It’s normal and common to wake up with a stiff or painful neck. People often assume this is due to an old mattress because the neck pain can extend to pain in other parts of the body, including arms, back, shoulders, and hips, and it could also cause numbness in the limbs and migraine headaches. Plus, the pain and stiffness could affect your sleep, which impacts your mood and ability to function normally.

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But even though you may have pain all over, the problem starts with the pillow and snowballs from there. To put it simply, the best pillow to prevent neck pain is the one that has the correct shape, size, thickness, and construction to match your body.

The Science Behind Neck pain

Pain in the neck has the potential to cause pain, stiffness, and other health concerns throughout the body, which is why preventing it is critical, and understanding where the pain comes from is the first step in doing so.

The neck is made up of muscles, tendons, cartilage, and 7 tiny bones. The bones are not connected to each other, but instead suspended in a bed a fluid, and their job is to protect the central nervous system and support the head. When parts of the neck become pinched or compressed, it causes pain and stiffness. Unfortunately, the neck is the part of the spine that is most susceptible to pinching and compression, especially when it’s laid on for several hours, so keeping it in a straight, comfortable position is key to preventing pain from occurring—this is where the right pillow comes in.

Pillows for Neck Pain— Key Considerations

Shape & Loft: Because of the natural curvature of the anatomy around the head, neck, and shoulders, a pillow that is the correct shape and size is best for preventing pain. Ideally, a rounded pillow, which is also called a contoured, cervical, or orthopedic pillow, would give support in all of the right places. But, many pillows designed to prevent neck pain have the traditional, even-surfaced shape that can work effectively for the right people.

Since the shape and size of everyone’s body varies, some people may need more loft in their pillow, or more support in their pillow. Generally, low loft refers to pillows that are less than 3 inches thick, medium loft is between 3 and 5 inches thick, and high loft is more than 5 inches thick. For some, a pillow that is over stuffed or too firm could cause pain, but for others, it could perfectly address the curvature of their neck. Either way, it’s best to find a pillow that will keep your neck elevated and supported enough to stay in line with your spine. Usually this means finding a pillow that is thicker under your neck, and thinner under you head.

Composition: Pillows for neck pain are made from a variety of materials including feathers, memory foam or shredded memory foam, water, polyester, latex, down or down alternative, wool, cotton, bamboo, or buckwheat. The most recommended materials, however, are feather, memory foam or shredded memory foam, and water, and if you find a pillow that allows you to adjust the amount of fill, that’s even better.

Each of the recommended materials come with their advantages and disadvantages. Feather pillows provide soft comfort for the head but may not be as supportive in the neck area. Memory foam does a good job of supporting the neck, but it could be too stiff and cause pain. The shredded version of memory foam could alleviate some of the concerns of regular memory foam because it is better able to adapt to the shape of your body, and some pillows allow you to add or take away shredded pieces. Water-filled pillows are heavy but allow you to adjust the thickness by adding and taking away water, and they adapt well to any shape.

Sleep Position: The position in which you sleep can influence whether or not you experience pain the next morning. Ideally, the correct pillow will minimize the effect your sleeping position has, but sleep experts recommend sleeping on your side or your back to prevent neck pain. Stomach sleeping is not recommended because it causes your spine to arch in an unnatural way and causes strain on the neck. Another note about sleep position: if you intended to buy a pillow with unique contours, consider the fact that the specialized shape may not fit every sleep position you move through during the night.

What Are the Top Six Pillows for Neck Pain?

Here is a summary of the top six pillows for neck pain, each offering a unique combination of desirable features. All of these products are highly rated, and sleep tested.

Coop Home Goods Original Pillow

The Coop Home Good Original Pillow has all of the qualities of an ideal pillow to prevent neck pain. It is filled with shredded Visco elastic memory foam that is fully adjustable through a convenient side zipper. The cover is made with a bamboo-derived viscose rayon and polyester blend and is designed to stay cool. All of the materials used to build this pillow are CertiPUR certified, meaning they are free from ozone-depleting chemicals and harmful toxins. Plus, it is hypoallergenic and dust mite resistant. This pillow is machine washable, available in both king and queen sizes, and comes with a 5-year warranty and 100-night, money-back trial.

Pros:

  • Comes with an extra bag of fill
  • Will not result in neck pain
  • Conforms to any sleep position
  • Fully adjustable
  • Stays cool all night

Cons:

  • Shredded memory foam may seem lumpy

Sleep Innovations Memory Foam Contour Pillow

The Sleep Innovations Memory Foam Contour Pillow has a unique design that is lower under the head and higher under the neck to give appropriate support to each. One side of the pillow is higher than the other, so you are free to choose which side fits you better. The memory foam fill adapts to the natural curvature of your neck, shoulders, and head to provide comfort and prevent neck pain. It comes equipped with a cotton, zipper cover that allows you to keep the pillow clean. This pillow is available in queen, standard, and travel sizes. The travel size is simply a shorter version of the bed pillow, so you won’t experience pain on the go. Sleep Innovations offers a 5-year limited warranty with the purchase of this pillow.

Pros:

  • Will not result in neck pain
  • Provides a great deal of neck support
  • Will not go flat

Cons:

  • Not adjustable
  • Contoured sides may be too thick for some

Beckham Luxury Linens Hotel Collection Gel Pillow

The Beckham Luxury Linens Hotel Collection Gel Pillow is a unique, gel-filled fiber pillow that provides ultimate comfort. It is shaped like a traditional, even-surfaced pillow, and it has a 100% cotton cover. This pillow is dust mite, mold, and mildew resistant, plus it is hypoallergenic and free from harmful chemicals. It is also fade and stain resistant and machine washable. This pillow has “no-shift” construction, meaning the filling will never become bunched up and stuck together. Beckham Luxury Linens offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee with the purchase of the gel pillow.

Pros:

  • Perfect balance of softness and support
  • Will not result in neck pain
  • Stays cool all night
  • Holds its shape well

Cons:

  • May be overstuffed/too thick for some
  • Not adjustable

Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

The Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow will never go flat, and it stays cool all night. It is filled with shredded combination memory foam, and the cover is micro-vented and made with bamboo, polyester, and Lycra. This pillow allows you to add or take away filling through its zipper cover, plus it is machine washable. The Ultra-Luxury pillow is CertiPUR certified (free from ozone depleters and harmful chemicals), hypoallergenic, and dust mite resistant. It is available in standard, queen, and king sizes, and Snuggle-Pedic offers a 120-night, no-hassle refund guarantee, as well as a 20-year warranty with the purchase of this pillow.

Pros:

  • Will not result in neck pain
  • Stays cool all night
  • Fully adjustable
  • Conforms to any sleep position

Cons:

  • Shredded memory foam may seem lumpy
  • May have a smell when first opened

Core Products Tri-Core Pillow

The Core Products Tri-Core Pillow has specialized contours that are raised on all four sides with a low center. The shape of the pillow cradles your head from all angles, and each side has a different level of loft to fit your preference and sleep position. The design is meant to correctly align the spine to prevent neck pain. Despite its unique shape, the pillow fits standard pillow cases. It is filled with resilient fiber that won’t go flat, and it has a blended cotton cover that is breathable and will stay cool all night. This pillow is available in full size, midsize, and petite, and you can choose the level of firmness; some sizes come in colors while others come in white.

Pros:

  • Will not result in neck pain
  • Stays cool all night
  • Choose your level of firmness

Cons:

  • Not adjustable
  • May lose shape sooner than expected

The Water Pillow by Mediflow

The Water Pillow by Mediflow helps alleviate and prevent neck pain through its adjustable, water-filled system. Unlike other fill materials, water smoothly adapts to the curvature of your neck, shoulders, and head without any lumpiness. It has a polyester cover with a valve that allows water to go in and come out. With the help of a funnel-like tool, it is easy to add the amount of water that fits your taste. Water should be cold or lukewarm when adding it to the pillow, and it can stay in the pillow for up to a year before it needs to be replaced. For the most comfortable experience, all air should be released from the pillow, leaving only water. This pillow is available for purchase individually or in packs of two. Mediflow offers a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, as well as a 1-year warranty with the purchase of this product.

Pros:

  • Clinically proven to prevent neck pain
  • Fully adjustable
  • Will not lose its shape over time

Cons:

  • Heavy when full
  • Risk of leakage
  • May be tricky to add and take away water

Pillows for Neck Pain— Final Thoughts

There are many pillows available that claim to alleviate neck pain, but only you know what your spine needs to be comfortable. Everyone’s anatomy is different, so find the pillow that has the ideal loft, support, and construction to keep your spine in line. However, there are other features you may want to look for in a pillow as well. For example, you may need a pillow that is hypoallergenic and free from any toxins or harmful chemicals. You may also want one that is easy to clean or machine washable. Plus, if you’re sensitive to temperature when you sleep, you will want a pillow that stays cool all night.

It’s important to remember that your body will need some time to adjust to a new pillow, so test drive it for a few nights before you make your final decision about it. Keep in mind that whichever pillow you choose will need to be replaced as often as once per year because all pillows naturally lose their shape and thickness over time. This is also where the price of your pillow can play a role. Many people are willing to splurge on one good pillow but replacing an expensive pillow each year could cause you to reconsider your choice. For your reference, the recommended pillows listed above range in price from $26 to $60.

With all of this advice, you should be ready to purchase your new pillow and start enjoying nights and mornings free from neck pain.

About Marissa Gvozdenovich Marissa is an English teacher and writer. She enjoys the Florida beach life with her husband and puppy.


Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder in which one’s airway becomes obstructed during sleep. In fact, many people who have sleep apnea haven’t been officially diagnosed.

Diagnosed or not, there are several treatments for sleep apnea that address both mild and severe forms of it.

Many people start treating their sleep apnea with nasal sprays or nose strips, but eventually move on to specialized pillows and CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machines.

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Sleep apnea pillows are an affordable tool that can address mild to moderate cases of sleep apnea.

Some sleep apnea pillows address the symptoms of sleep apnea alone or they can work with CPAP machines to provide the necessary relief.

These specialized pillows come in a few different forms, but all of them aim to open airways and facilitate breathing while asleep.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Understanding sleep apnea is the key to understanding how sleep apnea pillows work.

According to WebMD, sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person’s breathing is interrupted while sleeping, so in other words, people who suffer from this disorder stop breathing repeatedly during sleep.

This is a serious condition because it results in a lack of oxygen to the brain and the rest of the body, which can have major consequences.

Aside from not being able to complete everyday tasks, untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, or headaches.

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common, and it occurs when a person’s airway becomes blocked by the soft tissue in the back of his or her throat.

With central sleep apnea, the brain forgets to tell your body to breathe, so the issue is in the respiratory control center rather than a blocked airway.

Symptoms of either type usually include loud snoring, waking up with a sore or dry throat, waking up gasping for air, tiredness, restless sleep, morning headaches, decreased libido, mood changes, or insomnia.

Although sleep apnea can be diagnosed in anyone of any age, there are certain factors that put some people at a higher risk than others.

People most as risk for sleep apnea are male, overweight, over the age of 40, have a larger than average neck size, have a family history of sleep apnea, have larger than average tonsils and tongue, have a smaller than average jaw bone, have some form of nasal obstruction, or suffer from gastroesophageal reflux (GERD).

Pillows for Sleep Apnea

Sleep Position: One of the first steps in treating sleep apnea is positional therapy, and specialized pillows are the perfect complement for it.

Most sleep apnea experts recommend side sleeping to prevent the tongue and soft tissue from collapsing and blocking the airway, which can happen easily when back sleeping.

Because of this, most sleep apnea pillows have been developed to train sleep apnea sufferers to sleep on their side.

However, back sleepers can get some relief from their symptoms if they elevate their body from the waist up while sleeping.

The extra elevation can prevent the airway from becoming obstructed, and there are specialized wedge pillows that address this.

Pillow Type: In general, the best pillows for sleep apnea are made of foam or memory foam, but most important is the shape of the pillow.

Some sleep apnea pillows are designed to be used with CPAP machines, others are intended to align your neck, back, and head in the proper position to relieve sleep apnea symptoms.

CPAP machines use a mask that fits over a person’s nose and mouth and supplies the necessary air pressure to keep the airway open while sleeping.

So, sleep apnea pillows that work with CPAP machines will make wearing the mask much more comfortable by reducing pressure on the face from the mask and keeping the mask in place throughout the night.

These pillows have a specialized design that accommodates both the mask and the tubes that feed it.

Other sleep apnea pillows usually fall into one of two categories—cervical or wedge— and they work by supporting the spine and ensuring the ideal sleep position.

Usually cervical pillows are for side sleepers and wedge pillows are for back sleepers, but some back sleepers can find relief with cervical pillows, too.

Cervical pillows (also called contour pillows) keep the neck straight, preventing the throat from closing.

Most CPAP machine pillows can also be considered contour pillows.

Wedge pillows elevate the upper body, which stops gravity from collapsing the airway while back sleeping. Either way, a firm pillow is the best option.

What Are the Top Six Pillows for Sleep Apnea?

Here is a summary of the top six pillows for sleep apnea, each offering a unique combination of desirable features. All of these products are highly rated, and sleep tested.

EnduriMed CPAP Pillow

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This contour pillow can accommodate any CPAP mask so that you breathe easy all night.

The specialized design ensures that your mask won’t shift and cause leaks, plus it relieves pressure on the face. This pillow’s unique shape allows for ultimate comfort from any angle and gives adequate space for mask tubes.

All of the materials are resistant to allergens and dust mites, and the pillow is made with high-quality memory foam that provides firm neck and spine support, especially for side and stomach sleepers.

The EnduriMed CPAP Pillow fits standard pillow cases, but there is a custom cover available as well.

Pros:

  • Keeps tubing and mask in place
  • Relieves aches and soreness

Cons:

  • May retain heat

Sleep Innovations Memory Foam Contour Pillow

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The Sleep Innovations contour pillow is made with high-quality memory foam and provides enhanced spine support.

The memory foam adapts to the size and shape of your head and neck to align your body into the proper sleep position.

With two levels of contour, you are free to choose the amount of support that fits you, so that your airway remains clear.

This unique design ensures that you will not wake up with pain or stiffness. Lastly, Sleep Innovations offers a 5-year limited warranty with the purchase of this pillow.

Pros:

  • Relieves aches and soreness
  • Very comfortable
  • High quality

Cons:

  • May not be firm enough

FitPlus Premium Bed Wedge Pillow

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This wedge pillow is perfect for relieving symptoms of sleep apnea, especially for back sleepers.

It is built to support the entire upper body with 1.5 inches of memory foam on top of a layer of premium polyurethane foam.

The gradual slope ensures that airways stay clear, and neck and pains are resolved.

FitPlus’ Premium Bed Wedge Pillow also has a removable, washable cover that helps regulate temperature while you sleep.

Pros:

  • Appropriate level of elevation
  • Very comfortable

Cons:

  • Body may slide down pillow

Visco Love Celliant Sleep Therapeutic Wellness Memory Foam Pillow

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This advanced therapeutic pillow stays cool while contouring to your body, which relieves aches and pains and promotes clear airways.

It is built with 100% visco-elastic memory foam, which is hypoallergenic and durable.

The unique design features air channels that regulate temperature to allow you to sleep comfortably all night.

This Visco Love pillow can be used with a CPAP mask or without one because of the specialized slopes and cutouts that are built into the design.

Pros:

  • Stays cool all night
  • Relieves aches and soreness

Cons:

  • May have an odor at first

Snuggle-Pedic Ultra-Luxury Bamboo Shredded Memory Foam Pillow

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Unlike the other pillows on this list, the Snuggle-Pedic pillow does not have a unique shape.

This hypoallergenic, toxin-free pillow sleeps cool and can adapt to whatever position is best for you, whether that includes CPAP machine or not.

It is filled with shredded memory foam, which is what allows for the support and customization, and the cover is made of viscose of bamboo, polyester, and lycra.

The ultra-luxury pillow is machine washable, available in 3 sizes, and comes with a 20-year warranty as well as a 120-night sleep trial.

Pros:

  • Stays cool all night
  • Adjustable
  • Relieves aches and soreness

Cons:

  • May seem lumpy
  • May be too firm

Contour Products CPAPMax Pillow 2.0

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The CPAPMax 2.0 is most similar to the EnduriMed CPAP pillow above.

It features specialized cutouts to fit anyone’s sleep preference and to accommodate CPAP masks and tubing. It also has a Velcro strap that can be fixed to CPAP tubing for added shifting and leaking protection.

There are two sleeping surfaces to choose from: a plush, traditional pillow surface and a ventilated foam surface.

Plus, this hypoallergenic pillow allows you to add or take away layers, so your spine and neck can stay straight. The adaptability of this pillow ensures ultimate comfort while sleeping with or without a CPAP machine.

Pros:

  • Comfortable and functional
  • Customizable
  • Fits CPAP mask well

Cons:

  • May be too firm or flat

What Else Should You Consider When Using and Purchasing Pillows for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea pillows are a great way to address breathing issues while sleeping, but there are a few other points to consider when using and purchasing them.

First, sleep apnea pillows will work better for some people than they will for others, especially because there are many different options to choose from.

Since sleep apnea pillows often have unique designs, it is reasonable that certain shapes won’t be comfortable for every person.

Even pillows that adapt to the shape of your body may not be satisfying for everyone.

So, don’t get discouraged if the first sleep apnea pillow you try falls short of your expectations; there are plenty more to put to the test.

Keep in mind, though, that the ultimate goal of the pillow is to help you breathe, so if you’ve found one that does that, the other features of the pillow may not seem as important.

Another point to consider is price. Even though pillows are a more affordable alternative to expensive medical treatment for sleep apnea, the quality ones can get pricey.

As a point of reference, the recommended sleep apnea pillows above range in price from $28 to $70, but most of the time you can count on paying $50 to $60 for a quality pillow.

The price of the pillow is largely based on the unique features it has, as well as the materials it is built with.

Next, one of the biggest criticisms of sleep apnea pillows is that they tend to sleep hot, meaning that they retain body heat throughout the night, and that can be uncomfortable for some people.

If this is something that could affect you, you may want to look for pillows with gel layers, which are more likely to stay cool all night.

Finally, if you find that sleep apnea pillows aren’t adequately addressing your symptoms, it may be time to consult a sleep professional.

Although it may be expensive, sleep experts can conduct a sleep study to get to the bottom of the issues you are experiencing. The information gleaned from the study would allow your doctor to create a more intensive treatment plan.

Pillows for Sleep Apnea – Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the best pillow for sleep apnea is the one that allows you to enjoy comfortable sleep while relieving the symptoms and effects of sleep apnea.

Keep in mind that not all sleep apnea pillows are the same; in fact, they can differ quite a bit, so it may take some trial and error to find the perfect one.

Nevertheless, pillows specially designed to treat the symptoms of sleep apnea have been proven effective and are even recommended as a first step for treating mild to moderate sleep apnea, before formal medical treatment.

About Marissa Gvozdenovich Marissa is an English teacher and writer. She enjoys the Florida beach life with her husband and puppy.