Neck pain can affect our sleep to a significant degree. It’s often caused by the neck becoming locked in an awkward position while you sleep, (although it can be caused while awake, too).
Sleeping on your stomach, in which you have to twist your neck to breathe, is a notable cause. Other causes include bad overall posture and even a pinched nerve. Neck pain is particularly prevalent in office workers or those that spend a long time at a desk. It’s important to move about continually throughout the day.
The good news is that neck pain is preventable. Having a mattress accommodated to you is a start, but even better is finding the best pillow for the job.
That’s where we come in. Our guide includes what to consider when choosing a pillow for neck pain, a more in-depth look at neck pain and its causes, and our top picks for the best pillows for it.
When you’re ready, we’ll begin!
Our Top Picks: Summary
- Best Overall: Level Sleep Restore Pillow
- Best for Side Sleepers: Coop Home Goods Eden
- Best Organic: Plushbeds Wool Pillow
- Best Memory Foam Pillow: Tempur-Cloud Pillow
- Best Loft Range: Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex Pillow
Designed to relieve snoring it also supports the neck’s natural alignment.Check Price
Why we Picked It
The Level Sleep Restore Pillow is our favorite overall pillow for those with neck pain. The pillow is designed to relieve snoring, but it’s also excellent at supporting the neck’s natural alignment.
It features three adjustable heights and two support levels, so you can easily customize your sleeping experience. This can be achieved by removing the foam inserts and rotating the pillow 180 degrees.
It alleviates snoring by opening up the airways to increase your supply of oxygen. There are also specialty ear wells that are designed to reduce pressure around the ears.
On top of that is a thick and durable cover that offers “Recoveree” stretch technology to maximize comfort and overall breathability. The pillow looks minimalistic yet premium and features certified memory foam with a three-zone design.
The Level Sleep Restore Pillow comes with a 365-night trial and a “Forever Warranty.”
Keep in Mind
If you toss and turn, be aware that your ears might not always line up with the dedicated ear wells.
In a Nutshell
- Adjustable loft
- 365-night home trial
- “Recoveree” stretch technology
A soft and breathable cushion that quickly adjusts to your size and sleep position.Check Price
Why we Picked It
The Coop Home Goods Eden pillow is an exemplary pillow for side sleepers with neck pain. It’s a soft and breathable cushion that quickly adjusts to your size and sleep position for a restful night of sleep.
The fill is composed of gel-infused memory foam that offers a cooling effect for a sleep experience you won’t soon forget. The memory foam inside is also certified by GREENGUARD Gold and CertiPUR-US to ensure it meets safety and quality requirements.
The Eden’s cover features “Lulltra” fabric procured from bamboo. Meanwhile, the gusset (the strip of fabric surrounding the pillow’s edges) gives it some extra breathability and support. It’s worth mentioning that the cover is also removable and machine washable.
The Coop Home Goods Eden pillow comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty.
Keep in Mind
While the attention to detail is excellent, adding filling to increase its firmness also increases loft, so you can’t have a pillow that’s both firm and thin.
In a Nutshell
- 100-night sleep trial
- Gel-infused memory foam
- Adjustable fill
The 100% pure virgin wool filling inside the PlushBeds pillow efficiently wicks away moisture while you sleep.Check Price
Why we Picked It
The PlushBeds Wool Pillow comes from responsibly sourced and cruelty-free organic wool, helping to make it our best organic pillow overall. Did we mention that we love it?
The 100% pure virgin wool filling inside the PlushBeds pillow efficiently wicks away moisture while you sleep. It’s also excellent at regulating temperature, keeping you cool and fresh throughout the night.
The virgin wool can actually be removed from the sateen cotton shell, allowing sleepers to adjust the loft and firmness to their heart’s desire. It’s a particularly great choice for those with neck pain because of this customizable support.
A proudly cruelty-free product, it’s non-toxic too—you can see why it scores so highly in our books!
Keep in Mind
It’s not the cheapest pillow out there, so if you’re budgeting, it might be better to go for something else.
In a Nutshell
- 400-thread-count cotton shell
- Three different sizes
- Hypoallergenic and free of chemicals
The Tempur-Cloud Pillow offers softness and comfort for neck pain through a traditional shape.Check Price
Why we Picked It
The Tempur-Cloud Pillow offers softness and comfort for neck pain through a traditional shape. It’s our best memory foam pillow for multiple reasons.
It provides close conforming and excellent pressure relief for your neck, and the polyester cover is removable, washable, and looks the part too. The Tempur Cloud measures about 5 inches thick.
On top of that, the pillow offers an extra soft feel that is designed specifically for back and stomach sleepers. That said, it adjusts instantly to a sleeper’s movement, ensuring you get a great night of well-deserved sleep, whatever your position.
The Tempur-Cloud Pillow comes with a five-year warranty, and at a price we think offers fabulous value for money when all is said and done.
Keep in Mind
Given that pillows are a personal item, you can’t return the Tempur Cloud once used. Just keep that in mind.
In a Nutshell
- 100% Polyester Knit Cover
- Removable and washable cover
- Great for sleepers of all positions
When it comes to loft range, not much can beat the Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex pillow.Check Price
Why we Picked It
When it comes to loft range, not much can beat the Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex pillow.
Talalay latex is notably hypoallergenic and is produced using eco-friendly methods. It’s obtained from the sap of the Hevea brasiliensis (rubber) tree.
The latex provides excellent contouring and responsiveness and helps to keep the spine in proper alignment for all types of sleepers. The latex is also highly breathable. It’s wrapped in an antimicrobial cotton cover that effortlessly wicks away moisture.
The pillow is available in both high and low loft levels, which is why we think it’s one of the best out there in terms of its loft range.
It’s worth noting that customers with neck pain should opt for a higher loft pillow if they sleep on their sides. On the other hand, if you sleep on your stomach or back, a lower loft is the best option.
The Brooklyn Bedding Talalay Latex pillow is returnable for a full refund within 30 days.
Keep in Mind
Some sleepers may find the Brooklyn Bedding pillow to be a little bit too heavy for them.
In a Nutshell
- Organic cotton cover
- 30-night sleep trial
- Two sizes and two different lofts available
How We Chose the Best Pillows for Neck Pain
When there is such a selection available online, it can be difficult to know where to start. The same is true for pillows; there are many types, each with various materials, prices, and constructions.
Having more choice is a great thing; that is if you don’t feel bewildered. What pillow should you look for, are you buying a quality product and what about those fearless marketing claims that seem a little too good to be true?
The reality is, sometimes, you need a swift answer that breaks everything down, making it easy and straightforward to understand. That’s why we’re here.
When considering our top bedding picks, we look at multiple vital areas. Below, we’ve outlined what we look for in a pillow and what would make it a worthy addition to our top picks.
We look for pillows that provide substantial levels of support and pressure relief—primarily those that minimize disruptions in the night. These pillows will keep your neck and spine in proper alignment all night, preventing neck pain, pinched nerves, and even back pain. The best pillows will provide equal amounts of comfort and support, too.
Construction and Materials
We look for quality materials that can stand the test of time and perform how the brand says they will. A pillow with inferior materials will not provide the proper support necessary for a great night of rest. We aim for pillows that tend to be better for you and the planet, and we always look to see if a pillow is well-made. Only the best of the best will meet this.
Value for money is, of course, a chief concern of ours. When we look at the cost of a pillow, we’re looking for those that provide everything they can at the price listed. The price of a pillow largely depends on the materials used, the size, and the reputation of the brand. For neck pain, we look for top brands that consistently deliver for customers. Depending on the material, the average pillow will cost between $10-$100.
We look at how satisfied customers are generally, and absolutely over time. If numerous customers are dissatisfied with their pillows, rest assured, it won’t make our top picks. Of course, we ensure we get a broad consensus from multiple consumers before choosing.
Most pillows come with a trial that lets you decide if you want to keep it. You should, ideally, be given 30 days to try your pillow out on a risk-free basis. It’s worth mentioning that a warranty can protect you against faulty materials too.
What Causes Neck Pain
Neck pain is a common ailment, and most people will suffer from it at some point in their lives. In fact, there’s a good chance if you’re reading this now, then you already have.
Essentially, neck pain is discomfort located in the neck that will, in most cases, improve relatively quickly without too much difficulty. The main symptom is a dull aching, which can be intensified when you turn your head. Those with neck pain may also experience some weakness in the arms and hands.
As with most pain, you can prevent neck pain in several ways, including the following:
- When asleep, make sure your head is the same height as your body. This action helps to promote alignment.
- Always practice good posture, sitting upright with your shoulders and neck back. If you spend a great deal of time sitting down, always be mindful. You should regularly move around and not leave your head fixed in one position for too long.
- Use a mattress that is suited to you. The best beds provide both comfort and support and promote proper spinal alignment.
- Sleeping on your stomach can cause neck pain because of the need to twist the head to one side to breathe. It’s far better to sleep on your back or side to prevent this—and in general.
While you can prevent neck pain most of the time, it’s necessary to remember that there are many potential causes, which is what makes it so common in the first place. The causes of neck pain include:
- Neck strain
- Degenerative disc disease
- Pinched nerve
- Poor posture
- Neck injury, from sport or a traffic accident
- Infections, such as tuberculosis
- Neck pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia
- It can be a symptom of a heart attack, although it usually appears with others
- Cancer of the spine —this is quite rare
Here are some of the key symptoms you need to watch out for:
- Dull aching in the neck
- Sharp shooting pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Lymph node (gland) swelling
If you’re experiencing neck pain, you must slow everything down and rest. Most of the time, neck pain will go away on its own, usually in a few days. If your neck pain is persistent, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. In that case, please make an appointment with your doctor.
Special Considerations when Choosing a Pillow for Neck Pain
You may have already noticed the wide selection of pillows you can purchase online. You might have even been staggered at the sheer choice available. With that said, there are special things to consider when you’re buying a pillow for neck pain.
Don’t worry, below we’ve listed everything you need to think about before you decide which pillow to purchase.
Consider what position you sleep in as this can have a substantial effect on your neck. The best sleeping positions for neck pain are sleeping on your side and your back. The worst is resting on your stomach.
If you sleep on your back, you will need a dual pillow system. By that, we mean a rounded pillow to support the neck, and a flatter one to cushion the head. You can do this by tucking the rounded pillow into the pillowcase of the flatter pillow.
If you sleep on your side, you must maintain spinal alignment. An elevated pillow can be placed under the neck to help achieve this.
It’s important to consider your size as well. Those who weigh more than 230 pounds will often sink lower into their mattresses. That’s why they should opt for a low or medium loft pillow to counteract it. Lighter individuals, on the other hand, don’t sink as much and may, therefore, need a higher loft pillow.
There’s also head size to take into account. People with larger heads often feel more supported on higher loft pillows. Conversely, people with smaller heads will most likely be happy with a medium or low loft pillow.
Sleepers who choose to have a pillow completely under their heads might prefer low to medium loft options because of the lack of space. On the other hand, those that sleep with a pillow only partially beneath their heads will most likely require a medium or high loft pillow. Think carefully about which is right for you.
Mattresses made from memory foam and latex tend to sink below a sleeper’s body; this will mean there is less space between the neck and sleeping surface. Therefore, low loft pillows will generally work better for these types of mattresses. For innerspring and hybrid beds, however, sleepers may prefer to use medium or high loft pillows to make up for that extra space.
Pillow Type and Neck Pain
Pillows come in all shapes, sizes, and types, and some are better than others if you have neck pain. A part of this depends on your requirements and preferences, too. Here are the following features to think about when it comes to pillows:
Although loft measurements differ from model to model, it’s generally accepted that there are three main categories. Low (pillows that are less than three inches thick), medium (pillows that measure three to five inches thick), and high (pillows that measure more than five inches thick).
In a nutshell, the loft of a pillow is related to how comfortable and supportive it is. The support and comfort will affect the chance of developing neck pain. As we’ve discussed earlier, variables such as sleep position, pillow position, and mattress type can alter the correct loft for you.
Generally, sleepers with neck pain will prefer a loft somewhere in between —not too thin or high as this can further aggravate the discomfort.
Pillow shape is another critical area. If you have neck pain, the best pillow shapes for you tend to be even and curved surfaces.
An even surface is often the standard shape for pillows. These are a good choice when filled with feathers or shredded memory foam as they contour and support your head and neck.
Curved surfaces, or orthopedic pillows, are regularly made from memory foam. With these surfaces, the area supporting the neck is elevated while the area for the head is depressed. Some sleepers are happier when these pillows are placed upside down because of a perceived increase in support and comfort.
Did you know that pillows come in six standard sizes, in addition to smaller sizes for orthopedic pillows?
There is no single size of pillow that is perfect for neck pain, as this varies on factors like your sleeping position. That said, orthopedic pillows are generally considered a reliable option due to their design, which naturally corrects body position.
When it comes to the temperature of your pillow, it can vary depending on the material used. For example, a pillow that features gel-infused foam will keep you cool at night. Generally, people with neck pain prefer pillows that regulate temperature and keep it neutral.
Pillow Materials and Neck Pain
It’s fair to say that materials such as memory foam and feather are the best options for neck pain. However, that doesn’t necessarily make them the definitive choice. All materials have strengths and weaknesses.
In the table below, we’ve listed the most common pillow fill materials, along with their pros and cons.
|Memory foam (solid and shredded)|
If you’d like to know more about bedding, then check out our other comprehensive guides below: