Last updated: August 7, 2021

Do you often suffer from neck pain or unpleasant tension? Then you should probably buy a neck pillow. A neck pillow improves the quality of your sleep and prevents your neck from being overstretched. Many people don't want to and can't sleep without their neck pillow. But what types are there and what criteria should you consider when buying?

In our neck pillow test 2021 we show you the best and most comfortable neck pillows from different categories. We also give you important tips on care and helpful information. Whether you are looking for a classic neck pillow, a neck pillow or a neck roll, you will find the best neck pillows on the market.




Summary

  • Neck pillows support your neck and cervical area. This prevents your cervical spine from being bent and overstretched. In addition, such a sleeping pillow can also relieve your tension and neck pain.
  • The neck pillow itself has many different names. Neck pillows are often called orthopaedic support pillows.
  • There are three different types of neck pillows: Neck support pillows, neck croissants and neck rolls. Each type offers you a different function.

The Best Neck Pillow: Our Choices

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a neck pillow

Which neck pillow is right for me?

Decisive for the selection of your neck pillow are your body size, the right filling, your favourite sleeping position, the firmness of your mattress and the intended use. Neck pillows help you to have a peaceful and relaxed sleep.

A pillow that is individually adapted to you can even relieve your pain and stress. But not all neck support pillows are the same and some may actually do you more harm than good. To find a neck pillow that really fits you, you should consider the following criteria when choosing your pillow:

  • Size
  • Filling
  • Sleeping position
  • Hardness level
  • Intended use

Size

The size of the pillow is not the only important factor. Your body size also plays an important role. Common pillows have a size of 80 x 80 cm. However, this is too large for most people. As a general rule, your shoulders should not rest on the pillow. There is no special standard for the size, as it is adapted to individual needs. However, the recommended standard size is 40 x 80 cm.

Filling

Conventional pillows have a feather or down core. This makes them cuddly soft and they can be crumpled into any shape. However, this does not provide any support for the neck and head area. Neck pillows, on the other hand, have a dimensionally stable and firm core.

Not only is your head properly supported, the inside of your pillow also stays in position. This core is often made of cold foam or viscoelastic foam. Neck pillows made of natural products can also be heated for relaxation. Make sure that at least the cover of your pillow is washable.

Sleeping position

A decisive criterion is your sleeping position, because not everyone sleeps the same way. The position in which you predominate should be decisive for the selection.

Side sleepers: Side sleepers run the greatest risk of neck tension. Special side sleeper pillows help you to compensate for asymmetrical lying positions. They keep the hips, spine and head in a straight line. For this purpose, high pillows are better suited than soft ones to fill the empty space.

Back sleepers: If you tend to sleep on your back, make sure your neck pillow is not too high. It should fill the area between the back of the head and the shoulders. Otherwise, the cervical spine would bend.

Tummy sleepers: If you are a stomach sleeper, flat pillows will give you more relief. As soon as you turn your head to the side, the spine turns with it and assumes a bent position. With higher pillows, it would bend even more. Some neck pillows can be filled individually, adapted to you and shaped to suit your needs.

Sleeping position recommendation
Side sleepers Neck pillows follow the natural curve of your neck. They keep your spine straight while you sleep. Neck support pillows should not be too flat.
Back sleepers Sleeping pillows should have a shape that resembles the neck. In this way, they support the neck and neck area in the supine position.
Stomach sleepers Pillows that are particularly flat and can also be shaped to be scrunched up during the night when turning. Some stomach sleeper pillows have cut-outs on the sides.

Hardness level

A neck pillow relieves pressure on your body. This means that the material yields somewhat to the weight of your head. You also need to consider the firmness of your mattress. If your mattress is soft, you will need a flatter pillow.

If you have a hard mattress, a higher pillow is very good. Some pillows can be adjusted in height by means of removable individual elements.

Neck pillows are best suited for use in the bedroom. Especially if you are a side sleeper, there is a risk of neck tension at night. A neck pillow provides relief for the neck by bringing the spine into a horizontal line. (Image source: pixabay.com / Engin_Akyurt)

Sleeping pillows also have different degrees of hardness. Cold foam is a rather harder material, whereas gel foam feels very soft. Viscose foam is in between with its medium-hard core.

Intended use

Depending on where and what you want to use your pillow for, there are different options for the right pillow. If you travel a lot or have to sit a lot, a neck pillow will be ideal for you. For relaxing and unwinding at home, neck rolls are more suitable. The neck pillow is best in the bedroom.

What fillings and materials are available for neck pillows?

Neck pillows are made of different materials and fillings, including cold foam, latex, viscose foam, gel foam or natural products. Despite their different properties, all neck pillows have a firm yet pliable material. To give you a brief overview, we present these materials.

Cold foam filling

Pillows made of cold foam have a firm core that is often made of polyurethane foam. The foam, which is created by chemical compounds, is characterised by a rather firm sleeping comfort.

Latex filling

This refers to pillows made of rubber or latex. Both materials are often mixed together. They are softer to lie on than pillows with cold foam filling. They also have a ventilated core. Pillows with a latex or rubber filling are particularly suitable for allergy sufferers.

Viscoelastic filling

Viscoelastic memory foam is considered a high-tech gel foam and reacts to heat and cold. Visco foam is particularly adaptable. As soon as the foam comes into contact with your body, it becomes soft and adapts to your head. Afterwards, the pillow remains in this individual shape and thus gives you good support.

Gel foam

Gel foam is a particularly soft and breathable material that quickly adapts to the shape of your head. In addition, its height can often be adjusted by means of removable foam layers. Gel pillows react to the weight of your head and return to their original shape as soon as the pillow is no longer under pressure.

Natural filling

The special advantage of pillows with a filling of natural materials lies in the heat storage, because you can use them as heat and cold pillows in equal measure. Spelt and cherry stone pillows store heat particularly well and release it gradually to the body.

Who is an orthopaedic pillow suitable for?

In principle, orthopaedic pillows are ideal for anyone who suffers from neck pain and tension. In addition, the orthopaedic neck support pillow has a soothing effect on sleep disorders, snoring or headaches.

A neck pillow is suitable for everyone who suffers from neck problems. Age does not matter.

If you have problems with your neck, back or sleeping in general, a neck pillow will help you get rid of them. But a special neck support pillow can also help with headaches or even relieve snoring.

What are the benefits of a neck support pillow?

An orthopaedic pillow supports your neck, protects your joints and relaxes your muscles. A neck support pillow supports your natural sleeping posture. By relieving the pressure on your head and shoulders, you will experience less tension and neck pain and sleep more comfortably and peacefully.

A neck support pillow helps you get rid of tension and pain in the neck and throat area.

With their firm core, neck pillows provide good relief for the neck, head and spine. (Image source: pixabay.com / stevepb)

How much does a neck pillow cost?

The price depends on what kind of neck pillow you are looking for. Neck pillows and bolsters start at around 5 euros, neck cushions at 10 euros. Neck pillows and their sub-forms come in different price ranges. Quality plays a major role.

Neck support pillows made of inferior materials can contain harmful substances and do more harm than good. Neck pillows are an inexpensive way to do something good for your neck. Prices start at just a few euros, but can go up to 60 euros. These are high-quality materials and pillows with special features such as pockets.

The neck roll is the same price as the neck pillow. For relaxing and unwinding, they are available from 10 euros. Neck pillows are among the more advanced models among ergonomic sleeping pillows. They are larger than neck pillows and rolls and have a higher pain-relieving effect. They are also available for little money. Really good products, however, can cost up to 100 euros.

Type Price range
Neck pillow approx. 10 to 100 euros
Neck pillow approx. 5 to 60 euros
Neck roll approx. 10 to 60 euros

How does a neck support pillow work?

Neck support pillows support the neck with their special shape so that the head, neck and shoulder area is optimally filled. This allows your vertebrae and muscles to relax better. Neck support pillows have a wedge or wave shape to keep the head centred in the body axis. This wave shape can be more or less flat to the mattress. The core of such a neck support pillow is firm to relieve your neck, throat and shoulder area.

In addition, the shape and material have a positive effect on your lying position. Depending on the material used, the neck pillow automatically returns to its original shape as soon as no more pressure is applied.

Decision: What types of neck support pillows are there and which is the right one for you?

In principle, there are different names for the neck pillow. It is often called an orthopaedic neck support pillow or a shaped pillow. However, you can distinguish between three different types of supportive pillows:

  • Neck pillow
  • Neck cushion
  • Bolster

Each neck support pillow helps to relieve tension and pain in its own way. Which one is right for you depends on various factors. To help you find the right pillow for you, we would like to introduce the three types below.

Experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep a day. This corresponds to about one third of our life. But how well we sleep depends not only on how long we sleep, but also on our pillow. To be able to start the next day fit and healthy without neck pain and tension, it should be the right pillow. Unsuitable pillows can cause tension and pain.

How does a neck pillow work and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A neck pillow is a good way to relieve pain and tension. It also contributes to a healthy sleeping posture. Neck pillows have a distinctive wave shape and a firm core. This means they cannot be fluffed up like conventional sleeping pillows.

As the name suggests, these pillows support the head and relax the neck and spine at the same time. The special properties of the pillow, such as shape and material, ensure that your spine is in an orthopaedically correct position.

Advantages
  • Relief for the spine
  • Allergy-friendly
  • Improved lying position
  • Relief and prevention of complaints
Disadvantages
  • Adjustment to sleeping position
  • Inflexible when travelling

This improves your lying position and allows you to have a more restful sleep. Neck pillows can prevent poor posture, snoring, back pain and neck pain. However, it takes a little time for your body to get used to the supportive pillow. But after a few nights, it will thank you.

Where is a neck pillow most often used and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Due to its shape and size, a neck pillow is particularly suitable for travelling. The pillow, which is shaped like a croissant, strengthens the neck and supports the head. Due to its round shape, it hugs your neck. This prevents the head from bending to the side and prevents tension.

Advantages
  • Space-saving
  • Improved sitting comfort
  • Support for your head in any sitting position
  • Washable cover
Disadvantages
  • Uncomfortable in bed

It is particularly suitable for longer journeys, whether by car, plane or train. In other words, whenever you have to sit upright for hours and can't support your head. Neck pillows are available in different designs depending on their purpose. Some neck support pillows can be filled with water or inflated.

At home, pillows with foam, polystyrene balls or natural products are popular because you can also use them as heating pillows. In bed, however, they are rather uncomfortable due to their shape. Some neck pillows also have other gadgets such as pockets for valuables or music boxes. For children, the popular bolsters are also available in animal shapes.

What effect does a bolster have and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

A neck roll supports your head and can also be used in many different ways. The cylindrical bolster is usually filled with foam or microbeads and its usefulness is often underestimated. However, the pillow, which is shaped like candy, is not only a neck support, but can also be used in many other areas to relieve pain where a normal pillow cannot help.

Advantages
  • Versatile uses
  • Relieves neck strain
  • Washable cover
Disadvantages
  • Used as a home accessory

The cover of a bolster can usually be washed and is often made of soft plush. There are also many other cover materials. However, these should be washable, because sweat and bacteria collect particularly quickly in the neck.

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate neck pillows

In the following, we would like to show you which factors and criteria you can use to compare and evaluate neck pillows. This will make it easier for you to decide on a neck pillow. You will be more informed and aware of your individual needs for a neck pillow. In summary, these are the following criteria:

  • Cleaning
  • Allergy-friendly
  • Size / Dimension
  • Shape
  • Sleeping position
  • Hardness level
  • Height adjustable

You can read about the individual buying criteria in the following sections.

Cleaning

The cover of many neck support pillows is removable and can be washed in the washing machine at low temperatures. However, the core of your pillow usually is not. In order to use your pillow for as long as possible, it is an advantage if at least the cover of your pillow is washable. This is the case with many neck support pillows and you can simply clean it in the washing machine at low heat.

Pillows without a washable cover collect sweat, skin flakes and saliva over time and not only leave an unsightly appearance, but are also no longer hygienically clean. Many manufacturers offer you additional changeable covers with your purchase. Tip for creative people: There are numerous instructions and videos on the internet that you can use to sew your own cover.

Neck pillows help you to have a peaceful and relaxed sleep. A pillow that is individually adapted to you can even alleviate your pain and stress. (Image source: pexels.com / bruce mars)

In many forums on the internet, you can find videos on how to wash the inside of your pillow, whether by hand or machine. However, the core of your pillow is not suitable for washing in most cases, as it will disintegrate. It is best to check with the manufacturer beforehand if you would like to wash your neck pillow completely.

Allergy-friendly

If you suffer from a house dust allergy, you should definitely buy mite-repellent covers for your pillow and make sure that the materials are allergy-friendly. House dust allergy is a hypersensitivity to small balls of mite feces that can be found in your bed.

Mites are small arachnids that prefer to live in the bedroom, especially in textile objects such as your pillow. When you fluff your duvet or pillow, the tiny droppings swirl around in the air and enter your airways. In sensitised people, these can trigger allergic reactions, including watery eyes, runny nose, itching, eczema and even asthma.

It is therefore particularly important for allergy sufferers to make sure that the pillow has special mite-repellent protective covers. These covers do not offer mites any living space, as they do not feel comfortable in these materials. If you suffer from this allergy, we have picked out a few more tips for a restful night's sleep:

  • Regular airing of pillow and duvet
  • Regular washing of pillow and duvet
  • Bedroom temperature of 18 to 20 degrees
  • Regular and correct airing of the room

Size / Dimension

The height of the pillow is the most important factor. This depends on the width of your shoulders. A pillow height that is too low cannot provide the desired relief for the head, neck and shoulder area. If your neck support pillow is too low, your head will not be adequately supported. If it is too high, it will overstretch the cervical vertebrae. That is why manufacturers offer neck support pillows in different sizes.

Neck support pillows are generally designed to be narrower. A neck pillow should be customised for you. You will usually find the following size specifications: From a height of 9 cm, the neck support pillow is suitable for children. Pillows with a height of 12 cm are suitable for women and men, and pillows with a height of 15 cm are ideal for broader shoulders.

Before buying a neck pillow, you should be aware of the different sizes and dimensions and be informed about your suitable size. Some pillows can be adjusted in height by removing layers. The depth to which you sink into your mattress also plays an important role. If your shoulders sink deeply into the mattress, you will reduce the distance between your ear and the mattress.

This means that the wider your shoulders are, the higher your pillow needs to be. Standard mattresses have a shoulder zone where your shoulders should rest. With conventional 80 x 80 cm pillows, however, your shoulders lie on the pillow as well. This prevents the relaxation effect from taking place. Therefore, 40 x 80 cm pillows are best. In summary, the following criteria are important:

  • Mattress properties (shoulder zone, sinking depth)
  • Pillow size, usually 40 x 80 cm
  • Shoulder width
  • Different settings for your pillow to adjust the height

Shape of the neck pillow

Neck pillows come in different shapes. Often, pillow rolls or neck pillows are also referred to as such. There are insignificant differences between straight and wavy pillows, as both contribute to a good lying position and relief of the neck during sleep.

Did you know that neck pain is widespread today?

Neck pain is usually caused by poor posture, tension or physical work and can also radiate to the back. If left untreated for a long time, this can lead to chronic pain or even a herniated disc.

What is meant here, however, is the neck support pillow that is used instead of the usual pillow. The right shape of your pillow contributes to a good quality of sleep. Neck support pillows are specially shaped to fit the body and head and support the neck and spine.

There are neck pillows with a more or less pronounced support function. Pillows with less support are similar to normal innerspring pillows. The transition from mattress to pillow is fluid. In contrast to normal pillows, these pillows return to their original shape after pressure is applied.

Pillows with a wave shape are ideal for the neck area. The wave shape supports the curved line of the spine, thus reducing tension in the neck and back area. This type of pillow also returns to its original shape after pressure is applied.

Sleeping position

Your sleeping position is of enormous importance when choosing your pillow. Whether you lie on your side, on your back or on your stomach - there is a suitable neck pillow for every sleep type.

Side sleepers: Neck pillows for this sleeping position follow the natural curve of your neck. In this way, they keep the spine straight during sleep. The neck support pillow should not be too flat.

Back sleepers: Sleeping pillows for the back have a shape that resembles the neck. They support the neck and neck area, especially in the supine position.

Stomach sleepers: Pillows for stomach sleepers are particularly flat. They may also be mouldable. Some stomach sleeper pillows have cut-outs on the sides.

Firmness level

The firmness of your pillow is essential for supporting your cervical spine. It depends on your mattress and the pillow core. Your mattress is of great importance for choosing the right neck pillow. This includes the mattress height, the material, the shoulder zone and the firmness.

The softer you sink into your mattress, the flatter your pillow should be. If, on the other hand, your mattress is hard, a higher pillow is advantageous. The hardness of your neck pillow is also determined by the pillow core. Visco-foam pillows have a medium-hard core. Cold foam pillows are harder. Gel foam, on the other hand, is a material on which you lie very softly.

Height-adjustable neck pillows

Some neck pillows have a special feature: they are height-adjustable. They usually consist of several layers of gel foam that you can simply remove as needed. The core of such a pillow can often be cleaned in the washing machine. One advantage is that you can adjust the pillow to fit your body. In most cases, these layers are about one to three centimetres wide.

Facts worth knowing about neck pillows

How long does it take to get used to the neck pillow?

You will soon notice that lying on a neck pillow is different from lying on a conventional pillow. It will take a few nights to get used to your new pillow. How long it takes depends mainly on your previous sleeping posture.

If it was good anyway, it won't feel unusual to you at first. Otherwise, it will take a few days to get used to it completely. Some retailers even offer a money-back guarantee to help you get used to it.

Did you know that beds as we know them today only became widespread in the 13th century?

Before that, the bed was made of straw or a wooden box. Bags or cloth filled with straw, dust, plant fibres or animal hair served as pillows. In the 13th century, the down pillow became established, which then developed into the feather pillow.

Are neck pillows also suitable for allergy sufferers?

People who are allergic to house dust will hardly have any problems with neck pillows. Special mite-repellent covers and materials can be used for protection. Neck pillows are generally more allergy-friendly than sleeping pillows, because dust mites do not feel as comfortable inside as they do in feather pillows. This is due to the filling. The ergonomic material means that the mites spread less quickly. Special protective covers and designated mite-repellent materials offer you even more safety.

How long can I use my neck pillow?

After three to four years, your neck support pillow has lost its support and should be replaced. As with any other pillow, dead skin cells and sweat get into the inner material over time. A good tip is to use washable covers. You can clean them quickly and easily. This will make your pillow last longer.

How do I care for my pillow properly?

Washable covers are the be-all and end-all when it comes to caring for your pillow. The cover of your neck pillow is washable, depending on the manufacturer. Pay attention to the washing instructions that come with your pillow. However, the pillow core cannot usually be washed at the same time.

How do I position my neck support pillow so that it lies correctly?

You place your neck support pillow horizontally at the head of your bed. Neck support pillows usually have a wave shape. This means that they slope slightly in the middle and it is precisely this hollow that is intended for your head so that your spine lies straight.

Picture source: pexel.com / bruce mars

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