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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.
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.
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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.
Best for Side Sleepers
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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.
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The GhostBed GhostPillow – Memory Foam will probably be a comfortable change of pace for anyone who sleeps hot. The pillow’s solid foam core is ventilated with holes to promote air circulation throughout the interior, while the cover is composed of phase-change material that draws heat away from your body and maintains a cool temperature. An inner open-mesh cover is included for extra breathability.
The pillow is medium firm and the foam conforms evenly around the head and neck, resulting in even support and little to no sink. A mid-level thickness of 6 inches makes this pillow especially well suited to back sleepers, as well as side sleepers who don’t need too much loft. The cover can be washed and dried in any household machine, so you won’t have trouble keeping the pillow clean.
Compared to other memory foam pillows of this quality, the GhostPillow – Memory Foam has a very reasonable price-point. Ground shipping is free throughout the contiguous U.S., and you’ll have the option to bundle your purchase with a mulberry silk pillowcase and save roughly 50% on that extra item. The sleep trial for this pillow lasts 101 nights, and those who decide to keep it also qualify for a 5-year warranty.
Best Pressure Relief
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The Amerisleep Dual Comfort Pillow is composed of Bio-Pur memory foam, a proprietary open-cell material that contours evenly around the head and neck to alleviate pressure points in these areas. Thanks to its reversible design, one side of the pillow has a medium soft feel and the other side is medium firm. This allows sleepers to flip between two distinct surfaces, making the pillow ideal for people whose firmness levels tend to fluctuate.
The foam is ventilated with small holes to allow air circulation, which prevents the material from absorbing too much body heat and allows the pillow to remain fairly cool. The cover is made of breathable polyester mesh for added temperature control. You can remove the cover and launder it in your household machines whenever cleaning is needed, but you’ll never need to wash the foam.
Customers can choose between a 5-inch or 6-inch loft for their pillow, depending on their ideal thickness and sleep position. While the thicker option costs slightly more, the Dual Comfort Pillow is very reasonably priced compared to other memory foam models. Amerisleep also offers free shipping for all orders and backs the pillow with a longer-than-average 10-year warranty.
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Your ideal pillow loft will depend on a few factors, such as the size of your head and your preferred sleep position, but most pillows sold today are available in one thickness. The Muse Pillow is a notable exception. You can choose between three loft options – 5, 6, or 7 inches. The lower-loft design is best suited to stomach sleepers, while side and back sleepers will probably find the medium- or high-loft pillows more comfortable.
The Muse Pillow also boasts a sophisticated, layered design. The top layer consists of shredded memory foam, while the bottom layer is made of solid memory foam. These materials contour closely to the head and neck to alleviate aches, pains, and pressure points. Unlike many competing memory foam pillows, the Muse Pillow shouldn’t sleep too warm for most people. This can be attributed to the cooling fabric used to construct the cover, which dissipates body heat to keep you cool. The cover can be removed and machine washed whenever cleaning is needed.
All three loft options for the Muse Pillow share the same sticker price. The company also ships for free anywhere in the contiguous U.S. Customers also receive a three-year warranty with their pillow purchase.
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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 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.
Best Adjustable Pillow
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The Layla Kapok Pillow is a great option for people with neck pain thanks in part to its adjustable design. The pillow contains a blend of shredded memory foam and fibers from the kapok tree, the latter of which can be likened to down or cotton. To change the loft, simply unzip the pillow and add or remove the fill from the main chamber. The pillow measures 4 inches thick when new.
Hot sleepers should also find this pillow very comfortable, especially if they have had bad experiences with other memory foam pillows. The kapok fibers are very breathable and the polyester-viscose cover is infused with copper for added cooling. CuTec yarns used for the cover also have antimicrobial properties. The cover can be washed and dried in your household machines, but the fill should never be laundered. Queen and king sizes are available.
The Layla Kapok Pillow’s sticker price is very reasonable considering its premium materials and innovative, long-lasting design. Layla also offers free ground shipping anywhere in the contiguous U.S. You may return the pillow within 120 days of your original purchase, even if you’ve used it or washed the cover, and you’ll also receive a five-year warranty that covers structural defects.
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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 Bamboo by Sweet Night is a standout adjustable model stuffed with shredded, charcoal-infused 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 rayon from bamboo, a highly breathable material that helps keep sleepers cool despite the foam’s heat-absorbing properties. And because the foam is shredded, the Bamboo is also 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 Bamboo’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.
Best for Back Sleepers
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The Back Support Systems BeCool Neck Contour Pillow has an ergonomic shape that offers excellent support for your head and neck during sleep. The supportive shape helps prevent sources of neck pain by promoting healthy alignment of the neck and spine. The pillow is best for back or side sleepers, especially those suffering from neck discomfort at night.
Available in three sizes (small, medium, and large), the pillow is composed of a solid, single piece of molded memory foam that has a medium firmness. The foam molds to the shape of your head to relieve pressure points that might be causing pain or discomfort in the neck and shoulder areas. The memory foam is infused with gel, which is designed to draw away heat throughout the night, which may be beneficial for sleepers who tend to run hot at night. The pillow comes with a removable and washable bamboo-derived textile cover for easy cleaning.
Back Support Systems offers a 30-day return policy for most of its products, but it does not allow customers to return pillows that have been opened or used.
Best Memory Foam
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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.
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.
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, so that some people find that memory foam pillows relieve their neck pain while others are much more comfortable with microfiber filing.
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.
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.
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.
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