We all hate waking up and realizing that we have pain in our neck.
In truth, the feeling can be especially exasperating, and it is one of the easiest ways for you to begin a day on a pretty bummed note. Many people attribute the neck pain to the quality of their mattress or their sleeping position. That being said, here are the major causes of neck pain at night:
- Your sleeping position: It is possible that you figured out your best hibernating position a while back, and it is also true that old habits die hard. However, if you’re a type of person that sleeps often on their stomach, then you’re doing more harm to your neck than good. When you sleep on your stomach, you twist your head and neck to the side, and they both remain that way for however long your sleep is. This puts a lot of pressure on your nerves, and it usually manifests in neck pain.
- Your pillow: You might not believe it but your pillow can also cause neck pain (ironic, isn’t it?). The best pillow is aligned in such a way that your neck is aligned with the center of your body. If the pillow is too big, your head and neck will be bent overly upwards. On the other hand, an excessively flat pillow will leave your head and neck bent downwards. The size and potential positioning is something you ought to look at whenever you buy a pillow.
- Weak or stiff muscles: It is also possible that the reason why you always wake up with neck pain is that you have a chronic condition like arthritis. In this case, be sure to see a physical therapist to help you manage your condition.
- Your sleeping habits: Your sleep hygiene can also contribute to neck pain. Try sleeping earlier. Additionally, get proper exercise, avoid coffee or alcohol before sleeping.
Our Recommended Top 5 Neck Pillows
(read the extensive reviews below)
I recommend reading the following pieces:
Why You Should Have a Neck Pillow for Neck Pain Management
In truth, the only advantage that a pillow provides in helping protect against neck pain is the most important one; protecting the cervical spine.
There are seven bones in your neck, and all seven of them come together to form the cervical spine. These bones receive support thanks to cervical disks, and they are also cushioned by tendons and muscles. The cervical spine has a regular curved shape (called the lordotic cervical curve). Whatever causes you to lose that general spine position is definitely going to cause some stress on the spine as well as other supporting structures. The manifestation of this stress is what is seen as neck pain.
In truth, there have been just a few research efforts done on neck pillows. However, it is obvious that a neck pillow that is able to provide firm and sufficient support, as well as a proper shape, will be able to help protect the cervical spine from experiencing irregularities in shape when you sleep. The result of that is a better feeling in your back and neck when you take a time-out.
Pillow Shopping and Your Shopping Style
Contrary to popular belief, your sleeping style can help you determine in selecting the most appropriate pillow type for you.
- Side sleepers will do well with thicker pillows. These pillows will keep their spines straight as they sleep. However, they will need to be cautious so as not to get a pillow that is so thick, it keeps their neck out of alignment. The pillow also has to be firm so as to provide sufficient support.
- Back sleepers will be better served by thinner, low-lift pillows. These ones will fill the space between themselves and the mattress, thereby keeping their heads as high as is needed to achieve positions that are neutral as possible.
- For stomach sleepers, low-lift, thinner pillows are also ideal. The stomach sleeping position is very difficult to work with. You will definitely not want a thick pillow as it will cause your back to be overly bent.
Types of Pillows and Their Materials
Pillows go beyond what we see and use to keep our heads in proper sleeping position. There are actually a wide array of pillow types, with the most popular being:
- Body pillows: Body pillows are oversized pillows that are ideally designed to provide cushioning to the entire expanse of the body.
- Memory foams: Memory foams are polyurethane mixed with certain chemicals. They have increased viscosity and density, meaning they can easily conform to the shape of your neck and head as soon as you put them on the foams.
- Contour pillows: Contour pillows were made for people who sleep on their sides. The middle of the pillow is downward sloping, thereby providing support to the neck and spine.
- Down pillows: A down pillow is probably the softest type of pillow available. Filled with stuff like feathers, they provide optimum comfort.
- Buckwheat pillows: Buckwheat pillows are also very comfortable. Made from Buckwheat (the material that is used to protect kernels), the pillows are effective, albeit very rare.
- Latex pillows: Just as the name goes, latex pillows are made from latex, and they are ideal for people who suffer from allergies as well pans in the neck and back.
Factors to be Considered When Buying a Pillow
Buying a pillow is not an investment that should be taken lightly. There is a wide array of factors to be considered, including but not limited to the following:
- Your pillow should ideally have enough surface area to cover the size of your head and neck. A lot of people make the mistake of just resting their heads, leaving a space between the head and the shoulders in the process. In order to avoid stiffness and aches in the neck, it is highly important that you keep both the head and neck warm.
- As much as possible, try not to use more than one pillow. When you use too many pillows, you head will be tilted forward, thereby bringing a lot of strain to your neck. As long as you get the right one, a single pillow is sufficient.
- Make sure that when you’re shopping for pillows, you purchase one that works with how you sleep. If you sleep on your stomach or your side, then make sure that the pillow you use for your head and neck is quite flat. It will ensure that the tilt of your head is more natural.
- If you’re a side sleeper, it is also recommended that you make use of a body pillow or a knee pillow. This will ensure that the position of your spin is maintained. A body or knee pillow will help you to keep your knees apart, and the strain on your spine will reduce as well. Also, since your spine is connected to your neck, the neck in question will also be strain-free.
- Make sure that you are aware of what is inside your pillow. There are various properties in your pillow that can have advantages and characteristic that you might not be aware of. For example, a feather pillow might not do anything to alleviate the pain on your neck since it is soft and can’t provide proper firmness and support.
- Most pillows are used for certain purposes. This means that if you have neck aches, there are actually some types of pillows that might exacerbate your condition. For instance, a pregnancy pillow can’t help with neckaches. Know the type of pillow you’re buying and whether it meets your needs.
- If you see a pillow that is extremely flat, steer clear. A flattened pillow won’t be able to provide any support.
Care and Handling Tips
Just as it is with many other care products, it is essential that you know how to handle and take care of your pillow if it is to last. If viewed under the microscope, one can see thousands of dust mites, dead skin cells and bacteria on the surface of a used pillow. We spend so many hours of our lives sleeping, especially on our pillows that it is unavoidable to not breathe, sneeze, drool, etc on them. Therefore, it is very important to take care of your pillow and make sure you keep following the care handling instructions for them.
- Know that pillows don’t last forever: A pillow is not self-sustaining. The moment you see that your pillow is getting too flat, then its time you change it.
- Cleaning is vital: A lot of times, we use pillows without knowing the value of cleanliness. You need to regularly clean your pillow, as it traps sweat and particles.
- Wash your pillows at least once a week
- Spritz your pillow with vodka: Vodka is acts as a quick-drying sanitizer that can give your pillows some refreshment as you change them.
Reviews of Our Top 5 recommended pillows
Snuggle Pedic Shredded Memory Foam Pillow
This pillow’s fabric is made from bamboo, exclusively manufactured in the US. It is made so that it never loses its form and goes flat. Its perfect of sleepers who prefer to sleep on their side, stomach and back as it is adjustable and gives the appopriate orthopedic support that you need. If you have allergies, fear not, because the pillow is hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant. The breathable cover is Kool-Flow, keeping you cool all through the night. The shredded foam inside the pillow can be removed to achieve your desired softness and thickness.
The amazing part of buying this pillow is that you have 120 days to try it out and see if it works for you. Within the 120 nights, you can get a refund if you contact Relief-Mart directly. An additional plus is that this pillow is environmentally friendly due to its Biogreen memory foam. It comes in three different sizes: standard size, queen size and king size. It is fully machine washable and has easy care instructions.
Reviews on Amazon are stellar as well with 4 and a half stars out of 5 based on almost 11,000 unique customer reviews. Positive reviews include comfort sleeping in whichever position that you sleep in, the air flow technology the pillow is made of helps regulate the temperature accordingly. Negative comments are mostly about consumers finding it too firm to use at the beginning and the initial odor that may linger around after you open it. However, based on our research, this pillow is truly luxurious and worth the penny.
Coop Home Goods Memory Foam Pillow
This pillow’s cover is made from bamboo making it very soft and breathable. Coop pillow maintains an even surface as to give your head support. Inside the pillow, you will find gel-infused blend which is a blend of CertiPUR-US certified memory foam and microfiber. This ensures that the pillow does not lose its shape or clumps after a long time of usage. You can adjust the pillow according to your sleeping preference. This pillow is also machine washable and dryer friendly. Because of the gel-infused foam, you are also guaranteed to have a cool night.
Customers have a 100-night trial with money back guaranteed and no questions asked. Though it is perfect for people of all ages, and also pregnant women, side and back or stomach sleepers find it the most comfortable. Customers rave about the alleviation of neck pain after using this pillow regularly. They also love the fact that this pillow shapes to the body to give maximum support and comfort due its customizable construction.
Most of the common negative comments as per users were the lingering smell of the pillow after it is recently unboxed, which does go away after some time of regular use. It comes in two sizes: queen and king sizes. On Amazon, it has 4 and a half stars with about 15,000 customer reviews. Only 7% of the comments are 1-star with 71% of the comments with 5-star reviews making it one of the best pillows for neck problems sold out there.
Z ZONED GEL DOUGH Gel-Infused Memory Foam Bed Pillow Premium Water Base Pillow
The ZONED GEL DOUGH has three technologies that make it into a comfortable, supportive pillow. The memory foam of thi pillow is infused with gel material that helps in distributing heat as to prevent heat buildup. It has large visible holes in the middle to help cradle the head and the smaller holes around the perimeter to support the neck. The airflow through the pillow allows for more breathability.
The soft velour cover from bamboo, which can be found in the pillow, is removable and machine washable. The gel formula creates a supple memory foam that conforms to curve for personalized support. This pillow comes in a standard size measuring 25 by 16 by 7 inches and comes with a 5-year warranty.
On Amazon, it has a 4.2 rating out of 5. Customers like the comfort and support it offers, however, many complained that the pillow heats up after 15 minutes of use, after which, you may have to rotate it on the other side to feel the cool. While some love the softness and mushiness of the pillow, others complain that it is too mushy for them to use.
Chiroflow Premium Water Pillow
Recommended by professionals and Chiropractors, the Chiroflow pillow is great for grade neck pain support. It has passed test results that demonstrate relief in neck pain after use. The Dacron StaLoft fiber filling prevents the pillow from becoming flat. The pillow is great for side and stomach sleepers. The way it works is that you can customize your pillow to your desired level of comfort by either adding or removing water. It automatically adjusts to your head movement throughout the night. You don’t need to fluff it so chances of you waking up often at night are reduced.
The covers are easily removable and washable. You can wipe the inner case where the water is stored to clean up for dirt. The thermal insulated rubber in the water core helps keep the right temperature, preventing the water from getting too warm due to the body heat. Because it contains water and not foam, the pillow does not bunch up, but rather takes shape where you apply pressure for the water to flow.
Customers complain that using the pillow filled with water can be heavy to use at first. One size is good for all as you can adjust the water to customize your level of comfort: soft, medium or firm. The company offers a 3-Year warranty against defects. It has a rating of 4 stars on Amazon. One customer complained about mold formation on the pillow and some others complained that the seam split up on the side after multiple uses. Positive reviews rave about the lessening of neck pain.
Iso Cool Memory Foam Bed Pillow
The Iso Cool pillow cover is made out of 100% cotton in the US. It has outlast Adaptive Comfort material whose microscopic PCM beads absorb heat and feel cool. It provides great comfort for side sleepers due to its visco-elastic memory foam filling and gusseted sides. It comes in the following measurements: 23 x 15.5 x 5 inches. The cover is removable and machine washable. The materials of the cover are hypoallergenic making it a perfect choice for those with allergies.
On Amazon, it has 3.7 stars out of 5, with around 4000 customer reviews. Common customer complaints are that the quality of the new Iso cool pillow has gone down compared to its older version. Side sleepers rave about the comfort of the pillow for their use. Though it is a heavy pillow, users like that it is not easily removable from its resting place.
Are neck pillows washable?
Yes, most neck pillows are washable. However, to be on the safer side, be mindful of the material it is made of and read the care instructions that come with it.
Are there specific pillows for specific positions?
If you have a specific sleeping position, it will be best for you to research for the best pillow type for your neck.
How likely is it for a neck pillow to cause neck pain?
It is unequivocal. If you have a bad neck pillow, the effects on your neck will be pronounced. It might take a while, but you can rest assured that they will show up.
Can sleeping without a neck pillow hurt your neck?
Ideally, your neck should be slightly elevated so as to maintain the position of the cervical spine which is what a pillow provides.
Do I also need to change my mattress?
You can research on what best mattresses are for you but its effects are not as vital as those of the pillows.
What is the best neck pillow for me?
The answer to this question depends on how you sleep, various pillows are conformed to certain sleeping positions.