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Here’s everything you need to know about picking the best pillow for neck pain.

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Do you wake up each morning with pain in your neck? You aren’t alone. According to a 2020 study, “neck pain is a highly prevalent condition” that can lead to considerable pain and even disability.

While it tends to have the most impact in middle age, neck pain can affect anyone. Pain following injury may resolve in a few days or weeks, but up to 10 percent of people may be left with chronic issues.

Your sleeping position and pillow may play a role in continuing pain. Stomach sleepers, for example, may face the most neck pain. This position means your neck is turned to either side and your spine is arched.

For relief, experts recommend trying to sleep either on your back or on your side, and choosing a pillow that helps support the neck and its natural curve.

It’s difficult to sleep when you’re experiencing any kind of pain, including chronic neck pain. You might toss and turn all night to find a comfortable sleeping position.

A 2013 study of a little over 1,000 people found that people with chronic neck pain have a high likelihood of experiencing sleep deprivation. Almost 20 percent of participants reported getting less than 4 hours of sleep per night.

A 2020 study specifically evaluating teens found that neck pain was also linked to poor sleep quality in the age group.

We rounded up a list of top consumer-rated pillow options that can help relieve neck pain while you sleep.

We looked mainly for foam and latex pillows. Why? Because research suggests that these materials are helpful for people with neck pain. According to a 2020 study, both latex and memory foam provide support and help reduce neck fatigue.

Additionally, we looked for ergonomic pillows designed to provide ample cervical support without elevating the head too much. A small 2016 study suggests that pillow height significantly affects the pressure put on the neck and head.

Finally, we still included several alternative pillow options, like models filled with down and buckwheat, since a foam pillow may not work for everyone.

Pricing guide

Pillows can range anywhere from $35 to $100 or more, so you’ll want to weigh your options carefully.

  • $ = under $50
  • $$ = $50–$99
  • $$$ = over $99

The type of pillow you want may depend on your specific needs. We’ll walk you through nine options.

Best pillow for firm support

EPABO Memory Foam Pillow

Price: $

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The EPABO Memory Foam Pillow is an option for people looking for firm support.

This pillow is contoured to provide ergonomic support that aligns your head, neck, shoulders, and back. The company explains that, in the first 2 weeks of use, people may experience some discomfort as their body adjusts to using the pillow.

Best pillow for medium support

Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

Price: $

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Xtreme Comforts Shredded Memory Foam Pillow is a popular choice for people who sleep in any position. The fill, made of shredded memory foam, conforms to your head and neck, keeping the spine properly aligned while you sleep. Its fill is removable, allowing you to customize the support.

The vented bamboo cover is designed to help keep your head cool at night and is resistant to dust mites, making it a solid choice for people with allergies.

Best pillow for soft support

DOWNLITE Extra Soft Down Pillow

Price: $$

Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars

The DOWNLITE Extra Soft Down Pillow is a duck down pillow that’s good for people looking for soft support. Its flat design makes it a smart choice for stomach sleepers who have neck pain.

Bonus: You can machine wash and dry this hypoallergenic pillow.

Best pillow for headache relief

Nature’s Guest Cervical Support Pillow

Price: $$

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Nature’s Guest Cervical Support Pillow is especially useful for people who move from their sides to their backs while sleeping. This pillow may be one to try if you frequently have morning headaches.

The sides of the pillow are higher than the middle to provide neck support. The pillow itself is adjustable, so you can set the degree of firmness by removing or adding stuffing.

The cotton cover is hypoallergenic, and the filling is microfiber. No flame retardants or other harmful chemicals are used in the manufacturing process.

Best pillow for side sleep

Sleep Artisan Luxury Side Sleeper Pillow

Price: $$$

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Sleep Artisan Luxury Side Sleeper Pillow is filled with a proprietary blend of organic latex and down alternative microfiber that the brand says is both antimicrobial and hypoallergenic.

The pillow’s shape is unique in that it’s a narrow rectangle with a curve on one side. This is meant to mimic how many side sleepers scrunch standard pillows to support their necks.

There are no petroleum-based chemicals or strong odors. As with other pillows on our list, you can add or take away filling for adjustable support.

Best pillow for stomach sleep

The Belly Sleep Pillow

Price: $

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The Belly Sleeper Pillow is designed to be especially thin and flat — wonderful for people who sleep on their stomachs.

Its edges are curved to help reduce head and neck rotation and to reduce pressure points that contribute to pain. The memory foam material is infused with cooling gel. The brand says the pillow is also hypoallergenic and resistant to dust mites.

Best organic pillow for neck pain

Avocado Green Pillow

Price: $$

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This vegan pillow is handmade in the United States. The all-natural materials are Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified.

What’s nice about this pillow is that it’s customizable. You can add or remove stuffing until it reaches the perfect comfort level for your neck.

Some reviewers say that with all the stuffing, it’s too lofty and causes neck pain.

However, others say that after removing some stuffing, it decreased their neck pain.

Best ancient favorite pillow

Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow

Price: $

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Buckwheat pillows have been used for hundreds of years and are still a favorite in Japan. The Sobakawa Buckwheat Pillow gets high marks for keeping your head cool while you sleep.

This pillow supports the head and neck to help prevent stiffness and headaches. The hulls shift and rise at the neck area, allowing your head to sink into proper alignment.

You spend about one-third of your life sleeping. Pillows that are too stiff or too full may strain your neck by keeping it flexed throughout the night, resulting in pain.

In fact, research from 2008 showed that a supportive pillow combined with regular exercise was more effective in easing chronic neck pain than hot or cold packs, massage, and other methods.

Filling

Fill matters, too. While the type of fill you choose is up to personal preference, a 2011 study found that pillows with feather fill were often rated poorly with regard to sleep quality.

The highest ratings and satisfaction were those with either latex or polyester fill. The same study revealed that many people sleep on pillows that are uncomfortable, resulting in difficulty sleeping and symptoms of pain.

Change it up

A general best practice is to change your pillow every 1 to 2 years, especially if you’re using one made from feathers. Over time, the filling can compress and not provide enough support.

If you’re choosing a memory foam pillow, you may be able to get away with changing it less often. A good indicator that it’s time for replacement is if you’re experiencing new pain or if the filling is no longer distributed evenly.

Wash it

Regardless, it’s a good idea to wash your pillow every 6 months, following the manufacturer’s instructions. This is especially true if you have allergies or asthma. Drying on high heat will help kill dust mites.

If neck pain keeps you up at night, you might want to consider swapping your pillow for one that’s the right height. In the pillow world, height is usually described as loft.

The right amount of loft depends a lot on your preferred sleeping position. Stomach sleepers, for example, should opt for a pillow with a lower loft. Essentially, you want a pillow that will keep your spine in alignment without putting too much pressure on your neck.

You might also want to look for a pillow made of supportive foam or latex rather than down or down alternative.

Shape may also be a consideration. Cervical or ergonomic pillows are designed to provide support specifically for the neck and head, for instance.

Generally, if you’re experiencing neck pain, it’s best to sleep on your back or side.

Sleeping on your stomach, especially if you’re sleeping with a pillow that’s too thick, can put excess pressure on your cervical spine and cause neck pain.

Keep your neck aligned with your body. You may want to place a pillow under your knees to keep your spine in proper alignment.

If you’ve changed your pillow but still aren’t finding relief, you can also try these tips:

  • Modify your overall posture when standing or sitting. Find a neutral spine in these positions, with your shoulders hovering directly over your hips and your ears over your shoulders.
  • Stretch your neck every 20 to 30 minutes when doing computer work, driving long distances, or doing other repetitive tasks that tax your neck. It may be helpful to set a reminder on your computer or phone to take breaks.
  • Use a backpack or rolling suitcase when carrying heavy loads. Either evenly distribute the weight or wheel it around. Using a shoulder bag puts excess strain on your neck and shoulders.
  • Use heat or ice to ease the pain by taking a warm shower or applying a hot or cold compress. This is especially effective in the first 2 to 3 days of an acute injury.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Try to quit smoking, if you smoke. Researchers note that smoking is associated with chronic neck pain.

Make an appointment with your doctor if your neck pain doesn’t respond to a change in your pillow, posture, or other lifestyle measures. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a doctor.

In rare cases, neck pain may be a symptom of a condition that needs medical attention. Possible causes include:

Be sure to tell your doctor if you notice numbness or less strength in your arms or hands. Any shooting pain down your arm or around your shoulder is also important to note.

Seek immediate medical attention if your neck pain is severe or has resulted from an injury, like a car accident or fall.

Can a pillow cause neck pain?

Yes, it can.

A pillow that kicks your spine out of neutral alignment can leave you with neck pain in the morning. Similarly, if a pillow doesn’t provide enough support, it can also leave you clutching your neck when you wake up.

Can replacing your pillow improve neck pain?

If you’re experiencing neck pain, it could be the fault of your pillow. Especially if it’s old, it might not be supportive enough anymore.

Swapping for a new pillow doesn’t mean your neck pain will magically go away, though. Pillow preference is personal, and what works for one person might not work for you. So a bit of experimenting is to be expected.

Additionally, not all neck pain is the fault of a bad pillow. If a new pillow doesn’t seem to help, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Which style of pillow is best for neck pain?

Some 2020 research suggests that memory and latex foams are the ideal materials to help prevent neck fatigue.

But that doesn’t mean other types of pillows won’t work for you. You may want to try a few to see what feels most comfortable to you.

Which style of pillow is worst for neck pain?

Any pillow that feels uncomfortable is going to be bad news for your neck.

The same goes for pillows that are too lofty. If a pillow elevates your neck too much, it can put pressure on your cervical spine — likewise for a pillow that’s too soft and unsupportive.

Getting relief from neck pain may be as simple as changing your pillow.

There are a number of options to suit a variety of needs and budgets, so it may be worth trying a few to see what works for you. Many companies offer money-back guarantees, so you’re covered if something doesn’t work.

If you still have neck pain after changing your pillow or your sleeping position, consider making an appointment with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions.