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Neck Pillows for Sleeping

Updated on June 6, 2021
Sam Shepards profile image

I'm Sam. I enjoy writing about sleep and mental health-related topics as well as ways to prevent stress and to relax.

Traditionally pillows have been used for eons to support the head while sleeping. Many people do not realize how important a head pillow is as the incorrect pillow will diminish your sleep experience and it will certainly not help with any pain associated with the neck and shoulder area. A pillow is essentially there to keep your spinal column aligned and to support the head while sleeping. The neck naturally leans forward when a person is upright and this position should be maintained while asleep or strain will be placed on the vertebrae of the neck and a person will not wake up feeling rested.

Neck pillows for sleeping are available in a number of shapes and sizes and the fillings vary greatly too and each aspect has a purpose. If you sleep with the incorrect pillow any problems you may have may be amplified and the results could cause fatigue and pain and to eliminate these problems choosing the correct pillow is imperative.

What is a neck pillow?

A pillow is a personal preference as is the choice of pillow filling. Neck pillows for sleeping should be able to conform to the manner in which each individual sleeps however if the pillow does not support the head and neck correctly it will cause muscle strain and put pressure on the neck vertebrae. The choice of filling or stuffing of the pillow also makes a difference to the sleep experience. Various fillings can adjust the shape and height of a pillow and also avoid pressure points.

Reasons for using neck pillows for sleeping

  • To alleviate strain on the neck and shoulders and prevent pressure on the neck vertebrae and muscles.
  • The neck pillow will also prevent the constriction of airways which can affect sleep patterns
  • Neck pillows for sleeping need to be at the correct height to eliminate strain on neck and shoulder muscles and should not exceed six inches in height.
  • To ensure a comfortable nights rest and prevent headaches due to incorrect sleeping posture.
  • People with cervical neck pain or problems should use a specially designed orthopedic neck pillow to minimize pain
  • Neck pillows for sleeping are designed to keep the head elevated at 4 to 6 inches to ensure that the spinal column is correctly aligned.
  • Neck pain whether it is due to muscular or bone structural problems can affect the entire body and by using the correct neck pillow for sleeping will eliminate a number of problems that can be experienced as a result of using the wrong pillow.

Choosing a neck pillow

There are a variety of pillows on the market. By manufacturing material of the pillow, we can find:

  • Fiber Pillows, the most common.
  • Feather Pillows
  • Latex pillows
  • Viscoelastic pillows, also known as Memory Foam.
  • If you prefer a feather pillow it makes very little difference which one you choose.
  • A hollow fiber pillow will also give medium support and can be molded to support the neck however they tend to lose density quite soon and need to be replaced.
  • Orthopedic contour neck pillows for sleeping are specifically designed to hug the neck and support the head and allow for maximum support. They will also relieve pain associated with whiplash.
  • Foam pillows which are made up of foam chips allow for medium support and can be molded to each individual style of sleeping whether on the side or on the back.
  • Solid foam pillows will give maximum support but cannot be molded and do not always allow for a comfortable sleep.
  • If your pillow of preference is comfortable and can support both the neck and the head it will automatically give you a peaceful night’s sleep.
  • A wedge pillow will help to alleviate the symptoms of GERD and sleep apnea and will also support the neck and head to minimize strain on the muscles and the vertebrae however this type of neck pillow for sleeping cannot be molded on tucked around the neck area.
  • A cervical pillow is curved in shape and fits snugly around the neck and shoulder area and can help alleviate pain associated with what is commonly known as a ‘frozen shoulder’ which is extremely painful.

A neck pillow should be able to be adjusted in order to curve around the neck for maximum support and this can be best achieved by using a down or feather pillow. However if you are allergic to feathers there are hypoallergenic feather pillows on the market.

Concluding on choosing a neck pillow

There are a plethora of neck pillows for sleeping available the choice is up to the individual and the choice must be based on comfort and neck and head support to be effective. A pillow is a personal preference and generally the texture of the slip cover can have a psychological effect on the sleep experience. Some people like the feel of silk while others prefer cotton but whatever works for you is what will enhance your sleep experience.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2017 Sam Shepards


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