The Importance of the Right Pillow for Head and Neck Support

Posted by Emma Carlton - Buying and Merchandising Manager on 10th Aug 2022

The Importance of the Right Pillow for Head and Neck Support

Is your pillow an actual pain in the neck? If you’re performing origami on it every night in an attempt to get some decent head and neck support, then that folded pancake pillow has to go.

Discover the reasons why you may be suffering from neck pain each morning, and how pillows for neck support can help you avoid waking with a sore neck. In this fascinating article, you’ll learn how sleeping on an unsupportive neck pillow may affect, not only your sleep, but also your mental health.

A head’s up on neck pain – What causes neck pains when sleeping?

When you realise that the average adult human head weighs around 8 to 12 pounds, you can begin to imagine the amount of support it needs to stay upright.  (1) You may think that this support isn’t needed when you’re lying down, but it’s actually incredibly important to ensure your head and neck receive support as you sleep.

Why is head and neck support needed during sleep?

The head and neck are supported by, and connected to, the cervical spine. This section of the spine comprises the first 7 vertebrae of your spine as well as joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves. As you can see, there’s quite a lot going on in this section of your body, and all these components provide the much-needed support for your head. (2)

Your sleeping position can result in this support system being awkwardly placed for extended periods of time.

This lack of support for your head and unhelpful sleeping positions could mean you’re waking with stiff muscles and even backache and headaches.

Does side sleeping cause neck pain?

When you sleep on your side you need a higher pillow than if you’re sleeping on your back. This is because you need to take into consideration the height added by your shoulders. If you sleep on your side without the right pillow support, your head and neck may be raised higher than necessary, and your spine misaligned as you sleep.

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Why does my neck hurt when I sleep on my stomach?

If you’re sleeping on your front, your back is unnaturally arched, and this can cause back and neck pain. You may find it difficult to switch from sleeping on your front to a more suitable sleeping position. Should this be the case, it is worth investing in a pillow designed specifically for front sleepers.

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What’s the best sleeping position to avoid neck pain?

According to research (3), the best sleeping position to avoid neck pain is on your back or even on your side as these positions provide better alignment for your spine.

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How do I know I need pillows for neck support?

According to (3), if you’re continuously waking up with neck pain, your mattress and/or pillow could be to blame. The NHS also recognises that the wrong type of pillow can contribute to discomfort on waking and recommends a low, firm pillow to avoid neck pain or stiffness. (4)

The right neck pillow can keep your head and neck neutrally aligned so that your head is supported and your spine correctly positioned.

Can the wrong pillow affect my mental health?

If you’re experiencing pain while you try to sleep, chances are you aren’t getting the right amount of uninterrupted sleep every night. Sleep deprivation is known to have a negative effect on mental health. This can then create a loop affect where your mental health can affect your sleep and your mental health worsens.  (5)

Why does lack of sleep have an impact on mental health?

Sleep is our chance to recuperate at the end of the day. There are several different stages to sleep, each with its own purpose.

  • The first stage is when we begin to relax and prepare to go to sleep.
  • The second stage sees our temperature dropping, eye movement ceasing and muscles relaxing.
  • The penultimate stage is believed to be an important stage of restorative sleep which, according to the sleep foundation, “may bolster the immune system and other key bodily processes.(6)
  • The fourth and final stage of sleep is known as REM sleep. What may perhaps surprise you is that it is at this stage that brain activity picks up again. You enter a state of temporary paralysis with only the eyes, and muscles associated with breathing functions, visibly active. This essential part of the sleep cycle is said to be incredibly important for memory, learning and creative functions. If you find you are regularly missing out on this important stage of sleep you could suffer when awake.(7)

When your body misses out on the opportunity to recuperate during sleep, your mood can be affected. Persistent lack of sleep may lead to prolonged periods of low mood and even depression.  (8)

Should you not be sleeping because your mattress or pillow aren’t providing the right support, you need to think seriously about getting the right products for your needs.

Find the right pillow for the way you sleep

We’ve a fantastic collection of pillows for every type of sleeper. Take a look at our entire pillow collection, or get in touch on 0808 144 6160 if you want further advice about the best support pillows for you.


(1)  Weight Of Human Head - What Things Weigh

(2)  Neck Pain While Sleeping: Causes and Prevention - The Sleep Doctor

(3)  Cervical Spine (Neck): What It Is, Anatomy & Disorders (

(4) According to, if you’re continuously waking up with neck pain, your mattress and/or pillow could be to blame.

(5)  How does lack of sleep affect mental health? | Westfield Health

(6)  Stages of Sleep: What Happens in a Sleep Cycle | Sleep Foundation

(7)  Mental Health and Sleep | Sleep Foundation

(8)  Depression and Sleep | Sleep Foundation

authors profile
Emma Carlton
Buying and Merchandising Manager
Emma has worked at Bensons for Beds for 10 years and is a fundamental part of the Bensons’ team, her wealth of breadth and knowledge is invaluable. Emma’s drive, determination, and tenacity ensures we provide our customers with the market leading products to suit our customer individual needs, at great value prices.
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