A myriad of studies has shown that insufficient and poor quality sleep lead to a wide range of medical issues, from obesity and diabetes to higher susceptibility to the common cold.
Numerous studies back up the efficacy of an ergonomic pillow in not only improving the quality of your sleep, but helping alleviate common pain points such as neck and back pain, heartburn, sinus drainage, snoring, and even sleep apnea.
In this guide, we’ll go over the different types of ergonomic pillows and what factors to consider when choosing the one that best suits your needs. And to make your decision all the easier, we give you our top 5 recommendations for ergonomic pillows best suited for different sleeping styles.
Do Ergonomic Pillows Actually Work?
Whether ergonomic pillows offer any actual improvement over conventional feather pillows ultimately will depend on the individual. However, a range of scientific studies suggest that ergonomic pillows can improve a person’s sleep quality, especially for people suffering from chronic neck and back pain and other medical issues.
The most popular use of ergonomic pillows is to curb chronic neck pain and headaches. A common cause of chronic neck pain is cervical spondylosis, or the natural degeneration of the discs in the neck region of the spine due to age. One study showed that an ergonomic latex pillow can reduce discomfort and improve neck mobility in as little as four weeks.
Likewise, another study corroborates these results and concludes that ergonomic pillows can reduce neck pain from cervical lordosis, which is the excessive inward curvature of the neck that indicates poor posture.
A much larger study also showed that ergonomic pillows not only radically improve the sleep quality and time compared to memory foam and ordinary feather pillows, but also relieve pain from chronic neck conditions such as the ones mentioned above.
Ergonomic pillows have also shown to be quite effective in helping relieve the discomfort from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by intermittent breathing while sleeping and is often accompanied by loud snoring. Studies such as this one show that patients who use a CPAP machine to counter their sleep apnea report a higher level of satisfaction with ergonomically designed CPAP pillows.
In general, scientific studies seem to show that ergonomic pillows can play a positive role in improving a person’s sleep quality, especially if they are suffering from chronic medical issues that are detrimental to a good night’s sleep.
Types of Ergonomic Pillows
There are many different types of ergonomic pillows on the market. Choosing the right one based on your condition is vital to getting the proper benefits these pillow are designed to deliver. The 4 main types of ergonomic pillows are:
Contour pillows have a distinctive curve in their design with two raised ends and a valley between them. They are specifically designed to support the neck during sleep while retaining the natural curve of the neck. Typically, the two sides have different elevations to suit the preferences of different users. These pillows are ideal for people suffering from neck pain and chronic cervical issues.
Slim ergonomic pillows have the more conventional pillow shape but in a much thinner profile. This type of pillow is typically for people with smaller frames or who sleep on their stomach.
CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure pillows are specifically designed for providing support to users who sleep while using a CPAP machine.
A CPAP machine is a specialized piece of equipment designed to mitigate the symptoms of sleep apnea by applying a constant air stream that ensures the airway remains open. However, the mask that accompanies the treatment can be quite obtrusive which is why CPAP pillows have cutaways to accommodate the mask. Moreover, these pillows are designed to maintain the optimal neck posture to reduce the effects of sleep apnea by relieving pressure from the neck.
Wedge style pillows
Wedge style pillows feature a wedge-like shape designed for people with poor circulation, acid reflux and chronic pain issues of the spine and neck. They keep the upper torso of the user elevated and thereby improve the blood circulation through the body. The raised profile is also a proven method of reducing the unpleasant effects of acid reflux. Wedge style pillows also tend to be larger and heavier as they have to typically support the entire upper body without slipping.
What to Look for in an Ergonomic Pillow
In addition to the different types, ergonomic pillows offer a wide range of different features which makes choosing one even more complicated. However, asking your these simple questions can typically help you make the right decision:
Do you have any Chronic Medical Issues?
If you suffer from a particular medical condition that prevents you from sleeping comfortably, make sure that the ergonomic pillow you choose is designed to cater to it.
For chronic neck pain and poor cervical mobility, a contoured pillow is best. Similarly, choose a wedge-style pillow if you suffer from acid reflux and a CPAP pillow if you plan to use the pillow with a CPAP machine. By adapting your purchase to your medical condition, you are more likely to experience a more restful sleep with your new ergonomic pillow.
What is your Preferred Sleeping Position?
Pillows are generally designed for a particular sleeping position, so make sure that your pillow caters to your sleeping position.
Most ergonomic pillows cater to back and side sleepers. For stomach sleepers, a slim pillow with a thin profile is generally more ergonomic. Regardless, ensure that the pillow is designed for the sleeping posture that you prefer.
Adjustability and Thickness
Different people have different preferences when it comes to the thickness of their pillows. Moreover, larger people tend to need a thicker pillow to conform to the curve of their neck while smaller people would require a thinner pillow, so choosing a pillow that suits your body’s dimensions is essential. Ideally, go for a pillow that offers some adjustability to allow you to adapt it to your particular sleeping preferences.
Budget and Insurance Coverage
Ergonomic pillows tend to cover a wide range of costs so it is important to establish a budget and choose a pillow that gives you the best value for money within your budget. Also, contact your insurance company to see if the purchase would be covered by your policy and whether a prescription is required.
Customer Reviews and Durability
Checking customer satisfaction through reviews is probably the best indicator of the quality and effectiveness of an ergonomic pillow. In addition to checking the overall rating of the pillow, it is important to look at feedback from users might have similar medical issues to ensure that the pillow is effective in mitigating them. Also check the warranty offered by the manufacturer as a longer warranty period typically indicates a more robust product.
Best Ergonomic Pillows
– The Best Overall
The UTTU Bamboo Cervical Pillow is one of the best ergonomic pillows in the market, thanks to unrivaled adjustability, quality and value for money. It also has a very high user satisfaction rating on Amazon and comes with a 5 year warranty as a testimonial to its durability.
The pillow is a contoured pillow well suited for all sleeping positions. The key highlight of this product is amazing adjustability.
In addition to the two contours being different sizes, the pillow features a center layer that can be easily removed to give the pillow a slimmer profile without affecting the level of support or pliability. This can allow you to adapt the pillow to your explicit preferences and match the thickness you want with the sleeping position that you prefer the most. Several reviewers have lauded this particular feature and praised the pillow for helping reduce neck pain and even chronic migraines.
The UTTC Bamboo pillow comes with a 5-year warranty to safeguard your investment and makes the pillow an even better deal.
That said, no product is perfect and some users do report issues with the UTTC pillow. A few reviewers noticed that the pillow tends to run hot which is quite possible given that it does not feature a gel layer which is a common feature on many ergonomic pillows. Others also report that occasionally the pillow fails to reach its full size after being removed from the packaging, although defects like these are covered under the warranty and return policy.
However, with an overwhelming majority of positive reviews, the UTTU Bamboo Cervical Pillow wins customers over with its unrivalled adjustability, competitive price and a great warranty.
- Multi-level adjustability for different users and sleeping positions.
- Great value for money
- Good customer service
- 5 year warranty
- Doesn’t feature a gel layer for cooling and tends to run hot.
- Some pillows don’t reach the full size after being unpacked.
– Best for Neck Pain
The EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow is our choice for the best ergonomic pillow to alleviate neck pain. In addition to being suitable for all sleeping positions, it features a unique design that cradles the neck and ensures proper posture while sleeping.
The key feature of the EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow is its unique contoured design that features a raised cradle to support neck from the sides while letting it curve naturally with the pillow. This makes the pillow ideal for you if you suffer from chronic neck pain and poor cervical posture. Reviews from side-sleepers, in particular, applaud the pillow for its great support and conformity.
The pillow also features a breathable memory foam design and comes with a net pillow-case to allow easy flow of air through it. The result is a pillow that doesn’t run hot despite not featuring a gel layer and will keep your head and neck at a comfortable temperature that is essential for quality sleep.
All in all, the EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow makes the cut as the best ergonomic pillow for alleviating neck pain thanks to its intuitive cradled design and breathable construction.
- Cradled and contoured design to alleviate neck pain.
- Breathable foam and cover to maintain a cool temperature.
- Height adjustable using a 0.8 memory foam insert.
- Comes with a free pillowcase.
- Some users found the pillow too thin
- Memory foam may depress in a few months.
– Best for Side Sleepers
Specifically designed for side sleepers, the PureComfort Side Sleeping Pillow offers the perfect mix of adjustability, durability and an innovative design. And with a near perfect star rating on Amazon, you can be assured that the pillow lives up to its claims.
Designed for side sleepers, the pillow features ear cutouts designed to minimize ear folding and pain while sleeping. This feature can be a godsend for people with sensitive, painful or newly pierced ears. Moreover, the cutouts make this pillow ideal for side sleepers who use earbuds while sleeping, something a large chunk of reviewers are quick to point out. In fact several reviewers also go on to say that the pillow actually helped them get rid of ear pain.
In addition to the cutouts, the pillow is also height adjustable and comes with foam height inserts to raise or lower the height of the pillow. As we saw with the UTTU Bamboo Cervical Pillow, adjustability can be an invaluable feature for an ergonomic pillow, allowing you to adapt it to your body shape and mattress type for optimal comfort.
The barrage of shining reviews should be enough to convince you that the PureComfort Side Sleeping Pillow is the ideal pillow for side sleepers, keeping your ears comfortable especially if you wear earplugs.
- Ideal for side sleepers
- Ear cutouts to relieve ear pain and allow comfortable use of earplugs
- Offers height adjustability with foam inserts
- Some quality control issues reported by users.
- Pricey compared to budget offerings.
– Best for Stomach Sleepers
With its ultra-thin design, the Bluewave Ultra Slim Gel Memory Foam Pillow is the ideal ergonomic pillow for stomach sleepers and people who require minimal support while sleeping. It also features a very competitive price and infused gel particles to aid cooling, ensuring you have a good night’s sleep.
The most prominent feature of this ergonomic pillow is the ultra-slim design, featuring a profile of just 3.5 inches. The slim profile makes it ideal for stomach sleepers, giving them the small amount of support required to keep the neck and spine aligned and prevent cervical problems. Moreover, a survey of the reviews by users shows that even back and side sleepers prefer the slim profile as it provides just the right amount of support for them.
Another feature that the users love is the gel infusion within the foam construction that helps to keep this pillow cool all year round. Pillows that tend to run hot are notorious for reducing the quality of sleep, so the combination of gel infused particles with a thin profile is ideal if you are sensitive to pillows running hot.
Despite the generally positive reviews, a few reviewers do note that the pillow is too hard for their taste. Given its slim profile, the firmness is essential for providing support but not be everybody’s cup of tea. A lack of adjustability is also quite noticeable.
All in all, the Bluewave Ultra Slim Gel Memory Foam Pillow is an excellent ergonomic pillow that is especially well suited to stomach sleepers thanks to its thin profile. It also provides great ventilation and a budget-friendly price.
- Thin profile ideal for stomach sleepers
- Gel infused construction to keep the pillow cool
- Firm to provide support.
- Excellent for anyone who prefers a thin profile pillow.
- Could be a bit firm for certain users.
- Lack of adjustability that some competitors offer.
– Best for Snoring, Sinus Drainage, Heartburn
The Relax Home Life Wedge Pillow is our choice for the best wedge shaped pillow in the market.
The ability to keep your torso raised makes this pillow the best choice for users whose sleep quality is hindered by heartburn, sinus drainage and snoring. Couple this with a comfortable memory foam top layer, a competitive price and a lifetime warranty and this ergonomic pillow is a steal.
The best feature of this pillow is its effectiveness in curbing acid reflux, as testified in reviews from users. More importantly, it manages this without compromising on the user’s comfort thanks to the dual foam construction.
This wedge pillow features a top memory foam layer with a thicker foam construction at the bottom. The firm lower layer provides excellent support and keeps the pillow stable with no sinking while the memory foam conforms to the body’s contours and keeps the user comfortable. This construction also makes the pillow suitable for any sleeping position which is great if you are a restless sleeper who alternates between sleeping positions during the night.
The other major set of advantages is the excellent value for money this pillow offers thanks to its budget-friendly price. The bamboo viscose cover is also a great touch as it helps with ventilation and keeping the pillow cooler, which is important for quality sleep, especially with a thick pillow like this.
That said, a common criticism cited by reviewers is that the pillow has a distinctive chemical odour at first use, although it decreases after airing out. People with smaller frames also report that the wedge shape is uncomfortable although this can be mitigated with an additional pillow for support.
All in all, the Relax Home Life Wedge Pillow is an excellent ergonomic pillow, with users reporting that it successfully curbs acid reflux, snoring and sinus drainage while being comfortable.
- Great for acid reflux, heartburn and snoring.
- Comfortable thanks to a top memory foam layer.
- Comes with high quality, breathable pillowcase.
- Great value for money.
- Lifetime warranty
- Strong chemical smell when opened.
- Some users report the pillow doesn’t rise after extracting from vacuum bag.
Ergonomic Pillows are Worth a Shot
All things considered, investing in an ergonomic pillow can radically raise the quality of your sleep especially if your sleep is hindered by a medical condition. However, a considerable amount of thought has to be put into the purchase to ensure to make sure it is the right choice for you and make your investment worthwhile.