When it comes to certain areas of our lives, it pays to invest a little more time, energy and potentially money — and this is especially true when it comes to anything having to do with sleep.
After all, we spend about a third of our lives in dreamland. That's a lot of time with your head on a pillow — and if you have neck pain, choosing the right pillow is especially important.
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Here are the best pillows for neck pain, according to sleep and neck pain experts, along with what to look for when you're shopping.
(Psst: Looking to upgrade your mattress, too? Check out the best mattresses for neck and back pain.)
The Best Pillows for Neck Pain
- Best Overall: Saatva Latex Pillow (From $165, Saatva.com)
- Best on a Budget: Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow (From $37.85, Amazon)
- Best Luxury Buy: Avocado Organic Luxury Plush Pillow (From $229, AvocadoGreenMattress.com)
- Best for Side Sleepers: Eli & Elm Ultimate Pillow for Side Sleepers ($104.99, EliandElm.com)
- Best for Stomach Sleepers: Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow ($39.99, BellySleep.com)
- Best Memory Foam: Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow ($71.81, Amazon)
- Best Cooling: Tuft & Needle Original Foam Pillow (From $75, Amazon)
- Best Adjustable: Coop Home Goods Eden Adjustable Pillow (From $96, Amazon)
How We Chose
We tapped a sleep doctor and three chiropractors to learn what to look for in the best pillow for neck pain. We selected the below products based on their criteria, including:
1. Best Overall: Saatva Latex Pillow
If you're looking for a hotel-quality pillow that lives up to its reputation (and is durable enough to last the full two years before it's time to purchase a new one), check out the Saatva Latex Pillow.
It's made out of 100 percent shredded natural latex, so it responds to movement and configures comfortably to your head and neck. The inner pillow is filled with microdenier fiber, which has a down-like feel to it, and this part is removable if you're looking for less volume.
To help maintain its shape over time, a thick material is sewn into the side so you don't have to worry about continuously fluffing it. The outer cover is machine-washable and made out of 100 percent organic material that is soft and breathable to keep you cool while you sleep.
In addition to a 1-year warranty, Saatva offers free shipping and 45-day returns so you can try it out yourself without any risk.
Buy it: Saatva.com; Price: $165 (queen) to $185 (king)
2. Best on a Budget: Core Products Tri-Core Cervical Support Pillow
This is the pillow David Friedman, ND, DC, sleeps on and recommends to the patients at his clinic. In addition to its affordability — under $50! — it's also extremely comfortable and supportive, he says. It's on the firmer side of pillows, but that can help ensure the spine is aligned properly.
"The Tri-Core pillow supports the neck without causing it to flex too far forward or bend too far to one side," he says. "One end of the pillow is firmer than the other, so you can choose which option feels best."
The fill of this pillow is 100 percent polyester fiber, so it maintains its shape well and has an even consistency to prevent any sloping. It's great for both back and side sleepers, thanks to the raised side panels that prop the head and neck up in even alignment.
3. Best Luxury Buy: Avocado Organic Luxury Plush Pillow
Although it's on the pricier side, the Avocado Organic Luxury Plush Pillow provides all the head and neck support you need without the memory foam material. It has a medium-soft feel to it so it's ideal for all kinds of sleeping positions, and it's eco-friendly to boot.
The fill of the pillow itself is made from a natural latex called Talalay latex, which comes from rubber trees and is processed using fully biodegradable ingredients and is known to hold up longer than standard synthetic competitors like dunlop. Its outer layer is made from wool silk mohair, which is breathable, wicks away moisture and naturally regulates temperature.
The cover is 100 percent organic cotton, removable and machine-washable.
With your purchase, you get to try out the pillow for 100 nights free of charge — and free return shipping is included. It also comes with a 1-year warranty.
Buy it: AvocadoGreenMattress.com; Price: $229 (queen) to $249 (king)
4. Best for Side Sleepers: Eli & Elm Ultimate Pillow for Side Sleepers
Side sleepers benefit from extra support because their ears are pressed against the pillow. The key here is to find a pillow that helps keep the head and neck aligned, says Raj Dasgupta, MD, pulmonary and sleep specialist. "A side sleeper will require a thicker pillow than a person sleeping on their back," he says.
This U-shaped pillow was designed specifically for side sleepers, as it conforms to both the head and neck areas to provide that proper alignment and helps alleviate the pressure associated with neck pain during sleep. The U-shape also mimics the curvature of the spinal column, notes Allen Conrad, DC, CSCS, owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales, Pennsylvania.
When it comes to firmness, this pillow provides just the right amount, with a convenient side zipper that lets you remove some of the padding if you feel the need to customize the amount of support. Another perk of this pillow is that the cover is removable and machine-washable with cold water.
5. Best for Stomach Sleepers: Belly Sleep Gel Infused Memory Foam Pillow
Most sleep and spine experts recommend against stomach sleeping because it can lead to further neck and back pain, Friedman says.
That being said, the body often does what feels natural for it — so if you're a stomach sleeper, it can be hard to make the change. If you tend to find yourself in the stomach-sleeping position, consider a pillow that's low-to-medium in height so your neck isn't too propped up.
This one is flat and thin but also has the addition of curved edges so there's less pressure on your head and neck. It's also gel-infused, which gives it a cooling effect to help keep your body temperature balanced while you rest, and is moisture-wicking so it keeps you comfortable and dry.
6. Best Memory Foam: Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow
If memory foam is a must, you'll want to choose one with additional support so it helps reduce movement during the night, Conrad says. "This added support can help avoid additional stress on the side areas of the neck while you sleep."
His top recommendation is this TEMPUR-Cloud Pillow by Tempur-Pedic. "This pillow is quite durable, and also has adjustable cushioning that you can add or take out to fit what you need," he says. "It's 'Tempur-blend' filling can be molded or flattened easily to fit the shape of your neck correctly."
The knit cover is fully removable and can be thrown right into the wash with the rest of your laundry.
7. Best Cooling: Tuft & Needle Original Foam Pillow
If you have neck pain and are a fan of memory foam, Jordan Duncan, DC, a chiropractor at Silverdale Sport & Spine in Silverdale, Washington, recommends this pillow.
It's made from T&N adaptive foam, which is a much higher-caliber material than what other memory foams are made of, such as latex, Duncan says. It also comes with a three-year manufacturer warranty and promises to maintain its adaptive shape and firmness throughout that period of time.
In addition to its soft and supportive feel, it has cooling technology, so it's a good pick if you tend to sweat in your sleep. Duncan recommends this pillow for any sleeping position.
8. Best Adjustable: Coop Home Goods Eden Adjustable Pillow
The worst thing about many pillows is that their fill tends to spread out in the wrong places, leaving your head and neck either too propped up or sloped down into the pillow with the sides covering your face. This memory foam pillow by Coop Home Goods maintains its shape throughout its lifetime to provide you with the support you need to not wake up with a crick in your neck.
It's made from the company's proprietary Lulltra fabric, which is polyester- and bamboo-derived, so it's soft to the touch but also breathable. Perhaps the best part, however, is its adjustability factor. You'll get a half-pound bonus bag of fill so you can add more for a greater lift, if needed. You can also easily remove any extra memory foam fill for less volume.
Another perk customers appreciate is the five-year warranty that comes with this pillow. And if you try it and aren't a fan, you get a full refund — no questions asked.
What to Look for in a Pillow When You Have Neck Pain
Before you set out to buy the best pillow to relieve your neck pain, here are some important factors to keep in mind.
1. The Right Height
When it comes to sizing, pillows can really run the gamut, but you should spend some time thinking about what makes the most sense for you. The two major things to consider are the height of the pillow and your sleeping position, Friedman says.
"The neck has a 'C' curve shape, which acts as a shock absorber when we walk, run and jump and is needed to support and hold up the head," he says. "Sleeping with a straight neck for six to eight hours each night can eventually reduce this normal 'C' curvature."
When you sleep on a pillow that's too high, the neck tends to bend forward, which can cause an obstruction in your breathing as well as a lack of circulation throughout your body, he notes. If a pillow is too low, it can strain the muscles and joints of the neck, causing added pressure and discomfort.
"Ideally, a cervical pillow should be a height of four to six inches, with a curvature of approximately 42 degrees," Friedman says. "The neck should always be in a C-shaped curve that faces the opposite way your nose points."
2. Appropriate Price
Like anything else, when purchasing pillows, you tend to get what you pay for, Dr. Dasgupta says. "Investing in getting better sleep will pay off in the day with alertness, memory and concentration,"' he says. "If you have the opportunity to get better sleep, then I think that's going to be a good investment."
That being said, staying within the range of $30 to $150 is suitable. In other words, there's no reason to shell out hundreds of dollars on a single pillow, especially considering the fact that pillows need to be replaced usually every two years, according to the Sleep Foundation. "Not only does the material wear out, but they also build up an accumulation of skin cells, dust mites, fungus and mold," Friedman adds.
3. Supportive, Durable Material
In general, the filling of a pillow is what makes the difference when it comes to supporting the head and neck, as well as overall comfort, Dr. Dasgupta says. While there are plenty of different types of fillings, his personal favorite is memory foam, which is moldable to the shape of the head and neck, provides customized support and relieves the pressure points on the neck and head. He especially recommends memory foam for side sleepers because it helps keep their head and neck aligned.
Another type of material out there is latex. "Latex doesn't heat up as much as memory foam, which is good. However, because it's latex, I always want to make sure that my patients don't have allergies, because that is a very common thing," Dr. Dasgupta says.
Polyester and cotton are also two common and inexpensive material choices for pillows, but Dr. Dasgupta says he's less likely to recommend them to patients because they become less supportive over time and have to be replaced more frequently.
4. Firm but Comfortable
Firmness is another important factor when shopping for a pillow to relieve neck pain. Dr. Dasgupta recommends selecting a pillow that's firm enough so your head is not tilted upwards — that it remains in proper spinal alignment — but is also comfortable enough so it doesn't interrupt your sleep quality through the night.
5. Appropriate for Your Sleeping Position
Whether you sleep on your back, side or stomach, your pillow should keep your head and neck in neutral alignment, Duncan says. "This is accomplished by a pillow that maintains your head and neck in a horizontal position without too much flexion or side bending."
Many brands will market certain pillows for back or side sleepers, Duncan notes.
"It should be mentioned that sleeping on your stomach isn't recommended because of the extreme rotation that it forces your neck into," he adds. "This sleeping posture is a common reason why people wake up with neck pain and stiffness."
6. Provides Pressure Relief
For someone with a loss of curve in their neck, or a degenerative condition, contoured pressure-relief pillows may provide some relief for back sleepers, Conrad says. "For sprains or strains, a memory foam pillow will help keep your neck stabilized while sleeping," he says. "This additional support for the cervical lordotic curve of your spine will help prevent additional spasm in your neck when you get up."
How the Right Pillow Can Help When Neck Pain Disrupts Sleep
"Everyone seems to understand the importance of wearing a comfortable pair of shoes that fit, but many don't apply this same importance to getting a comfortable support pillow when they sleep," Friedman says.
If you sleep on your back, a proper-fitting pillow allows your joints to align properly and your muscles and ligaments to relax, he says. And the right pillow can also aid side sleepers by preventing unnatural bending in the neck.
"Most people toss and turn through the night while they sleep, which can place the neck in strange positions and make spasms even worse when they wake up," Conrad says. "This can lead to a lack of sleep as well, which will affect how you feel the next day."
What's more: The right pillow may help prevent neck pain in the first place, Conrad says. And that's a boon for sleep. "Loss of sleep from neck pain can affect your entire day, from lack of production, to stiffness in the neck, as well as feeling tired all day," he says.
Unfortunately, using the wrong pillow can make neck pain worse. "If you are using a side-lying pillow, for example, and you lay face down on it, you can aggravate your condition," Conrad says.
The Best Sleeping Position for People With Neck Pain
When it comes to sleeping positions, Friedman suggests people with neck pain sleep on their back or side. "Stomach sleeping causes the neck to twist like a washrag being wrung out all night, which can lead to irritation of the joints, tendons and muscles," he says.
If you're a back sleeper, he recommends having a pillow with a curve in the front and an area that sinks in behind it where the head rests.
When sleeping on the side, he recommends that your shoulders not be placed at 90-degree angles to the mattress, as this can cause spasms in the upper trapezius muscles. "Shifting the shoulder one inch forward can help bring the head closer to the pillow and reduce waking up with neck and upper arm pain and/or numbness in the arms and hands," he adds.
When to See a Doctor
If you have aches and pains in your neck that last more than a week, it's a good idea to get checked out by your doctor, who can evaluate the pain and offer treatment recommendations based on exam findings.
- We spend about one-third of our life either sleeping or attempting to do so
- David Friedman, ND, DC, naturopathic doctor and clinical nutritionist
- Prevalence, Practice Patterns and Evidence for Chronic Neck Pain
- Allen Conrad, BS, DC, CSCS, the owner of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center in North Wales
- Raj Dasgupta, MD, pulmonary and sleep specialist
- How Often Should You Replace Your Pillows?
- Jordan Duncan, DC, a chiropractor at Silverdale Sport & Spine in Silverdale, Washington
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.