Kelsea Samson

Author: Medical reviewer:

March 22, 2023

Kelsea Samson

Written by

Kelsea Samson

Kelsea Samson is a writer, content manager, certified yoga instructor and founder of The Mindfulness Program for Kids and Yoga for the Blind in Tampa, Florida.

Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS

Medical review by

Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS

Board-certified Family Physician

Scott Nass, M.D., MPA, FAAFP, AAHIVS is a family physician and HIV specialist in California. He takes a holistic approach to healthcare, incorporating principles of functional medicine and using food as medicine when working with patients.

best pillow for headaches

March 22, 2023

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If chronic migraines and headaches are impacting your sleep, your pillow could be the culprit. Factors such as your mattress and sleeping posture can impact your ability to sleep soundly through the night, and research has found that sleeping with the wrong pillow can cause immense strain on the neck muscles1. This strain often contributes to headaches that can last well after waking up. Fortunately, the best pillows for headaches help prevent neck strain and headaches, so you can go into your day pain-free.

To learn more about how to relieve headaches while you sleep, we spoke with experts and dove deep into the pillow options on the market today. Below, find our picks for the best pillows for headaches, and discover how to choose the right one for your preferences and needs.

The best pillows for headaches:

What type of pillow is best for headaches?

When it comes to finding the best pillow to relieve your headaches, there are a few factors to consider. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Mally Shaw, M.S., L.Ac., says, “The goal of a good pillow is to have your cervical spine in alignment with the thoracic spine. This is generally accomplished either on your side or your back.”

This in mind, look for a pillow that allows for proper spine alignment and fills the “gap” between your neck, head, and back when lying down. This will keep your head in a neutral position, in line with your spine. According to experts and extensive research, the best pillows for headaches tend to be made from one of the below materials:

Memory foam: molds to your unique shape to provide comfort and support.

Latex: is buoyant and responsive, excelling at head and neck support.

Down: offers luxurious comfort and malleability for those who shift positions during the night.

Cotton: provides support, holds its shape, and is also good for neck pain.

What are the common causes of headaches?

While plenty of influences contribute to chronic headaches, Shaw emphasizes that the wrong pillow can certainly be a contributing factor. She says, “If your pillow is too high, it will flex the neck and not allow the neck muscles to relax. This results in stiff neck or neck pain, and this tension can trigger headaches.”

Research shows a link between quality sleep and headaches2. Studies also show that having poor posture can cause headaches by creating tension in your upper back, neck, and shoulders. This problem can often be remedied by sleeping on your back or side with a supportive pillow that promotes proper alignment.

Here are a few other factors that could be causing your headaches:

  • Processed foods and MSG
  • Caffeine, red wine, meats containing nitrates, chocolate, and aged cheeses
  • High blood pressure
  • Dehydration
  • Jaw clenching, which puts pressure on the sinus cavity
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise

How headaches impact your sleep.

Sleep can be a vicious cycle when it comes to causing and curing headaches. Research shows that people with migraines are up to eight times more likely to experience sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and teeth grinding. “Pain from headaches may disrupt sleep or cause difficulties falling asleep,” Shaw says. “Bad sleep or not enough restorative sleep will result in a lack of repair to the muscle tissue, which also results in headaches.”

Holistic chiropractor Sarah Sponaugle emphasizes that quality sleep is important to many, if not all, processes within our bodies. “Good-quality sleep of six to eight hours leads to better brain function and mood, faster healing and recovery [of headaches], and decreased pain,” she says. Deep sleep allows the brain to flush out waste, alleviate pain caused by inflammation, and heal headaches naturally. Plainly put, poor sleep can be the cause, but quality sleep can be the solution for headaches.

How to choose the best pillow for headaches.

Sponaugle says, “The right pillow is essential” to fend off headaches. Shaw agrees, recommending that you “choose a pillow that supports your head and your neck and keeps your spine straight no matter what sleeping position you are in.”

For side sleepers, Shaw suggests a taller pillow. “Draw your legs up toward your chest and place a pillow between your knees,” she says. “Make sure your pillow is not abnormally elevating your head. If you lay on your back, a cervical pillow placed under the neck will support the natural curvature of your cervical spine and allow your neck to relax.”

Stomach sleepers may want to consider finding a new sleeping position to rid themselves of headaches. According to chiropractors, sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for neck pain and headaches because it forces you to twist your head and neck to the side, putting extra pressure on the neck. Stomach sleeping can also misalign the shoulders and cause pain.

Shaw prefers eco-friendly pillows because they eliminate or reduce exposure to fire retardants and off-gassing from the materials in the pillow that can be toxic. She adds that these chemicals can trigger headaches, especially if a person is sensitive.

How we picked:

In order to relieve strain on the neck and ultimately headaches, a pillow needs to be thick enough to support the head and keep the spine neutral. Thickness was a key factor in determining which pillows to include.

We considered our experts’ recommendations for each sleep position to find options for every type of sleeper.

Those with headaches will need a pillow that stays supportive and holds its shape over time. We scoured customer reviews to find pillows that will hold up to years of nightly use and still look and feel good as new.

We prioritized brands that value certified nontoxic materials. We’ve called out those that use organic materials, carbon-negative manufacturing processes, or have specific certifications.

Our picks of the best pillows for headaches of 2023:

Best for migraines: TEMPUR-Neck Pillow


  • Ergonomic design takes pressure off neck
  • Three sizes to choose from
  • Designed to be effective for every sleep position


  • No returns
  • Takes a few days to break in

Materials: TEMPUR® material100% polyester knit hypoallergenic cover

Sizes available: SmallMediumLarge

This pillow has an extra-firm feel and maintains its shape to support your neck and shoulder muscles. Sponaugle personally uses this pick and recommends it to patients who suffer from migraines. “The brand’s proprietary material and pillow structure give optimal support for the cervical spine,” she says. “It also promotes natural spine alignment.” While this pillow is not a budget choice, you can save a bit when you buy a bundle of two.

This pillow has nearly 4,000 reviews on the company’s website, with many that mention migraines. One reviewer writes, “I had constant headaches that my doctor attributed to arthritis in my neck. I would toss and turn and be unable to sleep all night. I got this pillow and it contributed to better sleep and better migraine management. Thank you! I have more good days than bad now!” Some say this pillow took about four days to break in before noticing a reduction in their migraine pain.

Best memory foam: TEMPUR-Cloud


  • Soft material
  • Cooling option


  • No trial period
  • Made with memory foam

Materials: PolyesterTEMPUR material

Sizes available: Standard

The Tempur-Cloud pillow uses the brand’s signature TEMPUR material for a soft-yet-supportive feel that the brand says can help remedy headaches and migraines. Bonus: if you run hot in the night, this pillow is available in a cooling design, the Cloud Breeze Dual Cooling pillow, which has layers of cooling gel woven throughout the pillow.

The TEMPUR-Cloud pillow has over 6,000 reviews and a 4.5 out of five-star rating overall. Many reviewers gave stellar comments about how this pillow reduces and relieves their headaches. One raves, “Not to be dramatic, but these pillows have completely changed how I feel when I wake up in the morning. I no longer wake up with headaches” Another boasts, “I was waking up with a neck pain or a headache. This pillow changed my world. I love it and would recommend it in a heartbeat.”


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Best eco-friendly: Avocado Green Pillow


  • Made from certified vegan, natural & organic materials
  • Company is carbon negative
  • Multiple sizes available


  • Some find it too firm

Materials: Organic latexOrganic kapokOrganic jersey cotton

Sizes available: QueenKingStandard

Avocado gets major points in our book for making mattresses, pillows, and bedding from organic, vegan, eco-friendly materials that truly feel luxurious. For those looking to relieve headaches, the Green Pillow helps keep the spine in alignment. What’s more, it maintains its shape against many sleeping positions. The pillow comes voluminously stuffed for a medium-plush feel, but you can easily add or remove fill to meet your ideal volume and firmness. We love that Avocado goes the extra mile to support the environment with carbon-negative production and shipping, too.

With nearly 6,000 reviews on the company’s website, this pillow has a 4.5 out of five-star rating overall. Many shoppers find this pillow to be the golden ticket to relieving their headaches. One writes, “I tend to be prone to headaches, so am very picky about pillows. If they don’t provide the right support for me, a migraine can trigger. The ability to customize the level of material inside the pillow is genius.” Even side sleepers enjoy this pillow for its flexibility and support.

Best for neck pain and headaches: Coyuchi Turiya Organic Latex Pillow


  • Certified non-toxic and eco-friendly materials sourced from smallholder farmers
  • Mold & mildew resistant


  • Only one size
  • Slight latex odor

Materials: GOTS & GOLS-certified organic dunlop latex100% organic cotton

Sizes available: Standard (one size)

Coyuchi’s ergonomic pillow has two sides that are designed to promote spinal alignment and relieve pressure from the neck and head. What sets this pillow apart is its head-cradling design that reviewers compare to sleeping in the clouds. The luxurious organic cotton sateen material makes this pillow even more comfortable, and with non-toxic, natural materials, it’s one of the most eco-friendly choices on our list. It’s made from certified organic latex from rubber sap trees and a washable organic cotton cover that’s mold and mildew resistant. What’s more, the pillow arrives in a reusable, organic cloth bag to further minimize waste.

This pillow boasts super high marks with a 4.8 out of five-star rating on the brand’s website. One satisfied customer writes, “I have had chronic neck pain for years and I have tried at least 10 different pillows. This one was the perfect fit for me! It is the perfect softness/firmness. The cut out is perfect for my head/neck position. I have not had any neck pain or stiffness since I have had this pillow. Not waking up with a headache is worth every penny!” Some reviewers mention a latex smell, but they describe it as “very mild,” and say it dissipates with time.


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Best for tension headaches: Parachute Down


  • Multiple firmness options (soft, medium, and firm)
  • Natural materials
  • Two size options


  • Some find it too soft

Materials: DownFeatherCotton

Sizes available: KingStandard

A top choice in our roundups of the most comfortable pillows and best pillows for neck pain, this pillow makes the cut for its natural materials, cloud-like support, and luxury feel. While other light and fluffy down pillows don’t have enough support to alleviate tension headaches, this pick comes in multiple firmness levels to keep your spine in alignment while providing serious comfort. Parachute’s carbon-neutral shipping earns the brand bonus points by mitigating environmental impact upon production.

This pillow has over 1,2000 perfect five-star ratings, with customers obsessing over the quality for the price. One says, “These are the most comfortable pillows we’ve ever had. We chose the middle amount of filling. Very happy with them!” Another writes, “Worth every penny to get the real thing. Nothing beats true down pillows!” While many reviewers describe the pillow’s firmness as “just right,” a few find it too soft or too firm.

Best acupressure: Kanjo


  • Targets acupressure points to relieve headaches
  • Eco-friendly materials


  • Only suitable for back sleepers

Materials: Natural coconut fiber100% organic cotton linenBPA-Free plastic stimulators

Sizes available: One size

If you’ve heard of acupressure mats for headache relief, the Kanjo Acupressure Pillow may look familiar to you. It taps into ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine methodologies to target specific acupressure points that help relieve pain. The company says the pillow alleviates back and shoulder pain and boosts stress relief, circulation, and skin rejuvenation.

With an overall rating of four out of five stars on the company’s website, this pillow gets many rave reviews for migraine and headache relief. One buyer writes, “Very Helpful! Before or during a migraine attack or tension headache, I’ve been using the pillow for about 15 minutes and I feel relief. I wasn’t expecting the results to be this great!” Another adds, “This works great! I started to get a stress headache and used this pillow to avoid taking OTC meds and it worked!” As with most wedge pillows, this pillow can only be used while sleeping on your back.


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Best for side sleepers: Coop


  • Adjustable filling
  • Multiple sizes available


  • Made from synthetic materials

Materials: GREENGUARD & CertiPUR-US certified foam

Sizes available: QueenKing

With this design, you can essentially create your own pillow by adding and removing the foam filling to your desired thickness. Each pillow ships with an extra half pound of fill, so you can really fluff it up. It’s a great choice for those who sleep on their side or in a combination of sleeping positions, because you’ll be able to find your perfect level of support. Unfortunately, this pillow’s filling is synthetic—but it’s worth noting that the foam is certified by GREENGUARD and CertiPUR-US.

Coop stacks up against bigger name brands, with a 90 overall score on Consumer Reports. Additionally, there are over 15,000 reviews on the company’s website, giving this pillow an average of 4.7 out of five stars. One reviewer writes, “I’m a side sleeper and struggled to find a pillow that had just the right amount of support. The Coop Original Pillow is it! Ever since I started using it I haven’t woken up with any neck pain.” Another adds, “I have terrible back and neck pain. The relief of my pain was almost instant. I’ve tried 20 pillows and this is the best!”


How should I sleep to avoid headaches?

Can a flat pillow cause headaches?

Yes. Shaw explains that old pillows tend to lose their fluff and may not support the neck properly and can trigger muscle tension in the neck, especially at the base of the skull. This muscle tension can irritate, strain, or compress the nerves in the neck, leading to a headache.

Do neck pillows help with headaches?

Yes. Pillows that support the neck can relieve headaches. Sleeping on the wrong pillow will activate your neck muscles and potentially lead to headaches and migraines.

Are firm pillows good for migraines?

Shaw explains that firmness is a matter of preference. The most important consideration is proper spine alignment.

The takeaway.

Headaches can be disruptive to your sleep and your day-to-day activities. On the brightside, investing in the right pillow is a great way to relieve this pain and keep you rested and productive. And if chronic pain is keeping you awake, you might want to take a closer look at your mattress, too.