Cut down on sleepless nights with these supportive pillows.

By Jen McCaffery
June 08, 2020
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When you’re crouched over your laptop during the workday or scrolling through social media on your phone at night, good posture is probably not the first thing on your mind. But over time, poor posture can lead to chronic neck pain and sleepless nights. 

About two-thirds of people will experience neck pain at some point during their lives, typically during middle age, according to a study published in the journal Clinical Evidence. It’s a very common cause of discomfort that can affect people of all ages, says W. Christopher Winter, MD, president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine.

Neck pain isn’t usually a cause for concern, but rather an annoyance. In younger people, neck pain is more commonly caused by injuries from exercise, Dr. Winter says. As we get older, degeneration starts to set in, and arthritis, pinched nerves, and herniated discs can all contribute to neck pain. And certain environmental factors—like the way you sit at a desk, exercise, and sleep—can make matters worse.

In particular, if you’ve been using the same old pillow every night for years, it may not be doing you any favors. “Many people are using pillows that have not been selected for their own body size and neck configuration,” Dr. Winter says. “It's just the pillow that was around.”

The good news is that you can relieve some of that neck pain—or prevent it from happening in the first place, if your sleeping position is the cause—by investing in a supportive pillow that’ll improve your nighttime posture. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that improper neck support can cause stiffness in the neck, but patients with chronic neck pain were able to reduce it by switching to a pillow that helped them maintain the correct cervical curve. 

According to Dr. Winter, latex and memory foam pillows are best for achieving the proper sleeping alignment, and research has shown that those who slept with latex or memory foam (rather than feather) pillows woke up less and had better sleep quality. 

Dr. Winter recommends choosing a pillow that’s designed for your sleeping position of choice, pillows specific to the size of your body and your sleep position. And aside from the medical considerations, the choice of a proper pillow is about comfort, which can be highly personal. That’s why we browsed thousands of online reviews and found eight pillows that customers recommend for neck pain: 

Keep reading to learn why shoppers say these soft-yet-supportive options are the best pillows for neck pain.

Cult-favorite bedding brand TEMPUR-pedic is known for its super comfortable mattresses, so it should come as no surprise that this contoured pillow is just as comfy. Designed to relieve pressure and support your head, neck, and shoulders, this customer-loved option conforms to your body but still retains its shape over time. Shoppers say the memory foam material feels plush but offers ample support. One person called it “a must for those with neck and shoulder issues” while another said: “The small-sized pillow is almost perfect for me. The foam's not hard enough to hurt my ear or give me a headache, but also not so soft that my head sinks straight down to the mattress. It's very supportive and keeps my neck properly aligned. I wake up with no neck pain or stiffness.”

To buy: $80 (was $99);

The best option for back sleepers, this cervical pillow has a concave center that cradles the head, while a cervical roll at the bottom supports the neck. Its cotton material feels soft and breathable, and it comes in a few different firmness levels so you can easily customize it to your liking.  More than 600 customers recommend this supportive pillow specifically for neck pain. One reviewer said: “I’ve had chronic neck and back issues for years and know all too well just how important the proper pillow and sleep positions can be for keeping your spine and body healthy. I was introduced to this pillow by my physical therapist and it was just what my neck needed. “

To buy: $42;

Created for people who sleep on their sides, this pillow features a curved design that supports the neck and shoulders. The latex neck pillow comes with an organic cotton cover for added comfort and breathability. What’s more, it’s super easy to customize—if the pillow feels too firm, you can simply unzip the cover and take some of the latex fill out until you reach your desired firmness. “This is seriously the best pillow I’ve ever had (especially for side sleeping)! It’s the definition of soft yet supportive and fully adjustable to your needs,” one shopper raved.  “I recently had cervical spinal fusion surgery and I have tried every type of pillow out there. I had almost given up when I found this.” Another called it the “perfect side sleeper pillow.”

To buy: $99;

More of a belly snoozer? Try this flat, thin pillow from Belly Sleep, a brand that specially designs comfy bedding options for stomach sleepers. The thinner shape of the pillow helps keep the head in a neutral alignment as you sleep on your stomach, while the memory foam material conforms to your body so you wake up pain-free. What’s more, it’s made with cooling gel memory foam—making it a great option for hot sleepers—and comes with a moisture-wicking bamboo and polyester cover that’s machine-washable for easy cleaning. Hundreds of reviewers rave over how great the pillow is for stomach sleepers, with multiple people calling it a “game-changer.” “Due to a physically demanding job that also involves considerable travel, I tend to have a lot of neck and shoulder pain,” wrote a shopper. “And belly sleeping is actually not good for your neck, but I can’t sleep any other way. This pillow has absolutely eliminated my neck pain which neither chiropractic adjustments nor massages could do for me. I am beyond thrilled.”

To buy: $50 (was $60);

Whether you’re pregnant or just find that you can never get fully comfortable on your current pillow, this half-moon wedge pillow may be just what you need. These uniquely shaped pillows are comfortable yet supportive and can be used in four different positions to help with alignment. What’s more, you can adjust the height of the pillow and remove the foam inserts for the perfect fit. One shopper called it a “great support pillow” and said: “Love it! I had disc surgery about one year ago and this pillow is perfect to relieve the pressure on my lower back when sleeping on my back. It’s also super comfortable for side sleeping.”

To buy: $25,

This contoured cervical pillow is designed to cradle the head and neck for proper alignment. The customizable design includes a zipper opening that allows you to adjust the inner microfiber filling to your liking; this way, you can make the neck pillow as soft or as firm as you’d like.  It even has a soft, cooling outer layer for a good night’s sleep. “This pillow has got to be one of the most comfortable pillows I have ever tried,” one shopper wrote. :And I have headaches, neck issues, and a whole lot more pain, so I am constantly buying pillows. At least once a month. And they all end up feeling like I am sleeping on bricks. But this one feels like a cloud. I am in love with this pillow!”

To buy: $30,

If you’re looking for serious support for your neck and spine, this unique butterfly-shaped orthopedic pillow is your best bet. It’s made with plush yet supportive memory foam that contours your head and neck, resulting in proper spine alignment as you snooze. Perfect for any sleeping position, it’s also odorless and hypoallergenic. One shopper, who titled their review “The most comfortable night's sleep I've had since I was a child!” said: “I have neck stiffness and pain from TMJ and an accident when I was a teenager. I'm 49 now and was waking up unable to turn my head from side to side every morning with my old pillows. I did a little research and found this butterfly pillow and figured I'd have to go through a few different kinds to find what I needed. But the very first night I slept on this thing, my neck improved drastically. I woke up able to move my neck! No stiffness and no pain!”

To buy: $55;

If you travel often, this ergonomic pillow roll is a great option for keeping your neck pain-free no matter where you are.  The firm 4-inch bolster pillow offers optimal support whether you opt to use it for your head and neck or in between your legs for relief from back pain. Made with comfy memory foam and a breathable bamboo-polyester cover, it can fit easily into carry-on bags. One reviewer shopper raved that after trying this pillow, their “neck pain has reduced immensely” Another said: “I'm a back sleeper and up until recently, have been experiencing a lot of pain. After buying this pillow I'm finding myself waking up fully refreshed. It has great neck support that molds to fit your body. I'm very satisfied.” 

To buy: $30 (was $56);