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The neck makes up a small portion of the spinal column. Healthcare professionals refer to this section as the cervical spine. A specialist cervical pillow adds a layer of extra support for the neck while a person sleeps or lies down.

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Please note, the writer has not tested these products. All information is research-based.

The cervical spine consists of seven bones, or vertebrae. The neck has less protection than the rest of the spine and may be vulnerable to injury.

Authors of a 2017 study state that improper cervical posture while sleeping increases stress on the spine. People may experience:

People who have neck pain may find it harder to fall asleep. However, using a supportive pillow may result in more restful sleep.

According to an older study, a pillow’s primary function is to provide direct support for the head to minimize pressure in the neck.

The support helps prevent new neck pain from developing and any existing neck pain from worsening.

Cervical pillows aim to provide support, and a person can use cervical pillows alongside other therapeutic approaches to help relieve neck pain.

A person’s sleeping position may affect the type of cervical pillow the person uses.

A 2018 study found that the use of ergonomic latex pillows, alongside physical therapy, can alleviate neck pain symptoms in those experiencing cervical spondylosis.

A person should also take into account the height of the cervical pillow. According to a 2016 study, the height of a pillow is an important factor that can influence spinal alignment.

Cervical pillows use a variety of materials, including:

Some pillows may also offer a cooler sleep by using a moisture-wicking material.

While people may sleep better with a pillow that remains cool, it is equally important to choose the type of material that will feel comfortable.

Before purchasing a cervical pillow, it is advisable to consider the following:

  • Firmness: Some individuals may prefer a firm pillow that provides extra support for the head and neck, whereas others may prefer a plusher feel.
  • Fill: Cervical pillows may contain different fillings, such as memory foam, latex, down, or down alternative. People should purchase a pillow with a filling that provides the most support and comfort.
  • Size: It is useful to consider the size of a pillow before purchasing. If a person is using a pillow to sleep on, it should be large enough to fully support the head and neck.
  • Height: Some people may sleep better with a flatter pillow or a higher one. Some pillows offer adjustable filling that people can use to raise or lower the pillow’s height.

Below are six of the best cervical pillows.

The Pancake Pillow by Gravity Sleep

Best height adjustable pillow

The Pancake Pillow is height adjustable. The product comes with six thin pillows that can all fit in a single pillowcase.

The company claims that the Pancake Pillow is suitable for those with neck pain and those who sleep on their side, back, or stomach.

K Ka Ua

Best memory foam pillow

The K Ka Ua is a cylindrical cervical neck pillow.

It measures 17 inches (in) x 4 in, and the company claims it provides support for the neck, knees, and back.

According to the company website, the K Ka Ua uses memory foam and conforms to the shape of the neck and back.

Also, the pillow comes in a hypoallergenic bamboo pillowcase.

Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow

Best firm pillow

The Tempur-Pedic Neck Pillow’s shape may help support the neck and head.

According to the company website, the pillow allows for comfortable sleep for both back and side sleepers.

The pillow is extra-firm and is available in four sizes:

  • Small: 20 in x 12 in x 3 in
  • Medium: 20 in x 12 in x 4 in
  • Large: 20 in x 12 in x 4.5 in
  • Travel: 10 in x 12 in x 4 in

Pillowise

Best for all sleeping positions

Pillowise offers a supportive pillow that it claims helps align the cervical spine during sleep time. The pillow is available in its standard length and a travel size alternative.

The company offers five different pillow sizes, and it advises that before purchasing a pillow, customers measure their:

  • neck circumference
  • neck length
  • shoulder width

The Pillowise pillow offers support for side, back, and stomach sleepers.

Individuals can also select the firmness they want in their pillow.

Pillowise pillows are not available to purchase online. The company sells these pillows through chiropractors and physical therapists.

The Water Pillow by Mediflow

Best water pillow

The Water Pillow by Mediflow contains a pocket of water as part of its core.

A person can remove or add water to adjust the firmness of the pillow.

According to an older study, water-based pillows provide superior pain relief and overall sleep quality.

D-Core Cervical Support Pillow

Best for tension relief

The manufacturer claims that this pillow helps relieve headaches, neck spasms, and tension.

It also claims that this pillow is suitable for back and side sleepers.

The company provides different advice depending on a person’s sleeping position. For instance, side sleepers should use the raised areas of the pillow.

Back sleepers, on the other hand, should initially use the thinner edge and progress to using the pillow’s thicker edge.

According to the company, it may take several weeks for the body to adjust to the pillow. To begin with, a person should alternate between using this pillow and their current pillow.

Other methods to help relieve neck pain are also available.

According to a 2019 article, an individual can apply heating pads or ice packs to help relieve neck pain and tension.

A person can also perform exercises and stretches. One example includes standing with the back against the wall and pushing the head back on the wall for 20 seconds. This may help strengthen the neck muscles.

However, it is essential to contact a doctor or physical therapist before trying exercises. They will be able to advise on how to do the exercises or stretches safely.

Other treatment options include:

Anecdotal evidence suggests there may be some benefit to acupuncture. Although authors of a 2019 article state that “[n]o good quality studies have shown that acupuncture can relieve neck pain,” they add that the risk of any side effects is low.

Learn more about treatment options for neck pain here.

People usually sleep on their sides, backs, stomachs, or a combination of all three. Sleeping on a pillow that is too high or too low or does not give enough support may increase a person’s likelihood of neck pain.

While some people may prefer different heights of pillows, the following table suggests which pillow a person may wish to use depending on their sleeping position:

Sleeping positionPillow height
sidemedium
backlow
frontflat

Using a pillow that is the correct height can promote proper spinal alignment and therefore reduce neck pain.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a person should contact a doctor if they experience neck pain that is not due to an injury, such as:

  • persistent pain
  • continuous pain
  • neck pain that radiates down the legs or arms
  • neck pain with numbness, weakness, tingling, or headaches

Below are some frequently asked questions about cervical pillows.

Which cervical pillow is best?

What a person considers best will depend on their preferences and needs.

People should think about which features best meet their requirements when looking for a cervical pillow. Some individuals may focus on a pillow’s filling, whereas others may prioritize a pillow’s height.

How firm should a pillow be?

The firmness of a pillow is subjective. What feels firm to one person may seem to have a medium feel to another.

However, pillows should be firm enough to support the head and neck without increasing pressure on the spine.

What is the correct height of a pillow?

A person’s pillow should be high enough to keep the spine in a neutral position.

People who sleep on their sides may find that a medium height pillow is more comfortable to sleep on than a flatter pillow. Those who sleep on their backs or stomachs may find a flatter pillow more comfortable.

Cervical pillows may offer a solution to people who wake up with neck pain.

When choosing a pillow, a person should keep in mind the position they sleep in and the height and firmness of the pillow.

A person should seek guidance from a doctor if they experience neck pain that does not resolve or has no apparent reason.