The head hums, the neck is stiff and the back hurts: Sounds like a hangover, but maybe it’s simply the pillow – it’s not uncommon for an old, worn-out down pillow to be the cause of neck pain or even a herniated disc. Neck support pillows are on the rise – and rightly so. Individual, gentle, comfortable: The advantages are versatile.
Why is the right pillow so important?
24 years: that’s how long the average German spends sleeping. That is about one third of the entire lifetime. It should be clear to everyone that sufficient sleep is important, but very few people really think about the pillow. You have probably always slept on a pillow that is nothing more than just that for you: a pillow. The choice should be as individual as you are. Because regardless of body type or sleeping position: Various factors have an influence on whether a pillow suits you or not. If it doesn’t fit, neck pain and headaches are not far away. 5 strategies against headaches.
In the worst case, however, it does not stop there. If you lie down incorrectly, it can even lead to a herniated disc. The bottom line is that a pillow is like a shoe: if it pinches, you need a new one.
How does neck pain develop while sleeping?
Basically, there are two possibilities: Either the cervical vertebra is overstretched, or it is bent off. Both are to be strictly avoided. It is important that the spine is in a straight line at all times – from the head to the pelvis. If the pillow is too flat, there will be too much hollow space between the pillow and the neck – this should actually be filled by the pillow. Consequence: the neck is unsupported, the cervical vertebrae overstretched. A pillow that is too high causes the opposite: the neck is now too strongly supported, the head positioned higher than the rest of the body. As a result, the spine runs upwards at a shortened angle, your cervical vertebrae buckle.
The problem with conventional down pillows: You don’t get enough head and neck support. The reason for this is the sink-in effect. Snug yes, but not after eight hours. After lying down, the head sinks further and further, causing the cervical spine to bend: head and neck just sag. The pillow therefore adapts too much by sinking in and the neck probably does not rest properly from the start.
However, the opposite is also often seen: the so-called pillow mountain. If you stack too many pillows on top of each other, this will counteract the sinking-in effect, but usually two pillows are already one too many. Your chin is tilted towards your chest, your head is higher than everything else. All right for watching TV, but not for sleeping.
What is a neck support pillow?
This is exactly where neck support pillows come in: Neck support pillows are part of orthopedic sleep accessories. They are specially made to stabilize the neck and throat so that they have a firm support and run in a straight line to the spine. This closes the gap between the neck and the mattress, giving the neck a real support surface.
Neck support pillows are usually more compact than conventional down pillows. The standard size is 80×40 cm. The sinking-in effect, which is actually so pleasant, is greatly reduced, while the support function is significantly increased thanks to material and shape. And yet: the perfect support for the neck makes you feel secure and you lie on it almost softer than before. The reason for this is also the elastic support. It allows the head to sink in, but as the name implies: on elastic and supporting way. Means: only as deep as your sleeping position allows you to go.
What types of neck pillows are available?
“When it comes to neck support pillows, there’s a wide range of choices, sizes, shapes and materials,” says Oliver Hofer, a certified sleep expert at sleepTEQ Hamburg. Rectangular or butterfly-shaped and with or without neck roll(s) – also called support area. In addition, there is now also the possibility of having a neck pillow custom-made. These shapes are considered the prototypes of neck support pillows:
- Soap-shaped neck pillows: are rectangular and have a smooth plane – but there is the option of adding support areas in the form of a roll.
- Wavy Neck support pillows: have two neck rolls and a small hollow in the middle where the head can sink in.
- Butterfly-shaped neck support pillows: get their shape from a recess on all four sides – these provide a little more breathing room.
Which neck pillow suits my sleeping position?
Different sleeping positions significantly change the alignment of the spine. To keep it straight in any position, don’t just take any neck support pillow. One thing can be said in advance: Neck pillows are unsuitable for stomach sleepers – the head is then too high, the cervical spine bends too much. This is also problematic in combination with the strong rotation of the head – stomach sleepers have to turn the head strongly in one direction so that it can rest on the side – and is therefore not recommended. For those who sleep on their stomach, it is better to use a proper Belly sleeper pillow . What your sleeping position says about your health.
- You are a back sleeperIf you are a back sleeper, it is best to use a flat soap-shaped or a flat wavy neck pillow. You should avoid a head position that is too high, because your head is already in a good position in the supine position and should not be much higher. Expert Hofer advises back sleepers against an additional bolster for this very reason: “While it is very pleasant for the side sleeper to feel this bolster as support, it can be rather uncomfortable for the back sleeper, because it can push the head up slightly.”If it should be a wavy pillow, you must make sure that the head sinks gently into the hollow – often the head is already half on the second bolster. Rule of thumb: If the tip of your nose is pointing towards the ceiling, you are lying just right.
- You are a side sleeper: “For side sleepers, I advise a neck support pillow with a raised area in the neck,” says Hofer. “This way, the neck and the nape of the neck are well supported from below.”This is important, because in the side position you lie on your shoulder, your head is positioned higher than in the back position, you need a higher pillow. Here you can go from the soap-shaped, to the wavelike, up to butterfly shaped neck pillow take everything. Only rules: The head must rest so that the spine forms a straight line, the neck must rest stably on the pillow.
- You are a mixed sleeperThen take an adjustable pillow. Soap and wavy neck pillows can often be customized with their built-in neck cushions. Z.B. this wavy pillow this wave-shaped pillow can already be adjusted – higher on one side, lower on the other – so that you only have to turn the pillow when you change position.
Your physique is also importantThe basic formula is: the narrower your shoulders, the lower the pillow. The wider your shoulders, the higher the pillow.
What influence does the mattress have on the choice of neck pillow?
“A very big one and it’s also always underestimated when buying,” says Oliver Hofer. If the neck pillow is the key, the mattress is the lock. “You have to pay attention to the shoulder zone – the place where the pillow is placed – so that I know exactly how deep I’m sinking in.”Therefore: When buying, make sure that the pillow fits the mattress. Often, when you try it out, you’ll quickly notice whether or not your mattress is giving way too much.
Neck support pillows are a simple and useful tool to optimize your sleep in no time at all. If you are serious about your spine health, you should get one of the many orthopedic neck pillows.