The Best Pillows for Back Sleepers With Neck Pain

So, you’re a back sleeper. This might be because you just can’t get enough of corpse pose in yoga, or because you love studying the ceiling of your bedroom as you fall asleep at night. Most likely, though, it’s because you’re most comfortable on your back. This preference may put you in the minority of sleepers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some pillows out there that will help you drift to sleep easier.

Sleeping on your back has a lot of benefits for your body. It allows your spine to align naturally, doesn’t require you to use a lot of extra cushion, and means your weight is distributed evenly at night, allowing for optimal blood flow. This makes you less likely to toss and turn throughout the night, giving you higher quality sleep and allowing you to wake up better rested than your side-sleeping or stomach-sleeping counterparts. Even more interesting, sleeping on your back may reduce acid reflux and, because your face isn’t pressed into your pillow all night, wrinkles.

But don’t pat yourself on the back just yet. Back sleepers, especially ones who are overweight, are prone to sleep apnea and snoring, as their chins are often tilted upward and jaws pressed backward, closing off the airway. There are some things you can do to decrease the negative effects of sleeping on your back, or in the supine position: The first, and perhaps easiest method, is to buy a pillow made for back sleepers. Consider yourself lucky; we’ve done the work for you. Here are a few great pillow options for back sleepers.

Best Overall: Tuft and Needle Pillow

tuft and needle pillow review n

Standard – $75

The Tuft and Needle pillow is neither too soft nor too firm, but is somewhere in between. We actually got the chance to test it out for ourselves in our hands-on review and we can confirm from firsthand experience that it’s great for side and back sleepers alike. Unlike a lot of traditional memory foam pillows, it manages to retain its shape over time, so it’s great for anyone who exclusively sleeps on their back. If you’re looking for a good balance of comfort, support, and temperature, the T&N Adaptive Foam pillow is definitely the first option you should consider.

Good For:

  • Small to average size individuals
  • People who sleep hot
  • Side sleepers

Best Value: Sahara Nights Pillow

Queen – $50

best pillow for back sleepers sahara nights

Do you dream of high-end hotel pillows? Well, you can experience that softness night after night with the Sahara Nights pillow. Hotel-quality and hypoallergenic, these pillows are filled with a polyester gel fiber that feels surprisingly like down, but without the problem of sinkage. These pillows achieve a nice combination of firmness and softness. They also retain their shape quite well and adjust to the shape of your head and neck. Additionally, Sahara Nights Pillows are highly durable and they even sleep cool. All in all, you can expect maximum plush for a great price.

Good For:

  • Back and stomach sleepers
  • People who need a hypoallergenic pillow
  • People who like their pillows plush but firm

Best Cooling Pillow: Purple Pillow

Standard – $99

best pillow for back sleepers purple 1500x1000

Unlike any other pillow on the market, the Purple Pillow features a patented Smart Grid Design to ensure your head is gently cradled and your neck receives optimal support. The grid is also temperature-neutral and designed for passive airflow. In turn, this helps to wick away body heat. Given the 3-inch loft, it’s ideal for people with smaller heads and narrow shoulders as well as individuals who prefer a thinner pillow. Still, it manages to retain its shape despite its lack of fluffiness. Additionally, the Purple Pillow is easy to care for. The cover is machine washable and the pillow itself can be cleaned in warm water with a gentle soap. Best of all, the company offers a 100-night sleep trial and a one-year warranty. You can rest easy with this great cooling pillow purchase.

Good For:

  • Small-to-average sized sleepers
  • People with a lower-loft preference
  • People who sleep hot

Xtreme Comforts Slimp Hypoallergenic Pillow

Standard – $50

best presidents day sales on pillows xtreme comforts

The Xtreme Comforts bamboo shredded memory foam pillow is great for sleepers of all types, so if you find yourself sometimes switching to your stomach or side as you sleep, this may be the best option for you. Some shredded foam pillows may get lumpy over time, but you won’t have that problem with this one. This SlimSleeper version has a loft of 5 inches, so you don’t have to worry about arching your neck backward as you sleep, cutting down on snoring. Pro tip: This pillow sleeps cool – very cool. If it feels a little too hard when it first arrives, take it apart and throw it in the dryer. You’re welcome.

Good For:

  • Back, side and stomach sleepers
  • People with neck pain
  • People who sleep hot

Best Adjustable Pillow: Coop Home Goods – Eden

Queen – $80

best pillow for back sleepers coop home goods 1500x1000

If your plush preferences are ever-evolving, you are bound to love the Eden pillow from Coop Home Goods. The greatest feature this pillow offers is that it’s completely customizable. Don’t like the loft? Zip it open and remove some of the filling, as needed. The benefits don’t end there, though. This pillow is gusseted to prevent the edges from sloping together and the filling from getting pushed to the side, guaranteeing total neck support. Additionally, it’s uniquely made with gel-infused memory foam and features a bamboo-rayon cover. The foam helps to draw out heat while the cover offers breathability so you’ll definitely stay cool and comfortable. And fear not – the Eden is also great at retaining its shape. Coop Home Goods is so confident you’ll love this pillow that the company offers a 100-night sleep trial and a five-year warranty.  

Good For:

  • All sizes/weight classes
  • Individuals with neck or shoulder pain
  • Back and side sleepers

Choosing the Best Pillow for Back Sleeping

We get it, you still want to shop around after checking out this list. Only you know what pillow is best for you. So, here are some pro tips and factors you’ll want to keep in mind when shopping for your forever pillow.

Body Size

Pillows come in a wide range of sizes. Smalls typically start at 12-by-20 inches, and body pillows are typically 48- to 54-by-20 inches. A standard pillow is typically 20-by-26 or 28 inches and a queen is 20-by-30 inches. Of course, dimensions will vary by brands. If you’re a bigger person, have broad shoulders, or you tend to toss and turn, you will probably want to invest in a larger pillow.

Loft

Referring to a pillow’s thickness, loft is one of the key elements to consider because your spinal alignment can easily be compromised if there’s too high or low a loft.

Importantly, loft can be broken down into three basic categories: low-loft (less than 3 inches thick), medium-loft (3 to 5 inches thick) and high-loft (over 5 inches thick). Many back sleepers opt for medium or high-loft pillows since they tend to elevate the head and neck best. However, you should consider your head size, shoulder size, and weight when making this decision. A low-loft pillow is best for heavier set individuals as well as people with smaller heads and narrower shoulders. A high-loft pillow is better for a slim person or someone with a large head or broad shoulders.  

Filling

Pillows can be manufactured with a wide variety of fillings, both natural and synthetic. And since these determine thickness and firmness, it’s important to understand your main options:

  • Buckwheat: Typically thick, firm and adjustable; great for back sleepers.
  • Memory Foam: Adjustable and conforms well; great for back sleepers.
  • Latex: Not adjustable but conforms and supports well, sleeps cool; great for back sleepers.
  • Polyester: Affordable but can easily flatten; not great for back sleepers.
  • Down and/or Down Alternative: Adjustable loft but fairly soft and flattens easily; will not provide enough support for back sleepers.

Firmness and Malleability

As with most things bed-related, malleability and firmness should be crucial to your decision-making. Most back sleepers will benefit from a pillow with medium firmness. A pillow that’s too soft will cause your head to sink and could result in a misaligned spine. Conversely, too firm a pillow can easily lead to a stiff neck or shoulders. You also want to select a pillow that’s somewhat malleable so it contours to your head and neck, helping to eliminate unnecessary strain.

Surface Shape

Pillows have two main surface types: even or contoured. Even-surfaced pillows are certainly more common, and they can appear full or flat. Contoured pillows (also referred to as cervical pillows) have a curved surface that’s usually elevated at the neck and then recessed at the head. Contoured options are often recommended for people who have shoulder or neck pain, as they cradle the neck rather than letting it float in space.

Ease of Cleaning

We all want a pillow that’s easy to clean. After all, a clean pillow can reduce skin irritation and some pillows even claim to help with wrinkles. If hygiene is a major factor in your pillow – as it should be –make sure you check out how to wash the pillow before you buy it. Some pillows can simply be thrown in your home washing machine while others, especially those made with solid memory foam, cannot. Just make sure you use a removable cover to keep the pillow itself as clean as possible. Pro tip: Pick up a pillow protector for added hygiene.

We’re not being dramatic when we say a good night’s sleep is critical to your health.  There’s no question that finding the right pillow is a critical step toward some solid slumber.

Looking for more great stuff? Find best pillows for stomach sleepers, best mattresses for side-sleepers, and mattress toppers.

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