Last updated: August 10, 2021

Those who lie awake for nights on end, not sleeping a wink and simply unable to find a comfortable position, are also not balanced in everyday life. Often, the poor sleep is accompanied by headaches, pain in the neck and back pain. If one or the other of these sounds familiar, a neck pillow may be the solution for you. Because this neck support pillow helps your muscles to relax again overnight. The different shapes help to keep your cervical spine straight at night.

But neck support pillows can be expensive and there are many different models. In this neck support pillow test 2021, we have summarised which model might be right for you and what you should look out for when buying. We have also compiled useful tips and included helpful videos. This will help you find the right neck support pillow for you and finally get a good night's sleep.




The most important facts

  • If you have constant pain in your neck and back during or after sleep, you most likely need a neck support pillow to relieve your back.
  • Neck support pillows are special pillows for sleeping at night, not to be confused with travel neck pillows or neck pillows, which prevent the head from sinking when sleeping in a seated position.
  • Neck support pillows are available in different shapes for side sleepers and back sleepers. The shape is decisive for improved well-being.

The Best Neck Support Pillow: Our Picks

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

When we talk about a neck support pillow, we can mean different things in common parlance. We will inform you about the differences in this section and explain all the important things you should know about neck support pillows in advance.

When do you need a neck support pillow?

We spend a third of our day and therefore also of our life sleeping. But just as restful as sleep can be, it can be just as unrestful if you have to sleep all night.

Choosing the right pillow is important for our bodies. Restless sleep and tension can be consequences of unsuitable pillows. (Image source: pixabay.com/ Claudio_Scott)

Many people suffer from neck and back pain that seems to be caused by lying in bed. These people need special support when sleeping. This is because the natural position of the cervical spine is impaired and needs to be restored by a neck support pillow.

Should you take a neck support pillow with you on a trip or in the car?

On long journeys you might want to sleep, but often your head hits the window pane, the train, plane or car shakes and your head slips to the side. You wake up. To avoid this, you can take a neck support pillow with you on your journey. These neck support pillows do not have much to do with the medical neck support pillows that we will describe in more detail below. This is because travel pillows, also known as neck pillows, are only intended to make it easier for you to sleep in a sitting position without your head slipping away. These travel pillows do not have a medical background. However, there are different types of travel neck support pillows. We have summarised them for you here.

Name for travel pillow Explanation
Classic neck support pillow This neck pillow is filled with small polystyrene balls. This makes it very light and it adapts to your neck with every movement.
Inflatable neck support pillow When you don't need this pillow, you can make it incredibly small by deflating it and store it easily.
Memory foam neck support pillow This pillow adapts perfectly to your neck and changes shape very slowly.

Should you buy a branded neck support pillow?

There are many neck support pillows on the market. The advantage of brand-name neck support pillows is that you often get good advice. There is also a guarantee on the pillows and extra services such as cleaning or similar on top. Orthopaedists often recommend a certain brand, but this does not necessarily mean that only this brand is good for you.

Often it is not the brand that matters, but your own personal needs.

As long as you inform yourself sufficiently and familiarise yourself with the subject of neck support pillows, you will quickly recognise the differences and similarities between all neck support pillows. Whether or not you choose a branded neck support pillow is ultimately your decision. But before you make that decision, we'll tell you all you need to know about neck support pillows.

Are there neck support pillows for children?

There are special pillows for children because their necks are shorter and thinner. In addition, they can't raise their heads as high as adults. Especially with these orthopaedic neck support pillows, it is important to adjust them to the size of the children. Otherwise, the effects are more negative than positive. There are also travel neck support pillows for children. Like neck support pillows, these are smaller.

What are the alternatives to neck support pillows?

Have you found the whole issue of neck support pillows a little complicated? You've already tried it, but haven't noticed any improvement? Here are a few alternatives for you. Neck support pillows are designed to prevent neck and back pain. To support your posture in other ways, you can do exercises to improve your posture. Massages can also work wonders. You can find inexpensive neck massagers on the internet. It is best to make an appointment with a physiotherapist to learn the right exercises.

To counteract neck and back pain, you can also get help from a physiotherapist with massages and exercises. (Image source: pixabay.com / MobileMassagenMD)

If you have constant pain in your neck, neck massagers and neck heat patches can often help. You can also wear them invisibly under your clothes during the day. Firstly, several customers have found that they do not always need a neck support pillow. Some people only use the pillow for a while, then they switch back to a normal pillow until they eventually switch back to their neck support pillow. So they just alternate. We have summarised which other pillows are available here. Nevertheless, there are different types of neck support pillows. Maybe you have not made the right choice and that is why you are not getting any improvement. It is best to read the following section carefully to see which neck support pillow is right for you.

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

So now you know that a neck support pillow would be right for you. But there is a lot of choice in this area. What do you need and what are the advantages and disadvantages of the different neck support pillows? In this section we will help you find the right neck support pillow for you. We will introduce you to the different types and discuss the pros and cons of each type of product.

What is a neck support pillow in half-roll form and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Half-roll pillows are versatile. They can be used to support the neck or for the knees and lower back. The shape supports the ergonomic posture of the cervical spine.

Advantages
  • Inexpensive
  • Versatile
  • Suitable for side and back sleepers
Disadvantages
  • Malposition easily possible
  • Moderately comfortable
  • Securing the head only along the longitudinal axis
  • Not suitable for stomach sleepers

In addition, the half-roll shape is predestined to ensure that only the head can be placed on the pillow and not the shoulder as well. This is because resting the head and shoulder on the pillow is a major cause of poor sleeping posture.

What are neck support pillows with a hole and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Since the neck and cervical spine are stressed with every movement, the muscles need something to relax during the night. The hole in the middle of the pillow forms a kind of funnel. This stretches the muscles and they relax again.

Advantages
  • Secures the head along all axes and angles
  • Relaxes the muscles
  • Suitable for side and back sleepers
Disadvantages
  • Expensive
  • Difficult to obtain
  • Not suitable for stomach sleepers

These pillows have two sides with different heights. This means the pillow can be used for different shoulder heights and mattress firmnesses. In addition, the hole in the middle is also particularly comfortable for side sleepers, as the ear is not pressed against the pillow.

What are wave-shaped neck support pillows and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

These neck pillows have a wave shape. Two half-rolls are joined together and form a small hollow in the middle. These pillows are often height-adjustable and are particularly suitable for back and side sleepers.

Advantages
  • Securing the head
  • Height adjustable
  • Suitable for side, back and stomach sleepers
Disadvantages
  • Needs getting used to, as the head is lower than the neck
  • only relieves pressure on the head, no relaxation of the muscles

The wave-shaped neck support pillows are often recommended by therapists to relieve the cervical spine. The half-rolls are supposed to imitate the contour of the neck, the hollow in the middle is supposed to be a comfortable rest for the head.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate neck support pillows

Now you know what types of neck support pillows there are. But even with this knowledge, it is still difficult for you to make a decision? In this section we have summarised the criteria you can use to evaluate the neck support pillows you are considering. These include

  • Dimensions and adjustability
  • Filling

These criteria are very important for the neck support pillow to be effective. You can find out what you need to consider below.

Dimensions and adjustability

The dimensions are decisive for the effect of the pillow. The pillow must not be too high or too low. In addition to the sleeping position and the resulting shape, the firmness of the mattress is also important. The height of the pillow must be right. This is determined by the shoulder width and the sleeping position. In the following table we have determined some guideline values for men and women for the ideal pillow height for side sleepers. The hardness of the mattress also plays a role. The following applies to women:

Shoulder height Soft H1 Medium H2 Hard H3
Narrow (up to 40 cm) approx. 5 cm approx. 6 cm 6-8 cm
Normal (40 - 45 cm) approx. 6 cm 6-8 cm 7-8 cm
Wide (45 cm and over) 7-8 cm 8-9 cm 9-11 cm

For men, the following applies:

Shoulder height Soft H1 Medium H2 Hard H3
Narrow (up to 45 cm) 8-9 cm 9-10 cm 10-11 cm
Normal (45 - 50cm) 9-10 cm 10-11 cm 11-12 cm
Wide (50cm and over) 10-11 cm 11-13 cm 13-15 cm

Some pillows consist of several layers or pads that can be adjusted as needed. This makes sense if you are using a neck pillow for the first time, because even trying it out in the shop has little to do with real sleep. After five minutes, it is hard to judge whether the pillow will be comfortable all night.

Filling

Neck support pillows should be relatively hard so that they can support the spine sufficiently. There are various fillings that can be used for this purpose. Some neck support pillows are filled with gel foam. These are point-elastic and breathable. This allows the pillow to adapt ergonomically to the cervical spine, neck and head.

The gel foam is temperature-independent and returns to its original shape without delay after pressure. Visco or memory foam pillows yield when exposed to heat and thus become softer. They are also called thermoelastic foam. Foam pillows are considered to be particularly pressure-relieving and can adapt precisely to the contours of the body. However, the pressure formed by lying on the pillow only returns very slowly. This is called the memory effect.

Facts worth knowing about neck support pillows

How should you use your neck support pillow?

Depending on which pillow you have purchased, you will also need to place it correctly so that it can develop its full effect. In the following table we have summarised how you should use which pillow.

Name Use
Neck pillow for travel The pillow is placed behind the neck. The open side faces forward. The ends lie over the shoulder.
Half roll The flat side is placed on the bed, the round side faces upwards. The pillow is pushed under the neck. A separate pillow is needed for the head.
Neck support pillow with hole the funnel points upwards. The pillow has the same height on the opposite sides. The pillow can be turned as desired.
Wave shape The pillow is placed crosswise in the bed so that the two half-rolls are at the top and bottom. The curves should still be on top. The sides are of different heights and can be turned as desired.

Is the neck support pillow washable?

The neck support pillows arrive uncovered. You should cover them with a normal pillowcase, because you can quickly replace it yourself and wash it in the washing machine at 60° Celsius. Pillows themselves should not be washed in the washing machine. The three-year rule recommends cleaning duvets and pillows every three years. Take your bed linen to a dry cleaner. You should also take care of mattresses. Here you can find instructions on how to take care of your mattress.

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

People are creatures of habit and generally all pillows are different. Neck support pillows have a particular effect on sleep. Many people experience the following during the changeover.

  • It is difficult to fall asleep, the pillow feels unfamiliar and too hard.
  • During the night, many people wake up because the lying position has changed.
  • Neck pain can wander or become more severe.

If the neck support pillow does not help immediately, you should not be disappointed right away.

Expect it to take between four and 14 days to get used to the pillow.

Sometimes it can take even longer. Especially if you are switching from a normal pillow to a neck support pillow, it can take longer to get used to it. To keep track of your improvement and avoid despair, you can also keep a little diary. Simply record how you slept on the pillow, whether you had headaches or neck pain when you woke up, whether the pillow should be higher or lower and whether you woke up at night.

Image source: pixabay.com/ manbob86

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