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Do you wake up each morning with pain in your neck? You aren’t alone. Some
While it tends to affect people the most in middle age, neck pain can impact anyone. Pain following injury may resolve in a few days or weeks, but up to 10 percent of people may be left with chronic issues.
Your sleeping position and pillow may play a role in continuing pain. Stomach sleepers, for example, may face the most neck pain. This position means your neck is turned to either side and your spine is arched.
For relief, experts recommend trying to sleep either on your back or on your side, and choosing a pillow that helps to support the neck and its natural curve.
We’ve rounded up a list of top customer-rated pillow options that can help relieve neck pain while you sleep. Pillows can range anywhere from $35 to $165 or more, so you’ll want to weigh your options carefully.
The type of pillow you want may depend on your specific needs. We’ll walk you through 10 options.
1. Cervical bolster
The K Ka Ua Cervical Bolster Pillow helps cradle the neck, but it can also support your back, knees, and other joints.
- Details: It’s 4 inches thick and provides firm memory foam support. The bamboo-polyester cover is hypoallergenic and machine washable. Bonus: This pillow is also small enough to fit into a carry-on for travel.
- Cost: $
- Pros: People who’ve tried this bolster like that it can be used with or without a regular pillow. One reviewer shared that he’s been “90 percent pain-free” since using the K Ka Ua.
- Cons: A few others complain that the bolster is too firm to provide relief and may actually create more back and neck pain.
2. Firm support
The EPABO Memory Foam Pillow is an option for people looking for firm support.
- Details: This pillow is contoured to provide ergonomic support that aligns your head, neck, shoulders, and back. The company explains that in the first two weeks of use, people may experience some discomfort as their body adjusts to using the pillow.
- Cost: $
- Pros: This pillow is a bestseller with many positive reviews giving high marks to its firm support and high density. One reviewer shares that it’s great for people who move around a lot from their back to their side overnight.
- Cons: Another explains that the pillow “sleeps hot” and the neck support may be too high to be comfortable.
3. Medium support
The Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is a popular choice with people who sleep in any position.
- Details: Its fill is a shredded memory foam that allows you to customize the support. The vented bamboo cover is designed to help keep your head cool at night and is resistant to dust mites, making it a solid choice for people who deal with allergies.
- Cost: $$
- Pros: Reviewers share that the fill is firm, yet soft and very comfortable, and a perfect mix of firm and giving.
- Cons: Others share that the pillow is a bit heavy and that it has a distinct chemical smell that lingers.
4. Soft support
The DOWNLITE Extra Soft Down Pillow is a duck down pillow perfect for people looking for soft support.
- Details: Its flat design makes it a smart choice for stomach or face sleepers who deal with neck pain. The filling is made from down. Bonus: You can machine wash and dry this hypoallergenic pillow.
- Cost: $$
- Pros: Those who’ve tried this pillow share that it compresses flat enough to be comfortable while stomach sleeping, but that it’s fluffy and cradles the neck. Others like that it “sleeps cool” and comfortably throughout the night.
- Cons: A few people say the pillow is too flat and may not be a good choice if you move sleeping positions often.
5. Headache relief
- Details: The sides of the pillow are higher than the middle to provide neck support. The pillow itself is adjustable, so you can set the degree of firmness by removing or adding stuffing. The cotton cover is hypoallergenic and the filling is microfiber. There are no flame retardants or other harmful chemicals used in manufacturing.
- Cost: $$
- Pros: Reviewers agree that this pillow is well made. One even went so far as to say that it “changed her life” by banishing her morning headaches. Others enjoy being able to adjust the fill to get the support “just right” for their needs.
- Cons: A few people noted that you do need to fluff this pillow to maintain its support as it tends to go flat over time.
6. Side sleep
The Sleep Artisan Luxury Side Sleeper Pillow is filled with a proprietary blend of organic latex and down alternative microfiber that’s both antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.
- Details: The pillow’s shape is unique in that it’s a narrow rectangle with a curve on one side to mimic how many side sleepers scrunch standard pillows to support the neck. There are no petroleum-based chemicals or strong odors. As with other pillows, you can add or take away filling for adjustable support.
- Cost: $$$
- Pros: People who have tried this pillow share that the unique shape makes it comfortable not only for the neck, but also for the shoulders, arms, and wrists. They also like that it maintains a “neutral” temperature throughout the night.
- Cons: A few explain that the fill takes some getting used to and it may feel lumpy or “pebbly.” Others don’t like that you need to remove the filling before washing.
7. Back sleep
The B.E.D. INNOVA Memory Foam Pillow in Medium may be a good choice for back sleepers, as it helps keep your spine straight, cradling your neck and allowing your head to rest in a lower position.
- Details: It has built-in bolsters to support the cervical spine. The memory foam material is resistant to dust mites and other parasites that can trigger asthma and allergies. The company says you don’t have to get used to using this pillow.
- Cost: $$
- Pros: Reviewers like the stitching and overall quality.
- Cons: One person shared that the pillow had an overpowering odor out of the package.
8. Stomach sleep
The Belly Sleep Memory Foam Pillow is designed to be especially thin and flat — ideal for people who sleep on their stomachs.
- Details: Its edges are curved to help reduce head and neck rotation, and to reduce pressure points that contribute to pain. The memory foam material is infused with cooling gel. It’s also hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites.
- Cost: $$
- Pros: People who’ve tried this pillow explain that it’s different sleeping on such a flat pillow at first. Over time, the thin design makes sense and provides a lot of relief. One reviewer even said he’ll “never use another pillow ever again.”
- Cons: Others share that this pillow doesn’t work so well if you switch positions during the night.
9. Organic option
The Holy Lamb Organics Orthopedic Neck Pillow may be the priciest option, but it’s handmade in the United States.
- Details: It was designed in collaboration with a chiropractic physician and features two neck bolsters — one thick and one thin — on each side. Each pillow is made to order and comes with an organic cotton pillowcase.
- Cost: $$$
- Pros: Reviewers share that this pillow doesn’t have any chemical odors and that the quality craftsmanship makes it worth the cost.
- Cons: A couple people share that they wish the pillow had a bit more stuffing.
10. Ancient favorite
Buckwheat pillows have been used for hundreds of years and are still a favorite in Japan. The Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow gets high marks for keeping your head cool while you sleep.
- Details: This pillow supports the head and neck to help prevent stiffness and headaches. The hulls shift and rise at the neck area, allowing your head to sink into proper alignment.
- Cost: $
- Pros: One reviewer shares that this pillow “worked wonders” even after experiencing whiplash from a car accident. Another reviewer with chronic neck pain explained that her pain went away after just one night using the pillow.
- Cons: The only noted downside is that it may be hard to get used to sleeping on buckwheat hulls if you’re used to fiber or feather-filled pillows.
You spend about one-third of your life sleeping. Pillows that are too stiff or too full may strain your neck by keeping it flexed throughout the night, resulting in pain.
In fact, one 2008
Fill matters, too. While the type of fill you choose is up to personal preference, one 2011
The highest ratings and satisfaction were those with either latex or polyester fill. Not only that, but this same study revealed that many people are sleeping on pillows that are uncomfortable, resulting in difficulty sleeping and symptoms of pain.
Change it up
If you’re choosing a memory foam pillow, you may be able to get away with changing it less often. A good indicator that it’s time for replacement is if you’re experiencing new pain or the filling is no longer distributed evenly.
Regardless, it’s a good idea to wash your pillow every six months following the manufacturer’s instructions, especially if you have allergies or asthma. Drying on high heat will help kill dust mites.
If you’ve changed your pillow but still aren’t finding relief, you may want to consider your overall sleeping posture.
Try sleeping on your back or side with your neck aligned with your body. You may want to elevate your thighs with pillows to help flatten the muscles around your spine.
You can also try these tips:
- Modify your overall posture when standing or sitting. Find a neutral spine in these positions with your shoulders hovering directly over your hips and your ears over your shoulders.
- Stretch your neck every 20 to 30 minutes when doing computer work, driving long distances, or doing other repetitive tasks that tax your neck. It may be helpful to set a reminder on your computer or phone to take breaks.
- Use a backpack or rolling suitcase when carrying heavy loads. Either evenly distribute the weight or wheel it around. Using a shoulder bag will put excess strain on your neck and shoulders.
- Use heat or ice to ease the pain by taking a warm shower or applying a hot compress or ice bag. This is especially effective in the first two to three days of an acute injury.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Quit smoking. Experts share that smoking is associated with chronic neck pain.
Make an appointment with your doctor if your neck pain doesn’t respond to a change in your pillow, posture, or other lifestyle measures. In rare cases, neck pain may be a symptom of a condition that needs medical attention.
Possible causes include:
- muscle strain from everyday activities or injury
- joint issues or osteoarthritis
- nerve compression from bone spurs or herniated disks
- diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, or cancer
Be sure to tell your doctor if you’ve noticed less strength or numbness in your arms or hands. Any shooting pain down your arm or around your shoulder is also important to note.
Seek immediate medical attention if your neck pain is severe or has resulted from an injury like a car accident or fall.
Getting relief from neck pain may be as simple as changing your pillow.
There are a number of options to suit a variety of needs and budgets, so it may be worth trying a few to see what works for you. Many companies offer money-back guarantees, so you’re covered if something doesn’t work.
If you still have neck pain after changing your pillow or your sleep position, consider making an appointment with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions.