Chronic neck pain is a common problem for all kinds of sleepers. No matter which sleeping position you prefer, it’s possible to strain your neck muscles, especially if you’re using the wrong pillow. The right pillow helps with sleeping posture, neck support and overall comfort for a good night’s sleep.
If you tend to wake up with neck pain or stiffness, a new pillow could make all the difference. Our top ten picks include a wide variety of pillows, from traditional pillows made from memory foam or down, to orthopedic pillows specifically designed for neck support. Find out which one is right for you. Check out the best memory foam pillows for more recommendations.
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Best Pillows for Neck Pain
- Layla Pillow – Best for Cooling
- Saatva Pillow – Best Luxury
- Tri-Core Cervical Pillow – Best for Neck and Upper Back Pain
- Puredown Pillow – Best Traditional Feel
- Panda Life Pillow – Most Sustainable
- Purple Pillow – Most Unique
- Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow – Best Memory Foam
- Belly Sleeper Pillow – Best for Stomach Sleepers
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More of a visual person? Watch our video review for a closer look at each model.
Best CoolingThis cooling pillow is made with open-cell memory foam and natural Kapok yarns which facilitate more airflow than your average foam pillow. The cover includes a breathable fabric with temperature-regulating copper fibers woven in to evenly distribute heat. This prevents you from having to flip the pillow in the middle of the night to find the cool side. Also, the pillow is adjustable, meaning you can add or remove the shredded foam fill to get your desired loft level. Reason to Buy: The ability to adjust the height of the Layla Pillow makes it an ideal option for neck pain relief. It combines the airy plushness of Kapok fibers with the contouring support of shredded memory foam. If you’re looking for a plush yet supportive pillow that sleeps cool and relieves neck pain, the Layla Pillow could be right for you.
Best LuxuryThe Saatva Pillow features three luxurious layers. Fluffy organic cotton fill surrounds the center of natural, shredded Talalay latex, and it’s all held together with an organic cotton cover. Reason to Buy: If you want the plush comfort of a hotel pillow in your own bed, then we recommend buying the Saatva Pillow for $145. Shredded latex is naturally hypoallergenic, cotton is breathable and cool, and the layered construction offers ideal neck support.
Best for Neck and Upper Back PainThe Tri-Core Cervical Pillow is specifically designed to reduce neck and upper back pain, thanks to its cervical design. The sides of the pillow are filled with polyester fluff, but the center of the pillow is indented to cradle your head and support your neck and cervical spine. Reason to Buy: If your main concern when it comes to buying a new pillow is finding one that will keep you from waking up with a stiff neck, the Tri-Core Cervical Pillow is a great option. It only costs $47, and it offers two different levels of neck support. One side of the pillow is extra firm, and the other side is a bit softer, so you can choose the side that works for you.
Best Traditional FeelThe Puredown Pillow is great for anyone who loves a traditional down pillow. Puredown makes several different pillows with varying levels of firmness, breathability and cover material, but they are all high-quality feather pillows. Reason to Buy: Puredown pillows are a good choice for those who want a traditional down pillow that comes in a wide variety of comfort preferences and prices. Puredown pillows range from $25 to $122, often for a set of two, so there’s a pillow for almost any budget.
Most SustainableThe Panda Life Pillow is the most eco-friendly pillow on this list. Plus, it still offers incredible support and contouring, thanks to its shredded memory-foam fill. The memory foam and the cover are made from viscose from bamboo, which is a sustainable material that also sleeps cool. Reason to Buy: This shredded memory foam pillow is great for anyone who sleeps hot, experiences neck pain, wants to help the environment or shops on a budget. For $60, you can get a good night’s sleep without harming the environment.
Most Out-of-the-BoxThe Purple Pillow is unique because it isn’t made with memory foam, down or any other traditional pillow material. Instead, core products include Purple’s proprietary ComfortGrid, a hyperelastic polymer grid that supports your neck while also allowing for as much airflow as possible. Reason to Buy: The Purple Pillow is one of the pricier options on this list, coming in at $109, but many people find that the additional cost is worth the comfortable support and breathability. You’ve never slept on this type of pillow before, and it could make all the difference for your neck pain.
Best Memory FoamThe Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow is made from extra-firm memory foam, shaped with a curve at the base to support that natural curve of your neck. This contour memory foam pillow is firm enough to take the strain off your neck muscles, but still soft enough to contour to your body. Reason to Buy: Unlike many of the other traditional sleeping pillows on this list, the Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow is specifically made for ideal neck support. Price ranges from $89 for the small neck pillow to $129 for the large one.
Best for Stomach SleepersThe Belly Sleeper Pillow is specifically designed to relieve neck pain for stomach sleepers. It’s made from cooling memory foam, and unlike most pillows, it is thin, with curved edges to prevent unnecessary neck strain. Reason to Buy: If you’re a stomach sleeper experiencing neck pain, the Belly Sleeper Pillow could make a huge difference in your sleep quality. For $50, you can get the neck support you need while sleeping on your stomach
The irony of the pillow market is that even the softest of pillows can exacerbate neck pain in some individuals if they’re not a good fit. This highlights the importance of understanding the loft and support levels that work best for achieving a neutral spine alignment in your preferred sleeping position. For example, a pillow that’s too thin will encourage the head to fall back, and a pillow that’s too thick will bring the chin too close to the sternum. When you’re lying in bed, you should never feel like your head is being forced too far upward or extended too far backward. In the ideal position, your ears should be in line with your shoulders and your chin should be in line with your sternum.
A new pillow can go a long way toward improving your neck pain, but it might not be the only solution you need.
One way to prevent neck pain from developing throughout the day is to check in on your posture, especially if you sit at a desk most of the day. Make sure you sit with your feet flat on the floor, your back flat against the back of your chair, and your computer monitor at eye level. If you tend to slouch, set a periodic reminder on your phone to help you remember to sit up straight.
If your pain isn’t limited to your neck, you might want to start looking at new mattresses as well. Shoulder pain, back pain and hip pain can go hand in hand with neck pain caused by a mattress that isn’t well-suited to your sleep needs. If you’re experiencing chronic pain, in your neck or elsewhere, a new mattress could do you a world of good.
Types of Pillows for Neck Pain
Some pillows help reduce neck pain simply because they keep your spine properly aligned at night, but some pillows are specifically designed for neck pain relief. Check out the types of pillows for neck pain that you can choose from.
Ergonomic/Orthopedic/Chiropractic Neck Pillow
Pillows that are labeled “ergonomic,” “orthopedic,” or “chiropractic” typically do the same thing: They keep your spine properly aligned while you sleep. “Ergonomic” means something is designed for comfort, while “orthopedic” and “chiropractic” both mean something is designed for proper spine, bone or muscle care.
Some pillows are specifically designed for side sleepers because side sleeping presents a unique problem for proper neck alignment. When you sleep on your side, you can get a crick in your neck from poor spinal alignment. Side-sleeper pillows provide the support you need to prevent side sleeping neck pain.
Cervical Neck Pillow
Cervical neck pillows, or cervical support pillows, are pillows designed with an indentation in the center. Your head rests in the indentation, and the raised parts of the pillow surrounding it provide the support your neck needs. They typically don’t work for stomach sleepers, but for side and back sleepers, they can make a big difference when it comes to preventing neck pain.
Regardless of sleeping position, proper spinal alignment is the key to relieving neck pain throughout the night. Here’s a brief guide to the best pillow loft and support levels for achieving a neutral spine by sleeping position:
- Back sleepers want to strike a balance with regard to the loft when shopping for a pillow. A thick pillow will tilt the head upward and close off the airways, while a thin pillow will overextend the cervical spine. Medium or high-loft pillows will work best. Look for pillows that are known to retain their shape throughout the night to help maintain proper spinal alignment for the full duration of your sleep.
- Side sleepers require pillows that are elevated underneath the neck, filling the gap that naturally occurs between the sleeper’s neck and the pillow, and slightly lower beneath the head. Because this position requires such a specific shape for neutral spinal alignment, customized pillows designed specifically for side sleepers are usually the best option.
- Stomach sleepers who aren’t open to transitioning to a new sleep position, as stomach sleeping isn’t recommended because of the strain it causes on the lower back and neck, will do well on a very low loft pillow, which will aid in preventing the spine from overarching.
Once you start using a pillow for neck pain, you won’t want to leave it at home when you travel. Make sure it’s reasonably easy to bring your pillow with you when you go out of town. Memory foam pillows are great for this because they compress easily, which allows them to be stored in a suitcase without taking up all the space.
If you sleep hot, you don’t want a pillow that traps heat. Look for breathable materials like latex and cooling gel memory foam, with a polyester or 100% cotton cover.
Our pillows collect a lot of dirt and bacteria over time, so it’s important that they are at least somewhat washable. Even if your pillow can’t be washed completely, make sure it at least has a washable cover. Allergy sufferers should wash their pillowcase frequently as well.
You don’t have to live with chronic neck pain. There are many amazing pillows out there that are specifically designed to help you get a good night’s sleep and wake up in the morning feeling refreshed instead of achy. If you’re a stomach sleeper, the Belly Sleeper Pillow is a great option for pain relief, and we especially like the Bear Pillow for hot sleepers trying to stay cool and relieve neck pain at the same time.
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