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3 Top Options for Neck Pain Pillows

by Angela Maple

At a Glance:

What Causes Neck Pain While Sleeping?

How Can Neck Pain Pillows Help?

Pillow Types to Consider

Best Neck Pain Pillows by Sleep Positions

5 Tips to Remedy Neck Pain


Why Trust Us?

We all know that sleep is important — and not always easy to come by — which is why waking up with neck pain every morning is so frustrating.

While there could be a variety of causes for nagging neck pain, one common culprit is poor alignment between a person's body and their pillow.

In this guide, our sleep specialists will share their knowledge and tricks about neck pain pillows and how to find the pillows that best suit each sleeping position and your specific needs. Furthermore, we'll give you tips and tricks to relieve some of that neck pain. Let's get this ball rolling!

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What Causes Neck Pain While Sleeping?

woman waking up with a stiff neck

You might be wondering where all of this pain came from. Here are some of the most common causes of neck pain.

Poor Mattress Support

If your mattress does not support you in maintaining proper spinal alignment, you may wake up with aches and pains. After all, you spend seven to nine hours per night on your mattress, so you want to have one of the best mattresses for neck pain relief.

Learn How to Sleep Better

The Wrong Loft Pillow

Flat pillows frequently cause necks to crane out of alignment, causing knots and muscle tension. Remember to always use a pillow that promotes neutral alignment. When lying on your side, your ears should be aligned with your shoulders and your chin with your chest. Back and stomach sleepers should align their necks with their sternums as well.

Sleeping Position

You may not know it, but sleeping position and spine alignment are important for reducing neck pain. There are ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing neck pain, such as sleeping in a few recommended sleep positions with a pillow that supports the neck and allows it to lie in a neutral alignment with the spine. Avoid sleeping on your stomach and keep your head in a straight line with your spine.


People who are anxious tend to tense their muscles and grind their teeth at night. If you have chronic neck pain, try some gentle neck stretches to relieve the tension. It may even be beneficial to meditate and relax before going to bed.

How Can Neck Pain Pillows Help?

Many people suffer from neck pain as a result of everyday stressors such as work or poor posture. Long periods of sitting in front of a computer or a mobile device may result in additional neck strain.

A person’s sleeping posture of is important. A pillow's one function is to keep the neck in proper alignment with the rest of the spine, ensuring that the muscles relax properly and do not overextend.

Furthermore, according to a 2021 research study, pillow height and shape are important factors in reducing neck pain and promoting spinal alignment.

Many people prefer to sleep on their sides, but others prefer to sleep on their backs or stomachs.

In general:

  • Side sleepers should choose a thicker pillow to keep their neck and spine aligned.
  • Back sleepers should begin with a medium pillow that supports their neck while also allowing their head to rest.
  • To avoid neck extension, stomach sleepers should use a very thin pillow.

Each sleeper will benefit from a different type of pillow to promote proper neck posture while sleeping. This is critical because poor neck posture can cause or worsen neck pain and prevent the neck from sleeping at night.

Pillow Types to Consider

closeup of pillow stack

There are various types of pillows available. Some options for those experiencing neck pain include:

Contoured pillows: A person's head will rest in a specially designed contour with elevated areas supporting the neck to keep the neck and back in good alignment with these pillows.

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V-shaped pillows: A V-shaped pillow, the best pillow for neck pain and headaches, elevates the head and keeps the spine straight. This may help alleviate neck and back pain by improving sleep posture.

Memory foam pillows: Memory foam molds to a person's shape precisely to provide support in the right places.

Latex pillows: Latex is a flexible material that can support the entire body, including the head and neck. It can sometimes be more expensive than other materials, but it is also more durable.

Shop Purple Harmony Pillows

Water pillows: Water can conform to a person's movements and support the head and neck. However, as the best pillow for neck pain and headaches, water pillows may not be the most convenient type of pillow to use.

Buckwheat pillows: A pillow made of buckwheat can be cozy while still offering the right support, making it an eco-friendly choice.

Best Neck Pain Pillows by Sleep Positions

Sleeping positions are important when selecting the best pillow for neck pain. If possible, those suffering from neck pain should sleep on their backs or sides.

Best pillow for back sleep with neck pain: A low-profile pillow is preferable in this position. A small, rolled towel or small, roll-shaped pillow placed under the neck tucked in the pillowcase can provide additional support. Some pillows combine both of these features by having a roll-shaped area for the neck and a deeper, lower area for the head. Some people find it helpful to try changing the position of the pillow to make it more comfortable. Tucking the pillow under the shoulders raises the head higher on the pillow, preventing the neck from flexing (bent forward). This position may feel like the head is slightly extended and may be more comfortable for those with neck muscle pain.

When sleeping on your back, place a pillow under your knees to reduce strain on your lower back.

Best pillow for neck pain side sleeper: In this case, a higher pillow is recommended as the best pillow for neck and shoulder pain so that the neck and head are aligned straight over the shoulders, as they would be when standing in good posture. A rolled towel or roll-shaped pillow should be placed under the neck, and a pillow for the head should be added.

Resting one arm on a pillow and adding a pillow between the knees provides additional spine support. Some body pillows may provide similar support.

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Best pillow for stomach sleeper with neck pain: This position is not recommended because it causes the back to arch and the head to turn, putting strain on the neck. Changing sleeping habits can be difficult, but attempting to fall asleep in a different position is advised. If this is not possible, a flat pillow or no pillow at all should be used for the head. Another possibility is placing the pillow under the forehead, lifting the nose off the mattress, and keeping the head and neck neutral.

In addition, a pillow should be placed under the hips and abdomen to maintain the natural inward curve of the lower spine.

5 Tips to Remedy Neck Pain

Sleepers with neck pain can make small changes to their sleeping spaces and incorporate new steps into their daytime routines, in addition to adjusting their sleep position for better alignment.

Replace Old Mattresses or Pillows

A firmer mattress can help some people with neck pain by supporting their neck while sleeping. Special neck pillows can also offer extra support.

Apply Heat and Cold

Some people who suffer from neck pain find relief by applying heat or cold to the painful area before going to bed. Experts advise using this method for no more than 15 minutes per session. Use a low-temperature heating pad or an ice pack wrapped in a towel to protect the skin. People should stay awake when using heat or cold to avoid potential injury.

Modify Posture

Hunching over a desk during the day can contribute to neck pain and tension. Small changes, such as sitting up straight and keeping the chin as low as possible, can help train the body to adopt a more neutral posture.

Exercise and Stretch

Neck stretches, rotations, shoulder rolls, and other gentle exercises can help relieve and prevent neck pain. These movements should be done on a daily basis if possible. A physical therapist or other health care provider can recommend specific exercises to meet your individual needs.

Reduce Stress

Meditation and mindful breathing techniques can help relieve stress and prevent neck tension. Relaxation can also be facilitated by gentle forms of exercise such as yoga and Tai Chi. Some people may find it beneficial to consult a psychologist or other mental health professional who teaches stress and pain management strategies.

Many Americans suffer from neck pain, and the causes aren't always clear. If you frequently wake up with a stiff neck, it's possible that your pillow is to blame. Are you ready to change up your pillow situation? Whether you live in California, Idaho, or Nevada, Mattress Land can help you sleep better by providing quality neck pain pillows from brands like Tempur-Pedic, Purple, Bedgear, and Sleep Essentials.


Let's answer a few more questions about neck pain pillows.

What is the best pillow for side sleepers with neck pain?

Side sleepers require a pillow with a lofty profile and a medium to firm level of support to alleviate neck pain. This will keep the head, neck, and spine in a healthy neutral position.

Can pillows cause neck pain?

Sleeping on a pillow that does not properly support you can result in neck pain! That is why it is crucial to choose sleep accessories that are appropriate for your body type and support you in your preferred sleeping position.

Is sleeping without a pillow better for your neck?

Sleeping without a pillow may help back and stomach sleepers maintain neutral spine alignment. Still, side sleepers need a pillow to maintain a healthy posture and relieve pressure on the shoulders and hips.

Why Trust Mattress Land?

Since 1996, Mattress Land has been making strides in the mattress industry to provide our customers the sleep experience they need — and deserve. We do that by offering the ultimate customer experience, complete with our trained experts, BedFIT™ computerized diagnostics, and our impressive showroom. We'll make sure that you find the right sleep solution for your sleeping habits so you can feel energized in your day-to-day life.

We are also proud of our diverse, employee-driven culture, where our teams work hard toward a common goal. We know that better sleep makes all the difference, and our commitment to changing the landscape of traditional mattress shopping is how we know Mattress Land is one of the best mattress stores around.

Shop Pillows at Mattress Land

At Mattress Land, we provide quality name-brand mattresses for great prices. Our sleep experts are always happy to help you take home the right neck pain pillow for a good night's sleep. With locations throughout California, Idaho, Nevada, and Washington, Mattress Land is bound to have a sleep solution for everyone. We are more accessible than ever! You can call us at 800-909-9299, visit our website to shop Mattress Land sales, and check out Mattress Land reviews online. Or better yet, stop by one of our showrooms to discover why we are everyone's favorite local mattress store. Visit us today!

Learn More: Why Can't I Sleep? How BedFIT Can Help with Sleep Disorders