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Picture this: You’ve awoken from a deep sleep, ready to get up and start your day. As you begin to lift your head from your pillow, you experience a shooting pain in the back of your neck. Your body recoils from the feeling, and your day is already off to a bad start. That pain persists, making your neck feel stiff and uncomfortable as you attempt to just go about your daily tasks.
You’ve probably had an experience like this, and you’re not the first. Neck pain is fairly common, but it isn’t always easy to identify why you may be experiencing it. In fact, there are roughly 50 million people living in the United States that are suffering from some sort of chronic pain according to the CDC. It’s important to examine the many things in your life, from your posture during the day to how exactly you’re sleeping at night, that could be contributing to and aggravating your pain. A good place to start, is where you’re laying your head down at night.
Do You Need a Neck Pillow?
Whether you’re currently suffering from pain in your neck, or you’re just looking to prevent it from happening at all, investing in the right pillow can go a long way to taking care of your body, as well as getting a better quality of sleep. Considering that the recommended amount of sleep is seven to nine hours per night, that’s a lot of time for your neck and head to be resting on a pillow. It makes sense then, that you would select a pillow that is right for you and how you sleep.
Neck Pillow Buying Guide
We looked at the following criteria when evaluating the best pillows for managing and preventing neck pain.
Support: First and foremost, if your pillow is not supporting your neck then it’s not worth sleeping on. Your pillow should contour to your neck, instead of leaving space for it which could lead to building pressure and tension being placed upon it.
Firmness: When you’re evaluating which pillow is right for you, pay attention to how firm it is. Depending on the size of your head, this may differ from person to person. You don’t want a pillow that’s too firm — otherwise it could cause pain if you continue to lay on it over time. Conversely, a pillow that is too soft won’t provide an adequate level of support. Like Goldilocks, you want a pillow that’s just right.
Shape: There are a range of different options on the market today that could be more beneficial to the way you sleep, such as a cervical pillow, that eschew the shape and design we all associate with pillows.
Composition: What is your pillow made out of? Memory foam? Feather? Gel? This will go a long way to determining the lifespan of your potential pillow.
Height: Otherwise known as the ‘loft.’ A pillow that is too high or too low can keep your neck sustained in an unnatural position, which could to developing pain over time. The loft of your pillow should keep your neck and head aligned with your spine. That said, there are pillows that have an adjustable loft, which can be an easy solution to finding your perfect pillow.
Durability: Depending on the materials your pillow is made out of, you may need to replace your pillow after a year or two. Others can last for several years. You can also wash and dry select pillows, which can enhance their lifespan and help the retain their fluff.
The Best Pillows for Neck Pain
We rounded up the best pillows to support your neck and head while you sleep soundly at night.
1. Elviros Cervical Memory Foam Pillow
This pillow does it all: Whether you’re a side, back or stomach sleeper, this cervical pillow will cradle your neck and head while you sleep at night. Made entirely out of memory foam, this pillow’s ergonomic design ensures that your head, neck, shoulders and back will remain aligned. There’s even a slope that will keep your head from rolling out of a stabilized position should you move during the night, as well as cutouts on the side that gives your top arm a resting place so you don’t hunch your shoulder.
Overall, this pillow has a proven track record of reducing stress and discomfort throughout your body, especially the neck and shoulders. It also prevents snoring, by supporting the natural curvature of your body, which in turn supports your air passages.
2. GhostBed Faux Down GhostPillow
BEST DOWN ALTERNATIVE
What makes this otherwise traditional looking pillow stand out from the rest is its high-quality composition. The gel-infused and down alternative fibers will keep your head supported while emulating the cloud-like feeling of a luxury pillow, with none of that dreaded sagging feeling, perfect for side and back sleepers.
As an added bonus, this pillow is also temperature-regulating; the gel-infused down alternative fibers provide breathability, while the Ghost Ice fabric cover is woven with phase-change material, dissipating your body heat and keeping you cool. The GhostPillow can also be routinely cleaned and dried in regular machines, so you don’t have to exert extra time and money in maintaining it.
3. Eli & Elm Cotton-Side Sleeper Pillow
BEST FOR SIDE SLEEPERS
Where a flat pillow may not hold your head up if you tend to sleep on your side, this pillow is made with a little alcove in the center for your shoulder, so the pillow can fit the shape of your body while you sleep. The filling, made of latex and polyester, keeps your neck supported to provide an optimal amount of resistance, while added gels will keep your pillow cool to the touch and give it an overall softer feel. But the best part of this pillow is the adjustable loft; just remove or add filling to find your sweet spot.
4. ZAMAT Contour Memory Foam Pillow
BEST MEMORY FOAM PILLOW
The ZAMAT Memory Foam pillow is an option for those looking for a pillow with an adjustable loft, but who may sleep in a variety of positions on a given night. Whatever position you end up, your neck and head will be cradled and supported all night long thanks to the pillow’s innovative contour. The pillow itself is made with a high-quality, breathable, odorless memory foam, so it keeps you cool while guarding against that pungent odor that occasionally plagues memory foam.