too far to support my head as a side sleeper. I swapped it for a firmer Talalay latex pillow that was just as thick and the soreness in my neck is a thing of the past.”

-Lauren Fountain, Senior Product Editor

Tips for Relieving Neck Pain During Sleep

If you experience regular neck pain, you should consult your doctor to learn about what’s causing your discomfort. You can also make sure you’re getting the support you need by using a pillow and mattress that are the right fit. 

Buy an Ergonomic Pillow

A pillow that works with your body’s shape rather than against it can help relieve neck pain. Side sleepers can use a model with arm cutouts to help take pressure off the shoulders. Cervical pillows offer increased neck support and often have unique shapes or contours that allow your neck to stay aligned with the spine. Bolster pillows can keep your neck from curving and can be comfortable for certain sleepers. 

Sleep on the Right Mattress

If your mattress doesn’t provide the right support for your spine, it can affect your neck and cause pain. Like choosing a pillow, buying the right mattress requires taking your body weight and sleeping position into account. One that’s too soft lets your spine bend while one that’s too firm can put pressure on your body. It’s important to use a mattress that keeps your spine on an even plane and fully supported from head to toe.

Dive Deeper: In-Depth Pillow Guides

If you’d like to check out more guides on different pillow types, visit the pages below. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a firm or soft pillow better for neck pain?

If you have neck pain, a firmer pillow is better if you sleep on your side, while a softer one is best if you’re a stomach sleeper. Back sleepers should use a medium firmness pillow. Your pillow’s thickness, or loft, is also important to consider. You need one that’s thick enough to keep your head and neck in line with the rest of your spine. For side and back sleepers, that’s usually a model between 3 and 5 inches thick, for stomach sleepers, it’s one that’s 3 inches thick or less.

What pillow types are best for neck pain?

The best types of pillows for neck pain provide strong support, shape retention, and enough cushioning to prevent pressure point discomfort. Memory foam, latex, and buckwheat pillows all keep their shapes well and can be found in different heights for sleepers with different weights, head sizes, and favorite sleeping positions.

What is the best sleeping position for neck pain?

The best sleeping positions for neck pain are side and back sleeping, which put less pressure on your neck than stomach sleeping does. You can help avoid neck pain by choosing a pillow and mattress combination that keeps your spine in a straight line. Stomach sleeping can create an uncomfortable bend in your neck and it’s tougher to find a pillow that doesn’t worsen the issue.

Are higher pillows good for neck pain?

Higher pillows are good for neck pain if you’re a side sleeper, while mid- and low-loft pillows are better for back and stomach sleepers respectively. If you experience neck pain, you need a pillow that will keep your head level with the rest of your spine. Side sleepers’ shoulders prop them up and a high-loft pillow can help bridge the gap between the bed’s surface and their head. Back and stomach sleepers who use a high-loft pillow may find it uncomfortable because their neck has to bend to rest on the pillow.

What are ways you can relieve neck pain?

You can relieve neck pain by working to correct your sleeping posture, stretching regularly, working on strength, and using temperature therapy. While choosing the right pillow can help address issues, visiting your doctor is the best way to treat serious neck pain.

Still have questions?

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