How To Choose The Right Neck Pillow

How To Choose The Right Neck Pillow

Almost one third of our life is spent sleeping. Sleep is an essential biological need. In addition to rest and relaxation, proper sleep is necessary in order to maintain good physical and mental health. In recent years, changes in lifestyle because of too many activities, sleep time is compressed to lesser and lesser amount. Neck pain can affect the time and quality of sleep. How to improve the quality of sleep by reducing the level of neck pain or discomfort and in such a limited duration of sleep is a very important issue which leads many people to seek a new pillow.

Choosing The Right Neck Pillow – Why?

Many experts have suggested that poor neck posture and support during the night may be responsible for waking with neck pain and stiffness, headache and shoulder blade or arm pain. Headaches originating from the neck are called cervicogenic headaches. They are referred from the upper levels of the neck. Shoulder blade and arm pain can be referred from the lower levels of the neck. It is suggested that individuals who wake in the morning with symptoms that were not present the night before, or patients whose symptoms are worse in the morning than when they retired the preceding night, are probably either using an unsuitable pillow or adopting poor neck posture overnight.

Studies have shown that a neck pillow can improve the quality of sleep and reduce pain levels. These studies, while usually of poor design and/or influenced by commercial incentives, focus on pillow design, rather than quality and specific properties of materials. Due to the large number of commercially available neck pillows, it is impossible to include all pillows in designed trials, thus studies regarding the how to choose the right neck pillow remain elusive and fail to surpass the credibility from health professionals providing patient advice based on the anecdotal suggestions of expert colleagues and professional associations.

The quality of sleep is influenced by many factors. A good neck pillow is an essential factor, especially for those suffering from neck pain and discomfort. There are a wide variety of pillows available on the market today in various materials, shapes and sizes. They are always emphasized to be a better product to benefit neck pain and sleep than others. However, as noted, there is not clear scientific evidence to prove these claims. The purpose of this article will be focus on details of design and how to choose the right neck pillow optimal for good sleep.

Obviously, you can’t try every pillow to see which works best. Often, a new pillow may provide instant feedback the next morning that it is the right one. Sometimes, a week or so is needed to determine if it is right. This is called an adaptation period and there may be some discomfort as you get accustomed to the new pillow. This does not mean acute pain or a significant increase in pain or sleep disturbance – just some discomfort.

Videotape studies show that adults change their body position an average of 11 to 13 times per night. A majority of sleep time spent lying on the side, however, adults only spend 59-73% of their sleep in the side lying position, indicating that up to 41% of sleep is in the back position. This should be kept in mind when choosing a pillow that is specifically designed for one sleeping position. A side sleeping pillow may cause problems for those who change positions during the night into a back sleeping position. Ultimately, a pillow should allow the free motion of position changes during the night relevant to studies indicating positional changes are usually not a conscious movement.

There are many factors that influence the number of movements during sleep. Illnesses which affect sleep, like sleep apnea, caffeine and heavy meals before bed increase sleep movements, alcohol decreases motion initially and increases movement during the later sleep, and dreams. Uncomfortable bedding affects movements along with the level of comfort, which may be related to temperature, unfamiliar surroundings, noise, anxiety and stress.

Why Is Choosing The Right Neck Pillow A Pain In The Neck?

Finding the right neck pillow can be confusing and frustrating since there are so many options. Actually, this is a good thing, however, there are some basic features of neck pillows which can guide you to choosing the pillow that is best for you. This can help minimize frustration in choosing a pillow you are not happy with. Most reputable pillow companies do not allow returns due to Federal and State Health Regulations regarding bedding items or contaminables. We do not offer used pillows, so here are some guidelines for choosing the right pillow. Remember, there are no guarantees as everyone is different, but take some time to familiarize yourself with the general features of neck pillows to help minimize mistakes.

Just remember that companies claiming your money back are usually selling very cheap pillows. There has been a flood in the market of very cheap pillows. They usually do not make it easy to return. In theory, they should dispose of returned pillows and not repackage and re-sell. Many play the odds that, even if you don’t like it, you will not go through the hassle of returning; although some customers make a habit of this fraudulent behavior and we are seeing companies taking steps to combat this.

How To Choose The Right Pillow For My Neck Condition

I get this question frequently. Now, I know neck conditions, however, there is no specific pillow for any specific neck condition. The best I have seen is the Posture Med for general degenerative or arthritic conditions. The Cpap pillow is a specialty pillow, but a great one that is a wonderful pillow and a tube management system. We get a lot of praise for this one. However, studies are lacking in providing a relationship between pillow type and specific neck conditions. There are usually multiple conditions and factors related to neck pain, therefore, it is usually best to find a pillow that suits your particular sleeping conditions and comfort requirements. In general, softer – more accommodating pillows are recommended for more painful conditions usually from injury or inflammation. Once past this point, a firmer pillow can be used if well tolerated. A transition phase from an accommodating pillow to a firmer or different design pillow can be challenging and should only be attempted when pain and discomfort levels are no longer tolerated by an existing neck pillow.

Does The Mattress Matter?

The way you sleep and the surface you sleep on will make a difference in the pillow you choose. A soft sleeping surface may cause more settling of the body in relation to the pillow and necessitate a decrease in pillow height, especially with firm pillows. This may be a consideration in pillows with static sizes. A variable or adjustable height pillow can help compensate for this. In general, a soft pillow like the side sleeper or posture med, or an adjustable pillow like the inflatable or water pillow would be best for a soft surface bed where settling is a factor. Similarly, a firm surface will not give as much, therefore, may necessitate an increase in pillow height. In relation to the mattress, the effects of soft or firmness are also function of body weight, so this must also be considered. For example; a soft sleeping surface in a high body weight person who likes to sleep on their side would choose the side sleeper at the recommended height since it is a soft density pillow and will tend to settle along with the mattress.

Separate Back & Side Area Pillows

It is important to know if you are deliberate in changing positions during sleep or if you do not wake up or consciously move during sleep. There are multiple height surface pillows like the Neck Pillow. The neck pillow is popular, however, it does require deliberate positioning from back to side and side to back. The thing to keep in mind is that if you are asleep and change positions a lot, you may find yourself waking in awkward positions. The idea for a multiple height pillow is valid in that back sleeping requires a different height than for side sleeping due to the shoulders. They provide great support for higher levels of pain. The most popular of these is the Therapeutic Pillow, which has soft angled transitions making it easy to change positions. It is very good in that it can be measured to fit well and keeps a good posture for both side and back sleeping and I highly recommend this pillow for acute conditions or higher levels of chronic pain. If you are a strict side sleeper, the Side Sleeper Pillow is an option that provides soft support and height measurement, however, it is mainly for side sleeping. Additionally, for side sleepers, a body pillow can help improve sleeping posture and comfort for the back and shoulders as well. It can also help to make changing positions more deliberate, therefore, making the multi-height pillows a better option.

Soft Or Firm?

If you are not a deliberate sleeper, other pillows with a continuous surface work well. You may find that an adjustable pillow may help to get better positioning. The main question is the preference for firmness which refers to the quality of materials used or quantity of adjustment. I find that a soft memory foam pillow is a great solution for more advanced degenerative conditions. In general, for adults and children, the chiropractic pillows give you sizing options and a sound ergonomic design.

The Latex Pillow is the higher end Talalay processed latex and is very good for neck conditions, whereas the Dunlop latex pillows tend to be bouncy. There are also pillows that use zoning which allows a traditional shaped pillow to function like a contour pillow. These memory foam pillows also have an option for natural infused aromatherapy like lavender and are a great combination of soft and firm. They are also available in a special side sleeping version.

Firmer pillows can help with posture and neck curve problems, however, they are not as comfortable or as accommodating as softer ones, but still good for pain relief. A firmer pillow may be good if you have been sleeping on a very non-supportive or worn out pillow for a period of time. In general, the softer pillow is better for pain relief in acute or recent problems or with chronic or long standing neck problems that flare up frequently. It is sometimes recommended that you should progress from a soft pillow to a firm pillow as your condition progresses or improves.

Elements – Water & Air

The water pillows; orthopedic water pillow which is firmer than the basic water pillow changes support automatically as you change position. The water pillows are heavy in weight, but stay in position which is a benefit to some who have to move their pillow because they get out of position. The inflatable pillow uses air and is lightweight and comfortable, additionally offering the choice of pillow shape with the 2 zone version. Both water and air pillows require some work to get them adjusted just right, but are good pillows in that they respond to changing positions without any effort while sleeping. The inflatable air pillow is easier to adjust and configure, because air is lighter and less messy than water. The versatility of air and water pillows to react to changing positions automatically has the benefit of the different height pillows for side and back sleeping without the concern of deliberate motion to change positions.

Stomach Sleepers

Although I do not recommend stomach sleeping because it places too much strain on the neck joints and muscles, a low height pillow would be an option. Some people find that no matter how hard they try, they need to sleep on their stomach to get a good night’s sleep. It is important not to use a firm or higher height pillow if this is the case, especially with a soft mattress. The best pillow for stomach sleepers is a cervical pillow for stomach sleepers in that it is designed for that purpose along with options for back and side sleeping. It allows stomach sleeping with a better cervical posture, reducing rotational and extensional damage that can cause neck problems, as well as providing better air flow. It is a very versatile pillow in that you can use it for any sleeping position, making it the ideal pillow to transition from stomach to side and back sleeping, especially using the orthopedically shaped body pillow that is specifically designed to move you from stomach to side sleeping in 2 simple stages.

Temperature – Too Hot!

As foam pillows can sometimes build up heat depending on your sleeping temperature environment, a great alternative is the advent of gel foam cooling pillows that use a cooler technology in soft memory foam to control and release heat build-up, also used in the Posture Med. The Chiropractic Pillows can be a good option, providing a foam support for the neck, while using a fiber center to keep your head cool. Buckwheat Pillows are also a good option for keeping your head cooler in warmer environments if you like firm pillows. Other options for a fiber based pillow that has a basic uniform surface for neck and back sleepers are the Neck Align Pillow and the Cervical Neck Pillow.

How To Choose The Right Neck Pillow – Feathers & Down Fill

We do not offer feather or down only pillows. While some recommend feather pillows for neck pain, this has not been my experience. Lack of support for the use of feather pillows for neck pain has been suggested in a study from Manual Therapy Journal 2009 May 6. Pillow use: The behaviour of cervical pain, sleep quality and pillow comfort in side sleepers. It is stated “Feather pillows should not be recommended.” However, we do offer a down blend pillow which combines down with feathers and is a very good pillow, maintaining comfort and coolness, while offering good support for the neck. The best down pillow uses a unique design and construction that has many advantages over standard down pillows.

How To Choose The Right Neck Pillow – Pillow Reviews

There is something about human nature; we like to read reviews. There can be a page of useful information that takes 15 minutes to read, however, most people will spend hours reading pillow reviews, The more the better. What’s more, the worse the review, the better response it will get. Ever see, “Was this review helpful”? You will find many more likes on the negative reviews than the positive ones! Say something bad and people love to hear it. Are these reviews really honest? Are they all human? Are they all verified purchasers? Is something that is personal and dependent on many factors subject to opinion reviews? We have been around quite some time and are well aware of some of the games that are played with reviews on popular sites.

My new product, hurry friends and paid partners, write a good review. Hey, there’s a competitor, get it and write a bad review. Does the cheapest price get better reviews? This goes against the often stated rule that you get what you pay for. Generally, better materials make better pillows and this is reflected in price. We have had plenty of complaints of those who buy numerous cheap, low priced and high review pillows that wind up in the closet or trash. Usually, after that, many will realize that you need some important information and a good quality pillow to help. Many opting for the two pillow solution. Well, Enough said on that.

How To Choose The Right Neck Pillow – I’m Still Confused!

If you still have a difficult time choosing the right pillow, it is hard to go wrong with the inflatable pillow. This pillow reacts to your changing positions like the water pillow, however, it uses air cells instead of water. This makes the pillow lightweight and adjustable for firmness, shape and level of inflation or height.

Remember there is no one specific formula to determine the neck pillow that is best for you. Often, you will have a personal preference for some particular reason. I have recommended pillows based on clinical findings and experience only to find that it may be the opposite that the patient is comfortable with. Ultimately, it is this comfort level that provides the best relief. A good nights sleep is more important than trying to determine what is best for a particular condition and hopefully this article can serve as a guide to determine solutions that might provide the most comfort for you, or provide a solution after searching for the best pillow(s).

If you would like to read more, please see the best pillow for neck pain article. Always pay attention to details like sizing, comparing to your own.

Author Bio

Dr. Steve has treated thousands of neck, shoulder and back conditions since graduating Chiropractic College in 1987 and during his involvement in Martial Arts. He holds certifications as a Peer Review Consultant, in Physiological Therapeutics, Modic Antibiotic Spinal Therapy, and specialized further in Myofascial Release Techniques. No longer in active practice, he authors articles for NeckSolutions and works with special products for ALS patients as well as other neuromuscular conditions.