We all know that sleep is important – and not always that easy to get – which is why it’s super frustrating to wake up with neck pain each morning and not know why.
While there could be a number of reasons for your neck pain (including wear and tear related to aging), one common culprit is a bad sleep position brought on by poor alignment between your body and your pillow.
There are ways to minimize your chances of experiencing neck pain if you can sleep in a few recommended positions with a pillow that supports your neck and allows it to lay in a neutral alignment with your spine.
I’ve put together my top picks for pillows that should help relieve neck pain. These choices are designed to cover all different types of sleepers and preferred fillings. You’ll see that many of them are adjustable in some way, which will get you a step closer to finding the perfect alignment for your head and neck.
Top Picks: Best Pillows for Neck Pain
Nest Bedding Easy Breather
Nest Bedding’s Easy Breather pillow is filled with a mix of shredded memory foam and polyester fibers. This helps give the pillow responsiveness and support without going overboard on the firmness. A zipper at the end of the pillow means you can add or remove as much of the combination filling as they prefer.
This pillow could be a good fit for those who prefer a foam-like feel to their pillow but struggle to find the right loft and support to keep their neck comfortable. Since the filling is pieces of foam and polyester fibers wrap around the pieces of shredded foam and hold everything together so there is less mess.
- Cover: Tencel blended fabric
- Filling: Proprietary blend of shredded memory foam (75%) and polyester fibers (25%)
- Comes in: Standard, Queen and King
- Made with all USA made materials
- Adjustable: These pillows come full and can be adjusted by removing some of the material via the zippered cover
- Care: Do not wash the pillow or the pillow casing.
- 100-night free trial
- CertiPUR-US® certified foam
- $99 (Standard)
Dr. Loth’s SpineAlign
As its name suggests, the SpineAlign pillow is all about keeping your head, neck, and spine in neutral alignment so that there is no strain on any particular muscles. Designed by a chiropractor, its shape features a center chamber for back sleepers and outer chambers designed for side sleepers.
The pillow is also adjustable, so you can remove filling from different sections as you desire. You can’t machine wash or dry it so be sure to use a cover or pillow protector. It may take a little bit of patience, but once you find the correct level of support and height for you, it should be extremely comfortable.
- Shape: Contour pillow
- Two outer chambers for side sleeping and a middle chamber for back sleeping
- Customizable to fit your correct posture in both the back and side sleeping positions
- Cover: Soft Tencel blended fabric with strips of mesh built in the sides (37% Lyocell – also called Tencel, 61% Polyester and 2% spandex)
- Filling: blend of shredded internal fill (foam and fiber) accessible through zippers on the back
- Has “one size fits most” design
- Fits in a queen size pillowcase
- Approximately 23” x 17” x 6”
- 100% money back guarantee and 90-nights free trial
- Do not wash the pillow; spot clean only
- Made in the USA with imported materials
Casper’s down alternative pillow stands apart from others with its pillow-in-a-pillow design. There is a smaller firmer pillow inside a larger pillow. Since you can unzip and open the over pillow, you can decide whether you want to use one or two pillows When combined, the smaller inner pillow is denser and helps keep it feeling full and supportive – making sure it won’t fall flat after the first night.
The ability to choose how much loft and support in your pillow is key to making sure your head and neck are being supported either on a side or a back sleeping position. It doesn’t hurt that the pillow is machine washable and dryable and hypoallergenic.
- Two sizes: Standard and King
- The Standard pillow is 18” x 26” with a 2” gusset
- The King Size is 18” x 34” with a 2” gusset
- Inner and Outer Cover Fabric: 100% Supima cotton, Percale weave
- Outer Filling: Polyester fibers
- Inner Filling: Nearly one billion coated fibers
- Care: Separate inner and outer pillows and machine wash and dry (more details below)
- Price: $55 Standard, $65 King
Pillows filled with buckwheat hulls are becoming increasingly popular. Part of this reason is that they manage to be firm and supportive but also adjustable – a tough combination to find.
Buckwheat hulls are the harder outer shell of the buckwheat seed (leftover after processing). They are tiny, but combined together they provide excellent support for the head and neck while also promoting airflow between them.
The ComfySleep Buckwheat pillow comes in many different sizes and an extra 1lb back of hulls so you can fill up your pillow to your desired height (higher for side sleepers and lower for back sleepers, most likely).
- Measures 15″ x 21″, weighs 4 lbs + 1 lb extra buckwheat to customize your pillow
- Other sizes: 15” x 23”, 15” x 26”, 20” x 26”
- Filled with USA-grown buckwheat hulls that are cleaned without chemicals or fumigants
- Made of durable organic cotton twill grown and woven in the USA, with an invisible zipper
- Handmade in the USA by a family business
The Right Pillow Will Help You Find A Neutral Spinal Alignment
One way to reduce the risk of neck pain is to ensure that your head is resting on a pillow that allows for your head, neck, and spine to be in a straight line (or in a neutral alignment).
To help facilitate this alignment, try to sleep on your back or on your side, say experts. Sleeping on your stomach is not advised. “Imagine standing and looking one way for two or three hours at a time. Stretching your neck muscle for that long creates soreness,” said Dr. Andrew Bang, DC, at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in a post on the clinic’s website.
For those who sleep in multiple positions, staying neck pain-free might mean finding a pillow that can be adjusted so you can achieve neutral alignment no matter if you are sleeping on your side or your back.
The Bottom Line
There are many pillows on the market geared towards reducing neck pain but the key to finding the right one for you will come down to a few specific factors:
- Your preferred sleep position
- Your preferred pillow filling
- The ability to match or adjust the pillow’s loft, firmness, and support so that your head and neck are naturally aligned at night.
Consider pillows that come with trials or a variety of comfort levels so that you can try several kinds before committing.
Featured image: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock