Avoid using too high or stiff a pillow, which keeps the neck flexed overnight and can result in morning pain and stiffness. If you sleep on your side, keep your spine straight by using a pillow that is higher under your neck than your head.
A pillow that's too high or too low can cause pressure to build up as the neck tries to compensate for the lack of support.
If you sleep on your back a majority of the time, you're better off buying a pillow with a low profile. This ensures your neck doesn't get bent at a bad angle. However, if you sleep mostly on your side, you'll require a medium or even large profile pillow.
A 2020 study discovered that latex and memory foam are the best pillow materials for neck pain. This is because these materials provide neck support, which can improve sleep quality.
Body size and preference are likely to influence pillow size, but usually the pillow should maintain a height of 4 to 6 inches to support the head and neck (and shoulders when lying on the back).
The notch above the sternum is called the suprasternal notch. These two areas should be level when lying on your side. If the philtrum is lying higher than the suprasternal notch then your pillow is too high. If the philtrum is lying lower than the suprasternal notch then your pillow is too low.
The wrong pillow height will not only affect your sleep quality but can also cause you to have an improper spine alignment. This can lead to a crick in your neck, sleep apnea, or a cervical spine injury. On the other hand, proper alignment can help to alleviate aches and pain in the neck, shoulders, and back.
Memory Foam: Memory foam pillows adjust to the shape of the head and neck, providing excellent comfort and support, while reducing neck pain. Opt for TEMPUR memory foam pillows over generic options, as these offer the durability needed to return to shape over the long-term.
A firm pillow provides more support for the neck than a softer pillow, which may help to prevent pain or stiffness in the neck and shoulders. A firm pillow may also be less likely to collapse during the night, providing a consistent level of support.
Best Sleeping Positions for Neck Pain
The best sleeping positions for the neck are on your back or your side. The back in particular is recommended; just make sure to use a pillow that supports the curvature of your neck and a flatter pillow to cushion your head.
Some back sleepers find that placing a thin pillow below their knees or lower back can help ease pressure on the lumbar spine. Stomach sleepers who aren't prepared to sleep pillowless may find that a soft, low-loft pillow design can facilitate healthy alignment.
Use a small pillow underneath the head and neck (not shoulders) to keep everything in alignment. Even better, a small cylindrical pillow in the crook of your neck supports your neck and keeps your head neutral on the mattress.
Sleeping with your head elevated
Elevating your head in bed prevents airway collapse, which reduces the frequency and intensity of sleep apnea. Additionally, it reduces snoring and can help you breathe if you are congested with the common cold.
Sleeping without a pillow can keep your head flat. This may reduce some stress on your neck and promote better alignment. But this doesn't apply to other sleeping positions. If you sleep on your back or side, sleeping without a pillow may do more harm than good.
Your Pillow Is Too Thick And Firm
If your pillow is forcefully bending your neck toward your chest while sleeping on your back, or to one side when sleeping in the fetal position, it could be that your pillow is too thick.
Excessive pillows can elevate the head and neck too much, which can also lead to neck pain.
Try a memory foam or hybrid pillow – These are usually the best for your neck. They allow your cervical spine to maintain a neutral position, and they last longer than a standard pillow.
When it comes to pain relief, mattress firmness can absolutely make a difference. According to research from 2015 , medium-firm mattresses tend to provide a great combination of sleep comfort, quality, and spinal alignment.
An appropriate pillow height can provide adequate support for the head and neck to reduce the stress in the cervical spine and relax the muscles of the neck and shoulder, thereby relieving pain and improving sleep quality.
For adult side sleepers, the recommended pillow height is between 5 inches and 7 inches. Back sleepers need a pillow that doesn't push their head too far forward, causing strain on the neck. A pillow height between 4 inches and 5 inches is ideal for adult back sleepers.
If you are relaxed and your shoulders are perpendicular to the bed then the pillow is the correct height. If your upper shoulder is rolling forward towards the bed, then the pillow is too low. Conversely, if your upper shoulder is rolling backwards then the pillow height is too high for you.
Here's why: High Loft — Most importantly, a pillow with a taller profile is going to prop your head up so that it's in neutral alignment with your spine. Additionally, a lofty pillow will relieve pressure in your shoulder, and make sure that it's not bearing the brunt of your body's weight.
High profile pillows have a loft of approximately 5-7 inches. This height is great for side sleepers, filling the space between your neck and shoulders which gives you improved support. A high profile pillow can also help reduce shoulder pressure, while keeping your head up while sleeping on the side.
Because your head functions like a north pole, sleeping with your body in a north-facing position is considered a worst-case scenario, according to vastu shastra. It creates tension that may lead to headaches and other health problems.