How to Choose The Ideal Neck Pillow: Infallible Tips

Did you know that the pillow you use to sleep can influence your health? Consider its material, its shape and even your weight and size to choose the most suitable one.
How to Choose The Ideal Neck Pillow: Infallible Tips
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Written by Editorial Team

Last update: 27 February, 2024

Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial to your health and well-being, and the pillow you use has a lot to do with this. A neck pillow can help you improve the quality of your sleep and prevent or relieve neck, back, and headaches. But how do you choose the best one for your needs?

In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to find the answer: what types of neck pillows there are, who should use them, and how they differ from normal pillows. In addition, we’re going to give you tips to help you make the right choice when buying one.

What is a neck pillow?

A neck pillow is designed to adapt to the shape and curvature of the neck, maintaining a correct and aligned posture of the spine during sleep.

They are not only beneficial for people who suffer from neck pain but also for those who want to improve the overall quality of their sleep and prevent future discomfort.

What’s the difference between a normal pillow and a neck pillow?

The difference between a normal pillow and a neck pillow is that the former has a flat and uniform shape, while the latter has a curved and variable shape. This means that the normal pillow does not adapt to the contour of the neck and can cause a forced and uncomfortable posture.

What types of neck pillows are there?

The most common materials for neck pillows are the following:

  • Latex: this is natural, elastic, and resistant. It adapts to the contour of the neck and offers good support.
  • Viscoelastic: a synthetic material that reacts to heat and body pressure, molding its shape.
  • Fiber: soft and resistant, it can be easily washed. It offers good conformability, but may deform with continued long-term use.

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Who should use a neck pillow?

A neck pillow is recommended for anyone who wants to improve their sleep and prevent or relieve neck pain. However, there are some cases in which its use is especially indicated:

  • Back or side sleepers: these positions require greater height and support from the pillow to keep the neck aligned with the rest of the spine.
  • People who snore or have sleep apnea: breathing disorders can be improved with a neck pillow that elevates the neck and facilitates the passage of air through the airways.
  • Migraine or tension headache sufferers: many headaches are related to poor neck posture leading to muscle contractures.

Why is a neck pillow beneficial?

Although the indications we have already mentioned are specific, there are also some benefits of use for people who don’t have sleep apnea or migraines. That is, for those who don’t have any underlying disease.

Neck pillows could improve the quality of anyone’s sleep. By sleeping with proper posture, restorative sleep is facilitated, which translates into greater physical and mental performance during the next day.

It would also prevent future neck pain. By supporting the neck correctly, neck muscle tension and concomitant inflammation is prevented, which reduces the risk of contractures.

According to a 2007 study, using a neck pillow can have a positive effect on neck pain, nighttime sleep, and headaches. In that study, three types of pillows were compared: butterfly-shaped neck pillows, regular rectangular pillows, and roll-up pillows. The results showed that the majority of participants using the butterfly neck pillow reduced their neck pain, while only 41% of those using the regular pillow achieved less discomfort.

Finally, blood circulation to the brain could also be improved. Keeping the neck aligned makes blood flow to the head more efficient. Therefore, disorders related to poor circulation, such as dizziness and vertigo, are less likely to appear.

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The best tips for choosing the ideal neck pillow

Now that you know what a neck pillow is, what it’s for, what types exist, and why it’s beneficial to use one, here are some tips for choosing the ideal one for you:

  • Try different options: it’s best to try several neck pillows before buying one. Check which one best suits your neck and posture. Check out reviews on the internet.
  • Consider your height and weight: this influences the size and firmness of the neck pillow which will be ideal. The way to know if the pillow is the right height is to see if your head, neck, and spine form a straight line when you sleep on your side or if your chin is parallel to the floor when you sleep on your back.
  • Consider your mattress: the type of mattress you use also affects the choice. This is because the mattress influences how much your body sinks and, therefore, how high your neck needs to be aligned.
  • Select the material you like best: each one has its advantages. Viscoelastic is almost always the most recommended because it adapts to the contours of the neck and offers comfort and pressure relief. Fiber is light, soft, and breathable, but can deform over time.
  • Find the shape that appeals to you: there are different shapes for neck pillows, such as rectangular, butterfly, or cylindrical. Each one has its benefits, so you should choose the one that suits you best according to your posture.

Do you already know what your ideal pillow is?

Change your pillow every two years. It’s recommended to do so when you notice that it deforms or sinks.

This time will be fulfilled if you take care of your pillow properly, following the manufacturer’s instructions. In addition, you should wash it frequently, air it, and protect it with a cover.

Choosing a neck pillow is not so difficult if you follow these tips we gave you. But there is no magic here. To reduce neck pain and get a more restful rest, you also have to have good sleep hygiene, perform exercises for the neck and spine and, of course, consult a health professional if the pains are persistent or intense.

A good pillow can make the difference between an excellent and a lousy night’s sleep. So don’t hesitate any longer and start enjoying the benefits of a neck pillow – your health will thank you!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Persson, L. (2006). Neck pain and pillows–A blinded study of the effect of pillows on non-specific neck pain, headache and sleep. Advances in Physiotherapy8(3), 122-127.
  • Shields, N., Capper, J., Polak, T., & Taylor, N. (2006). Are cervical pillows effective in reducing neck pain?. In Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.