A recent medical study found that participants who reported moderate to severe sleep problems were more likely to develop “chronic musculoskeletal pain after one year than those who reported little or no problem with sleep.”
This begs the question: does neck pain interrupt sleep, or does poor sleep cause neck pain? While we can’t give a definitive answer to this question, we do want to offer some pillow options for those who suffer from neck pain. A pillow can make or break your night, especially if you’re dealing with pain, and choosing the right one comes down to a little bit of research. We hope after reading this you get some much-needed relief when you sleep.
Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow– Editors’ Choice
Our top recommendation for sleepers with neck pain is the Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow. Made with supportive, pressure-relieving foam this pillow works to support you and reduce aches. Plus, it has airways for breathability and comes with free shipping, free returns, and a breathable, washable cover.
Research and Resources
In writing this article, we:
- Read dozens of customer reviews
- Spent 12 hours writing and revising to create the most value-driven content possible
- Looked at 20+ leading brands
Best Pillows for Neck Pain
|Cost for Standard Size
|Editors' Choice: Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow
|Best for Back Sleepers: Avocado
|Standard, Queen, King
|Best for Side Sleepers: Epabo Contour Memory Foam Pillow
|Standard, Queen, Larger Queen
|Best Cooling: I Love My Pillow Out Cold
|Best Eco-Friendly: Nest Bedding Easy Breather
|Standard, Queen, King
|Best Memory Foam: Layla Sleep Pillow
|Best Down: Pacific Coast Double DownAround Soft Pillow
|Standard, Queen, King
We took all of this into consideration in our search for the best pillows for neck pain. We also read tons of customer reviews to get a complete picture of each pillow’s pros and cons. In one column you will find the pillow’s best features, and in the other are “possible cons,” taken from customer reviews. Without further ado, here are our top picks:
1. Amerisleep Comfort Classic Pillow – Editors’ Choice
Our top pillow recommendation for neck pain is the Amerisleep Comfort Classic pillow. This pillow is medium-firm and made with soft but supportive Bio-Pur® foam. Its open-cell technology also ensures heat won’t get trapped inside, reducing the chance that you’ll wake up sweaty and uncomfortable. Reviewers noted that they woke up with less pain after using the Comfort Classic. It’s available in Queen and King size.
2. Avocado Green Pillow
The Avocado Green pillow lives up to its name–it’s incredibly eco-friendly and certified organic, a rarity among most pillows. The fill is adjustable, and you can even buy more if you want your pillow extra fluffy. Kapok and latex foam act as a soft, moldable resting place for your head no matter which position you sleep in.
3. Epabo Memory Contour Pillow
Side sleepers will want a pillow with a medium to high loft, and the three sizes of this pillow are 3.9-4.9” respectively. The ergonomic design is great for neck pain because it ensures your head and neck won’t strain or crane while you sleep (even if you change positions). The memory foam fill is hypoallergenic, so it won’t inflame any existing allergies, and the case is machine washable.
4. I Love My Pillow Out Cold
The “I Love My Pillow” brand got its name when the founder’s daughter tried out one of his pillows for the first time. This model has cooling technology and uses lightweight memory foam. The pillow itself has a 5” loft, so side and back sleepers will find it especially comfortable. The dual-sided design lets you choose a side with an indentation for your head or a flatter surface if you’d prefer.
5. Nest Bedding Easy Breather
The Easy Breather Pillow from Nest Bedding is CertiPUR-US® certified, meaning it’s non-toxic and the manufacturing involves low VOC (volatile organic compounds) output. This shredded memory foam pillow’s high ratings attest to the customer’s love of the adjustable fill, which makes it customizable for all sleep styles. To adjust, you simply remove filling (or add more) to your liking.
6. Layla Sleep Pillow
The Layla pillow is unique in that the cover uses copper-infused yarn, known as CuTEC® technology, to reduce odor, improve hygiene, and even replenish dead skin cells. The copper conducts heat, pulling it away from your face and keeping you cool. The fill consists of fluffy and soft Kapok fibers.
7. Pacific Coast Double DownAround Soft Pillow
Down pillows are a favorite amongst stomach sleepers because of their soft malleability. The Pacific Coast brand is popular in hotels, and many reviewers said they first discovered the pillow in their hotel before finding it online. It’s made with a 1” gusset for further neck support, so you should get a pain-free night of sleep with this one.
Things to Look for in Your Next Pillow
One of the most frustratingly common obstacles to a good night’s sleep is neck pain. It can stem from many things, including your posture, “tech neck” (the strain that comes from texting, looking at your phone, or being in front of a computer), or other inflamed parts of the body like the spine or shoulders. Finding a good pillow that keeps your spine and neck neutral can be an uncomplicated solution to longstanding pain. If you deal with neck pain, there are a few things you should consider before buying a new pillow:
- Ergonomic support: Many pillows made specifically for neck pain sufferers boast ergonomic features, meaning they have a special indent for the head or neck, or they are curved for better stability and support. You may have seen this type of pillows also referred to as “cervical pillows” or “orthopedic pillows.” They are engineered in such a way to reduce tension on the spine, prevent a stiff neck, and ease back pain.
- Loft: The loft, or thickness of the pillow, can have a considerable effect on neck pain because it determines the length of the space between your head and your mattress. If the loft is too high, your neck will arch upwards, and if it’s too low, your neck will again be thrown out of alignment. We recommend a pillow that will ensure your neck is level. Your weight, head size, shoulder width, and sleeping position will determine the loft best for you.
- Fill: The best fill for neck pain depends on your sleeping position. Stomach sleepers should look for a softer fill, like down, down alternatives, or memory foam. Back and side sleepers will want softness too, but may want more support and loft in their pillows. Some fills are infused with gel or copper, providing a cooling effect that may help with the pain.
Why Pillow Loft is Important
We mentioned pillow loft earlier, and the term gets thrown around a lot on websites and blogs. But what exactly does it mean for neck pain? The loft, or pillow thickness, affects your spine and neck alignment. The best loft for your needs will also depend on your sleep style, head size, shoulder width, and your mattress.
|Best for memory foam, latex
|Less than 3”
|Heavy and light sleepers
|Best for innersprings or hybrids
|Stomach sleepers, side sleepers, and back sleepers
|Best for innersprings or hybrids
|More than 5”
|Side sleepers, back sleepers
It seems like a no-brainer, but the materials used to make your pillow will largely determine how comfortable it is for you and how much pain relief you will get out of it. You’ll want to pay attention to moldability, loft, durability, cooling properties, and noise. Let’s go over some different pillow types you’re bound to see when you’re on the hunt.
|Brands to Consider
|Conforms to head and neck, soft and supportive, noiseless
|Odor, heat, more expensive
|Coop Home Goods, Malouf, Snuggle-Pedic
|Supportive, cooling, durable
|Odor, may be too bouncy for some
|Beautyrest, Saatva, PlushBeds
|Needs fluffing, more expensive
|Helix, Brooklinen, Parachute
|Risk of mold, heavy
|Mediflow, Blissbury SpineRight
|Contouring, moldable, support, cool
|May be too firm for some, noisy, heavy
|Hullo, Zen Chi, Sachi Organics, Beans27
|Down Alternatives (usually polyester microfiber)
|Soft, moldable, good value
|May be too soft for some, could be lumpy
|eLuxury, Classic Brands, Canadian Down & Feather Company
How Sleep Position Affects Neck Pain
Along with pillow loft and pillow type, the way you sleep has a huge impact on your pain. Healthy Sleep recommends sleeping on your side, but you can sleep comfortably and relatively pain-free in all positions if you use the right pillow and/or mattress. Let’s go over the four most common sleeping positions and pillows that would work best for each:
Side sleepers should look for pillows with medium firmness (much like they would choose a medium-feel mattress). The pillow loft (thickness) should not be too high since you don’t want to strain your neck or spine. Conversely, a pillow loft that’s too low or thin will be unsupportive and cause your head to sink down too low into the mattress. A pillow loft of 3-5” is best for side sleepers.
Back sleepers will be on the lookout for a larger, firmer pillow–a too-short pillow will be unsupportive especially if the user has broad shoulders. Additionally, a low-loft pillow will not hold up the shoulders, neck, and head properly, causing them to get thrown out of alignment and potentially causing shoulder pain. Some back sleepers may prefer an ergonomic pillow with structural elements tailored to their neck and head shape. These types of pillows are especially helpful for alleviating neck pain.
Combo sleepers have it easy because quite a few different pillow types will probably fit their needs. While combo sleepers do switch positions often during the night, the most dominant position will be the one they wake up in. Combo sleepers should refer to this dominant position when shopping for a pillow.
Stomach sleepers will want a pillow that’s thin and firm (but not too firm if they also sleep face-down). Since stomach sleepers are in a more vulnerable sleeping position, they will need to ensure their back and spine are not curving unnaturally while lying down. With that said, stomach sleepers may need another pillow between their legs to keep their spine and pelvis straight.
Hope for Neck Pain Sufferers
Because neck pain is so common, there’s a seemingly endless list of solutions and techniques to alleviate the pain. You may not think about it much, but the pillow you choose can have a considerable impact on your discomfort–both in a negative or a positive way. If the pillow you’ve been sleeping on seems to be getting flatter and flatter, it may be time to replace it. A quick test to know if it’s time to replace your pillow for sure is to fold it in half–if it stays folded, it’s time for a new pillow. Why not choose one from our list and stop waking up with neck pain?
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.