Whether its everyday stress, major life events, or just too much screen time, most people aren’t getting enough quality sleep. In getting some refreshing shut-eye, your pillow choice can help make a difference.
Accordingly, some of the most popular for those wanting to upgrade where they rest their head every night are contoured pillows made out of memory foam. These types of pillows are ideal for those dealing with neck pain.
People are drawn to memory foam for all sorts of different reasons, but one of the biggest attractions is the way the material conforms to pressure.
Memory foam is engineered to cradle you in a way that helps your head to stay in healthy alignment with your spine. It is also built to be durable, resilient, and support you all night long without caving in over the course of your slumber.
Memory Foam Pillow
Memory foam is a special type of material which reacts to temperature and pressure which causes it to mold and conform to shape accordingly.
Therefore, the foam creates a mold around the shape of your head, neck, shoulders, ears and any other body part which it comes into contact with when it comes to sleeping on bed pillows.
The traditional and most common type of foam is polyurethane, also known as viscoelastic foam. There is also another variant which includes a portion of gel, but this type has thousands of small gel beads in its mix.
The gel memory foam pillow is newer on the scene, slightly more expensive, and has its benefits over its peers through lesser heat retention thus allowing a more cooling sleep surface.
Urban legend has it that NASA invented memory foam in the 1970s to cushion the astronauts on space flights.
While NASA says that it did have a hand in the development of memory foam, Charles Yost is credited with the invention while under contract with NASA in 1966 to use in airplanes.
The viscosity of the foam allows your body heat to soften the pillow which supports your head, helping alleviate neck and back pain.
Based on the heat from your body, Memory foam pillows work and soften into the ideal shape to support your head and neck. There are several ways to use a memory foam pillow to improve your sleep.
To provide maximum support for your head and neck, regardless of whether you sleep on your side or your back, place the flat side of your pillow down and orient the pillow with the larger of the two curves toward the foot of your bed.
Settle into your pillow and effortlessly let your head sink in. Stay with it even if the pillow seems too hard at first.
In a few minutes, you will feel the pillow conform to your head, neck, and shoulders due to your body heat. Note that it will take a little while for the foam to change position when you do.
As the foam cools, it becomes stiffer. This is an ideal time to take a few cleansing breaths or to meditate for a few minutes to prompt your body and brain to have a deep and stress-relieving sleep.
Sleeping on your stomach with a memory foam pillow is not highly recommended. The pillow’s unique shape can put a stomach sleeper’s head and neck at unusual angles, which can increase neck pain and headaches.
Regardless of the type of pillow you use, sleeping on your stomach can cause you to awaken with a stiff neck and can negatively affect your shoulders, upper back, jaw, and vital organs.
Memory foam pillows, regardless of the position you prefer to sleep in, can help you have a better rest each night, even if it means teaching your body not to sleep on your stomach.
Types of Memory Foam Pillow
Unlike other types of pillows and designs such as buckwheat or down, memory foam pillows come in various shapes and styles.
Ultimately, they are all for laying your head down for a good night’s sleep, but which one you’ll choose depends on more specific needs, as each one serves a slightly different purpose.
A contour memory foam pillow is a slab of viscoelastic foam which has two ridges running horizontally from one side to another and a subtle groove.
The groove is where the head is cradled, and with the ridges supporting the neck, it provides maximum stability for the head too.
Due to the contoured shape combined with the supportive nature of viscoelastic foam, it is a very popular choice for those with neck problems and is similarly also considered one of the best pillows for back sleepers too.
A shredded memory foam pillow is entirely different from the aforementioned contour style pillow. In terms of shape, they are usually rectangular, similar to that of the traditional types.
They are referred to as shredded because the interior consists of hundreds or sometimes thousands of tiny shreds of foam pieces compacted together to form the filling.
The benefits of having this shredded nature are that it allows the foam to be more breathable thus making it sleep cooler and not creating a heat trap.
Additionally, although there is no real need to fluff, a shredded memory foam pillow can have its loft adjusted or be scrunched and molded to shape a little if required, unlike a contour pillow.
It’s the relatively low loft rectangular shaped ones which you’re most likely to be familiar with when we refer to the term “traditional”.
When it comes to foam pillows, there are two very similar variations in particular which are the most popular. Both are one-piece and cut to size.
The first is genuinely traditional in that it’s tailored by a single seam around all four edges, and has slightly sloped or angled edges which are common in a majority of bed pillows.
The second is also similar in shape and size to the former but instead has a double seamed edge which allows for a consistent and higher loft especially around the edge.
These are known as a gusset pillow, and due to the high loft and increased support for the neck and shoulder area, they are widely accepted as all-around top rated pillows.
A wedge pillow goes by many different names and has more uses than the traditional rectangular shaped types.
Basically, a memory foam wedge pillow is shaped like a giant triangle. It is slanted with a gradual slope and is commonly used to prop the body up for different purposes.
Typically, the size and angle of the slope greatly determine its usage and whether it’s for adults or babies. Due to the conforming and heat retaining nature of this material it can be an extremely comfortable and warm surface to lay back on.
Recommended extensively for medical reasons such as respiratory problems, acid reflux or sinus issues, wedge pillows aren’t just used for sleeping.
Also known as a bed wedge, they are a popularly used as a reading pillow while sat upright and leaned against.
Alternatively, they can also be used to elevate the lower body by placing underneath the back of the knees which helps reduce the load on the lower back.
Additionally, they are also perhaps regarded as the best pillows for pregnancy considering they can be placed under a baby bump to reduce stress on the lower back.
Benefits of Using a Memory Foam Pillow
Memory foam pillows hold their shape and are less likely to go flat like traditional pillows. The foam conforms to fit the head and neck, but when it cools down, it goes back to the original shape.
Memory foam is a synthetic material and is safe. These pillows are hypoallergenic which obstructs the growth of bacteria and dust mites. This is a benefit for those who experience allergies to features and dust mites.
If you have suffered from allergies for a long time and have yet to come across any form of relief, the problem may be resting beneath your head.
Traditional goose-down, duck feather, and even synthetic pillows have been widely known to cause allergic reactions.
Most traditional feather pillows contain dust mites and millions of fungal spores that create miniature ecosystems within your pillows.
These tiny beings, combined with your sweat as you sleep make for a hotbed of bacterial growth that leads to problems with allergies.
The most long-term and optimal solution by far is to opt for a safer and more hypoallergenic option, like the memory foam filled pillow.
Memory foam pillows are designed to outline the unique shape of the body and support your neck and heat. The foam reforms where it is not pressured, and more where the stress is increased.
The advantages for those with sleep apnoea are obscure. But, it is believed that the spinal alignment aligns the airways better and allows for easier breathing.
The shortage of pressure points with memory foam may benefit those with sleep apnoea because there will be less tossing around.
Back pain or headaches are usually caused by poor spinal alignment. One of the major health benefits of memory foam pillows is spinal alignment.
When your head and neck is placed on the pillow, the warmth of your body allows the foam to reshape itself.
For many years, pillows have been filled with duck and goose feathers that, while soft in the beginning, compress throughout the night, leaving your head to rest on a flatbed of fluff.
The lack of support found with down pillows has led some traditional users to experience unsavory health complications. Specifically, for those who mainly sleep on their sides, it’s common to experience stiff necks each morning due to improper alignment of the spine.
The optimal position for the neck during rest is what experts call the “neutral” position. This is when that natural curve of the neck is at the perfect and comfortable angle, so as not to overly bend or compress the joints.
For this ideal alignment of the neck to occur, it’s best to find one that is thick enough to allow your head to rest gently and evenly within the “neutral” position.
Neck Pain Relief
The need to ease neck pain is one of the main reasons to switch to a different pillow. Another reason to think about switching is that Cervicalgia is the cause of many more serious health issues over time.
While this pain can be the result of many factors such as car crashes, sports injuries or genetics, using the wrong neck support for these pre-existing conditions only serves to exacerbate the problem by inflicting tension and stress on the neck and back.
It is imperative that your neck and head are elevated to a specific height when trying to alleviate neck pain.
Memory foam pillows are a way for you to accomplish this because polyurethane is specifically designed to provide elevated support and a “melting in” feeling that adds to your overall comfort.
Best Memory Foam Pillows of 2019
Coop Home Goods Memory Foam Pillow
The Coop Home Goods memory foam pillow is largely considered to be the most comfortable and versatile pillow you can buy.
It’s filled with shredded memory foam that you can take out or put into the pillow to adjust the thickness and firmness, so it’s totally customizable to your needs.
Inside the pillow, you’ll find Coop Home Goods’ proprietary mix of shredded Visco elastic memory foam which you can add or remove depending on your needs.
The pillow comes with plenty of foam, too, so even those who prefer really thick pillows should be fine with what the Coop Home Goods memory foam pillow has to offer.
Thanks to the fact that the pillow has shredded foam, it is also quite a bit more breathable than most memory foam pillows, so those of you who tend to get hot at night should be all right.
Features and Design
- Polyester liner
- Viscoelastic polyurethane and polyester fill
- Bamboo-derived viscose rayon and polyester case
- Relatively inexpensive
- Gives off slight smell for the first few days of use.
Premium Shredded Foam Pillow
Brooklyn Bedding is known for selling American-made mattresses, but the company also offers bedding accessories, including excellent memory foam pillows.
The Premium Shredded Foam pillow claims to offer the “best value” along with “cloud-like comfort with contoured support.”
The pillow comes with a removable cover that is machine washable, moisture wicking, and anti-microbial for a more hygienic sleep environment.
If you find it to be too thick, the pillow itself unzips so you can remove some of the foam as needed. The inside is made up of shredded memory foam and latex and is designed to draw heat out and away from your head as you sleep.
Features and Design
- A blend of deconstructed high-quality foam is encapsulated in a zippered cover for easy removal, allowing sleepers to adjust loft for a super personalized sleep experience.
- A cooling gel foam infusion in deconstructed foam draws heat out and away from the head and neck areas for an exceptionally cool night’s sleep.
- A moisture-wicking, anti-microbial cover provides a dry and hygienic sleep environment perfect for sensitive skin.
- Made in the USA.
- Soft yet supportive for side and stomach sleepers
- Height can be adjusted
- Comes with machine washable case
- May not offer enough support on its own for back sleepers
The Bear Pillow’s signature Loft-X Foam isn’t quite as firm or stiff as a lot of other memory foam pillows, which prevents it from leaving you with a crooked neck in the morning.
The Bear Pillow also comes with a removable, washable, antimicrobial or hypoallergenic cover which you could buy separately.
This is a great pillow for those who sleep hot, and users claim to actually be able to feel air passing through the pillow, which suggests that the mesh panels are doing their job. The pillow also feels cold to the touch, thanks to its yarn, which the Bear Mattress company calls “double ice fabric.”
Features and Design
- Double Ice Fabric
- Loft-X Foam
- Dual Mesh Side Panels
- Well-balanced between plushness and firmness
- May be best without a pillowcase, which might not look so good on your bed
- Not easily bunched up or reshaped if you like to fold your pillow
Sleep Innovations Contour Pillow
If you’re looking for a pillow that’s contoured to your neck and head, the Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow is the best choice for you.
The contour pillow is aimed specifically at stabilizing your head during the night, ensuring you wake up feeling refreshed and that you don’t do damage to the muscles in your neck.
Not only is the Sleep Innovations pillow great at managing temperature, but it’s also contoured. It has an inner layer of SureTemp foam, which allows for great airflow during the night.
It also has a cover that’s made of 74% cotton and 25% polyester, and it can be machine washed. The pillow also has a five-year warranty, which is great for those who are looking for something that will last.
As is the case with plenty of other memory foam pillows, you’ll find that there will be a slight odor to the pillow when it arrives, but it’ll go away after a few hours of being aired out.
Features and Design
- It provides therapeutic support so you wake up feeling refreshed, recharged and ready to take on the day.
- Its cooling memory foam facilitates airflow to keep you comfortable all night long.
- Its ergonomic shape and cradling memory foam promote proper spinal alignment and provide support throughout the night to help reduce pain and stiffness.
- It is made in the USA.
- Excellent for pain relief
- Great temperature control
- Pretty inexpensive
- Has a slight initial smell
InteVision Foam Wedge Pillow
For those of you who have issues with acid reflux, breathing difficulties, and poor circulation during the night, a wedge pillow might be the best choice, and the InteVision Foam Wedge Pillow is the best one you can buy.
The InteVision Foam Wedge Pillow has a two-layered design. It has a 1-inch of memory foam on top of the base foam, so it should be comfortable yet relatively firm.
The pillow also comes with a machine washable white cover, and for those who want a pillowcase that will properly fit the pillow shape.
It is relatively durable and good at holding its shape over long periods of time, even with constant use.
However, it’s not great with temperature management and it has an odor when you first buy it. Nevertheless, both are to be expected with memory foam pillows.
Features and Design
- This latest version is made of a 2-INCH memory foam layer on top of firm base foam, also adding built-in channels between the top memory foam layer and the base foam to enhance air circulation.
- Designed to help patients with acid reflux, snoring, allergies, or any other condition which breathing may be impaired in the supine position
- It can also be used when you are recommended by a health professional to sleep in an elevated position after surgery.
- The pillow helps reduce back pain which provides a healthy, more comfortable night’s sleep.
- Every product comes with the trademark InteVision on its packaging.
- Comfortable two-layer design
- Not the best with temperature management
A pillow can make all the difference between getting a good night’s sleep and waking up sore, tired and irritable.
It’s important to know that different sleep positions require different types of pillows to keep your head and neck in a neutral alignment with your spine.
One type of memory foam pillow, despite its many positive qualities, does not fit all. Memory foam is used to fill pillows in a variety of ways, including solid pieces molded into specific shapes or shredded memory foam pieces with a zipper to remove and add as much filling as you like.
Memory foam pillows, for any type of sleeper, are definitely a great option. It’s all about finding the one that is designed around your particular sleep needs.
Our advice would be to narrow down your preferences and search for a pillow that offers trial periods so you can decide for yourself what’s a good fit at little to no risk to you.
Co-founder of Counting Sheep and Sleepaholic