The 7 Best Pillows for Neck Pain (How to Find What's Right for Your Neck)

Your pillow can cause neck pain for a number of reasons.

  1. It's too high (or too low) for your sleeping position. The height of a pillow is referred to as its "loft." Side sleepers will need a higher loft than back sleepers, because you want your neck straight and your head parallel to your mattress.
  2. The pillow makes you hot. While the heat itself won't cause neck pain, a hot pillow will lead to you waking up throughout the night, flipping the pillow over, and otherwise not getting a good night's sleep. Plus, research shows that if you're sleeping poorly, then your neck pain is less likely to improve.
  3. The pillow isn't supportive. Without adequate support at the base of your neck, your head can slope down, putting your neck at a downward angle, leading to increased pressure and neck pain.
man sitting on a bed with his elbow on a pillow

Just like getting a new mattress, finding the right pillow is a critical factor in getting a good night's sleep.

In this post, we look at the best pillows for neck pain, making specific recommendations for side sleepers, back sleepers, and combination sleepers.

Here's a list of the 7 pillows we cover in today's article:

  1. Tempur-Pedic Adapt Mid Profile Pillow — A memory foam pillow for combo sleepers and back sleepers.
  2. Tempur-Pedic Adapt High Profile Pillow — A memory foam pillow for side sleepers.
  3. Tempur-Pedic Low Profile Pillow — A memory foam pillow for back sleepers.
  4. Tempur-Pedic Breeze Neck Pillow — A contouring memory foam pillow that provides ergonomic support.
  5. Fabrictech Bamboo Pillow — A shredded memory foam pillow with a cooling bamboo cover.
  6. Tempur-Pedic ProHi Pillow — A memory foam pillow for side sleepers with two sides of gel cooling material.
  7. Cool-Tech Pillow — A pillow available in three different lofts for all kinds of sleepers, with graphite cooling technology to help keep heat away from your face.

As you can see, we are recommending all memory foam pillows, because memory foam is unique in how it adapts to your neck and head, making it great for alleviating neck pain.

If you're ready for a new pillow, you can shop Slumberland's Sleep Solutions department, where the universal rating system makes it easy to choose a pillow online using the guidance of this article. However, finding the right pillow for your neck pain is subject to your personal preference and body size, which is why we also suggest you visit one of our Slumberland stores to feel the difference that the right pillow can make.

Finding the Best Pillows for Neck Pain

woman sitting on a bed with a pillow in her lap

If your pillow is causing neck pain, shoulder pain, or a stiff neck, it's usually because the pillow is either propping your head up too high or letting your head sink down too low. What you want from your pillow is even and consistent support.

But you also want comfort. Imaging laying on a brick that's the right height to keep your neck straight. Sure, you won't have an issue with your spine alignment, but you're not going to sleep well. The pressure building up on your face will keep you up, and you'll constantly be tossing and turning.

Below, we break down the best pillow for neck pain into categories:

  • The best side sleeper pillow
  • The best back sleeper pillow
  • The best combo sleeper pillow
  • The best cooling pillow

You need a supportive and comfortable pillow that works for your body type. Below are general recommendations that you can purchase online right now, or for a personalized recommendation that's tailored to all your needs, visit one of our Slumberland showrooms.

The Best Pillow for Side Sleepers (Mid to High Loft)

woman sleeping on her side

Side sleepers need a pillow with a higher loft than back or stomach sleepers. There's a wider gap between your head and your mattress when you sleep on your side.

This could mean you need a pillow like the Tempur-Pedic Adapt Mid Profile Pillow. It's 6 inches tall.

But depending on your body type, you many need a thicker or slimmer pillow. If you need a thicker profile, you can get the Tempur-Pedic High Profile Pillow, which is 6.5" thick.

A quick note about lofts: It may not seem like there's a big height difference between 6" and 5.5", but if you tilt your head a little to the left right now, you can feel the difference that even a quarter of an inch makes. That half inch could make the difference between a peaceful night asleep or waking up with a cramped and uncomfortable neck.

The Best Pillow for Back Sleepers (Low to Mid Loft)

Back sleepers need a pillow with a shorter loft. This keeps their head supported and upright without pushing it up so high that you put pressure on your neck.

Depending on your body type, you might find comfort and support from the Tempur-Pedic Low Profile Pillow, which has a 5.75" loft.

But if you need a slimmer pillow, we recommend the Tempur-Pedic Breeze Neck Pillow, which at its lowest is 3.94" tall. This is a contouring pillow. Contour pillows are memory foam pillows that have a slight dip in the middle. This dip complements the curve of your spine and neck.

What About Stomach Sleepers?

Stomach sleepers would need a very slim pillow. But stomach sleeping isn't recommended because it is back for your neck and your spine. The good news is that if you're sleeping on your stomach, you can often change your sleeping position by finding the right pillow.

For example, if you're on your stomach because your pillow is too uncomfortable when you're on your side, then getting the best pillow for side sleepers will help you avoid sleeping on your stomach.

What About Combo Sleepers?

Some sleepers don't fall neatly into the side sleeping or back sleeping camp. These are combination sleepers, who often fall asleep in one position and then wake up in a different one.

If you're a combination sleeper, then you want a pillow that works for both back and side sleepers. This means finding a pillow with a medium loft that works for both positions. A pillow like the Fabrictech Bamboo Pillow is full of memory foam puffs (a type of shredded memory foam) that are easy to mold into the perfect form, so you can adjust it as you sleep.

What About Adjustable Pillows?

There are also adjustable pillows. These are pillows that have an adjustable loft, so you can take out the filling to change the loft and overall comfort and support level of your pillow. While these are a unique product that do let you customize your pillow, there is one big disadvantage.

If you're a combination sleeper, you'll have to know in advance which position you want to sleep in. So if you want to sleep on your side, you could make your adjustable pillow loftier. But if in the middle of the night you find yourself wanting to sleep on your back, then you'd need to remove some filling from the pillow.

The Best Cooling Pillow

No one likes sleeping hot, and no one likes their face feeling hot. All of us have woken up in the middle of the night to flip over our pillow to its cool side at some point. It's refreshing and comfortable. But is there a way for you to always be on the cool side of the pillow?

There are different types of pillows that work better for sleeping cool. Breathable materials, like latex or down (feather) pillows, are naturally cooler. But if they're not covered in a moisture wicking cover, then you still run the risk of getting hot at night.

To always be on the cool side of the pillow, you can find a cooling pillow, like the Tempur-Pedic ProHi Pillow. This pillow is 6.60" tall. You can get the ProLow version for slimmer builds, which is 5 inches tall. It has a cool-to-the-touch cover and a dual sided layer of cooling gel.

For another option, there is also the Cool-Tech Pillow, which is available in a low, medium, and high profile.

The Cool-Tech pillow uses a breathable cover, graphite technology, and cooling pockets that increase airflow to help you stay cool. (Graphite is actually commonly used to create cooling mattresses).

The Cool-Tech pillow also features a moisture wicking cover. Moisture wicking covers work in two ways:

  1. The fabric wicks (or moves) sweat to the outer surface.
  2. The fabric helps the sweat dry quickly.

Moisture wicking technology keeps your pillow feeling dry and cool.

4 Tips for Managing Neck Pain After You Find Your Favorite Pillow

woman sleeping on her back

After you find the right pillow, if you're still experiencing neck pain at night, then you know there's something else contributing to it.

Below we offer 4 general tips for managing neck pain at night, then your know there's something else contributing to it.

1. Practice Good Posture throughout the Day

Good posture is very important at curbing chronic neck pain. If you're working an office job, this means not stooping over your laptop for hours at a time. If you're using your phone, this means not craning your neck to scroll through social media.

Research has shown a relationship between forward head posture and the presence of neck pain. Forward head posture is the unfortunate result of too much time spent driving, looking at the computer, looking at our phones, or ever walking with a backpack.

2. Stretch in the Morning and Evening

There are several different ways to stretch your neck muscles, including neck retraction and neck rotation.

  • Neck retraction is when you look straight ahead, relax your muscles and posture, and then slowly move your head backward until your chin is as far back as possible without feeling any pain. Hold that position for about 5 seconds, and then slowly return your chin to the starting position.
  • Neck rotation is when you turn your head to the left, keeping your chin tilted just slightly downward, and then hold that position for about 5 second. Then you rotate your head to the right and do the same thing. Just as with the stretch above, you don't want to overexert yourself. Only go as far as your body lets you and stop if you feel any pain.

3. Change Your Sleeping Position

We discussed it above, but it's worth repeating — not every sleep position is created equal. Specifically, stomach sleeping is considered by medical professionals as the least desirable sleeping position.

We know changing how you sleep at night is easier said than done. Old habits die hard, and how we sleep can feel out of our control.

But there are things you can do to change from a stomach sleeper to a side or back sleeper.

To start, you can put a pillow under your knees. This elevates your legs and does two things. First, it takes pressure off your lower back, which helps you sleep better at night (and hopefully avoid back pain). Second, it makes it hard for you to turn over on to your stomach.

Or, you can get an adjustable bed frame. Adjustable bed frames go directly beneath your mattress. There are several different types, but the ones we recommend have quiet pneumatic motors beneath the head and the feet. These motors can lift the frame, which then lifts your mattress. By raising your legs just slightly, you again take pressure off your lower back and make it difficult for to flip onto your stomach.

4. Consider a New Mattress

A new mattress can be a big help in improving your neck pain. This is because discomfort anywhere along your spine can lead to increased neck pain. For example, if your hips are too low in your bed, then that also puts pressure on your neck.

We put together a mattress buying guide where we provide a comprehensive look at different mattress technologies and how they can help you sleep better.

Next Steps: Find the Best Pillow for Your Neck Pain at Slumberland

The right pillow can greatly help reduce or completely get rid of your neck pain by offering unparalleled neck support. But finding the right one is challenging. You want to consider a pillow's loft in your search, as well as the type of pillow you want (from shredded foam to a block of foam to a down pillow).

Side sleepers generally want a medium to high loft, while back sleepers want a low loft. And combo sleepers may want a medium loft pillow full of shredded foam so they can adjust it as needed. But what's most comfortable and supportive for you will also depend on your body type.

At Slumberland, we have a wide variety of pillow options that will help improve your sleep quality. Visit one of our showrooms to try out your new pillow in person and get a personalized recommendation from our staff of sleep experts. Or, if you want to rest your head on a new pillow right away, shop in stock pillows online at any time!