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Jan 11, 2024

How to Use a Neck Pillow for Maximum Comfort

How to Use a Neck Pillow for Maximum Comfort

When it comes to comfort during travel or relaxation at home, a neck pillow can be an essential accessory. Understanding how to use a neck pillow effectively can make a significant difference in your comfort — whether you’re on a long flight, lounging at home or trying to get a good night’s sleep. This guide will provide you with practical tips and insights on how to maximize the benefits of a neck pillow in various settings. We’ll also explore the different positions it can be used in, ensuring you get the most out of this simple yet effective tool for comfort.

Experience Travel Comfort with a Neck Pillow

What Is a Neck Pillow?

A neck pillow, also known as a travel pillow, typically has a U-shape design to fit snugly around the neck. It is a specially designed pillow that provides support to the neck, particularly during travel or while sleeping in a sitting position, such as on planes or other vehicles. It can help maintain proper neck alignment, relieve neck pain and improve sleep quality. 

The pillow usually consists of a soft, padded material for comfort, often filled with foam, microbeads or memory foam. It may include a fabric cover, which is sometimes removable and washable. Additionally, some travel neck pillows come with adjustable straps or clasps to secure them around the neck and may feature additional padding or ergonomic contours for enhanced support and comfort. 

The use of neck pillows dates back to ancient times, but modern designs and materials have significantly improved their comfort and effectiveness.

the neck pillow features

The concept of using a pillow as a support for the head while sleeping can be traced back to 7000 BC in Mesopotamia, where stone pillows were used to elevate the heads of wealthier citizens to prevent insects from crawling into their ears, noses and mouths. The modern U-shaped neck pillow as we know it today found its origins in 1928, when Elizabeth Millson of Melrose, NY patented one for use in the bath. However, it looked considerably different from what we know today and would still go through more iterations before becoming the iconic travel accessory it is today.

Travel Neck Pillows vs. Cervical Neck Pillows

Cervical pillows are designed for use in bed and aim to maintain the natural curve of the cervical spine during sleep — thus their name. They come in various shapes, including contoured or wavy designs, and are meant to provide more substantial support than standard pillows. These pillows can help alleviate neck pain, stiffness and improve overall sleep quality. They are particularly beneficial for back sleepers, as they can help maintain proper alignment of the spine. Cervical pillows may also improve sleep by relieving and supporting tense muscles in the neck and increasing blood flow to the head. 

The primary difference between travel neck pillows and cervical pillows lies in their intended use and design. Travel pillows are for supporting the neck in an upright position, balancing ergonomic support with portability and convenience. Neck pillows, on the other hand, are designed for sleeping in a horizontal position, with a focus on maintaining proper cervical alignment and providing therapeutic benefits.

how to position a neck pillow

How to Position a Neck Pillow

Neck Pillow Position: Opening at the Front

Arrange the pillow around your neck with the opening facing forward. The thicker part of the pillow should be under the rear of your head to provide a cushion for leaning back. Adjust the position to ensure the back of your head is comfortably supported by the pillow, helping maintain a natural alignment of your head and spine.

  • Pros: This position supports the back of the head and neck, promoting a natural alignment, especially beneficial when leaning back in a seat. It helps to prevent the head from tilting uncomfortably forward, providing a stable resting position.
  • Cons: It may not offer adequate support for the chin, which could lead to neck strain over extended periods. Incorrect adjustment of the pillow can push the head forward, creating discomfort instead of providing relief.

Neck Pillow Position: Opening at the Back

Place the pillow around your neck with the opening positioned at the back of your neck. Adjust the ends of the pillow to provide a snug fit under your chin. This setup helps support your head from tilting forward. If there are snaps or additional fasteners, ensure the pillow is comfortably tight but not restrictive, allowing you to relax your neck muscles without feeling constricted.

  • Pros: Placing the opening at the back ensures even support around the entire neck, which can be particularly useful when sitting upright. It's effective in preventing the head from dropping forward, maintaining a comfortable posture during travel.
  • Cons: This arrangement provides less support at the back of the neck, which might not suit those who need more cushioning in that area. The support might be insufficient for those who tend to lean back, as it focuses more on preventing forward head movement.

Neck Pillow Position: Over the Shoulder

Drape the pillow over one shoulder, positioning the bulk of the pillow on the side you prefer to lean. The pillow should extend from your shoulder up to the side of your head, providing lateral support. Adjust the pillow so it cradles your head comfortably, preventing it from tilting too much to the side. This setup is ideal for side sleepers or those who prefer leaning to one side.

  • Pros: Draping the pillow over the shoulder gives excellent lateral support, which is ideal for those who prefer to lean to the side while resting. It also provides focused support to one side of the neck and head, catering to side sleepers or those with a preferred leaning side.
  • Cons: The unbalanced nature of this support can become uncomfortable over long durations, as it focuses on one side only. This position is less effective in preventing the head from falling forward or backward, potentially leading to a stiff neck.

sleeping original grey weighted blanket

Experience the Comfort of a Weighted Blanket

How to Properly Use a Neck Pillow

How to Use a Neck Pillow on a Plane

Using a neck pillow on a plane can significantly enhance your comfort, especially during long flights. First, choose the position that best suits your preference. Whether it's with the opening at the front, back or draped over one shoulder, the key is to ensure it provides the right support for your neck and head. Carefully adjust the pillow to align with your neck and head, offering a comfortable and snug fit. This is particularly important to prevent neck strain during the flight. When you're sitting upright and especially when dozing off, using the neck pillow can help maintain good posture, ensuring you wake up without the discomfort of a stiff neck.

How to Use a Neck Pillow at Home

A neck pillow can be a great addition to your relaxation routine at home. When sitting on a couch or chair, position the pillow around your neck to provide additional support. Adjust the pillow to fit comfortably, aligning with your sitting posture, whether you're leaning back or sitting upright. This ensures maximum comfort and neck support, especially during extended periods of sitting. A neck pillow is also useful while lounging or engaging in activities like reading or watching TV. It provides stability to your neck, preventing strain and enhancing your overall comfort during leisurely activities.

How to Use a Neck Pillow in Bed

Utilizing a neck pillow in bed may enhance your sleeping comfort and support your cervical spine. For back sleepers, position the pillow with the opening facing upward away from you. The goal is to use this U-shaped neck pillow to fill the space between your neck and the bed to keep your spine aligned. Adjust the pillow so that it doesn't push your head excessively forward or to the side, maintaining a natural neck posture. 

Travel neck pillows can also be versatile. They can be placed under the knees, between the legs or behind the back to provide additional support and alleviate pressure points. It's important to select a pillow that complements your sleeping position and provides the right level of support, especially if you have existing neck conditions. Even though these pillows are primarily designed for upright use, they can be helpful in bed, particularly if you experience cervical pain or discomfort upon waking.

Weighted Neck Pillow Benefits

Weighted Neck Pillow Benefits vs. Regular

A weighted neck pillow, such as the Gravity Weighted Neck Pillow, is a specialized type of travel pillow that incorporates additional weight, in the form of four pounds of weighted clay beads. This added weight provides a gentle pressure that can help to enhance relaxation and reduce stress. 

Compared to regular neck pillows, weighted neck pillows offer the additional benefit of deep pressure stimulation. Regular neck pillows primarily focus on providing support and maintaining alignment of the neck and spine, especially during travel or while resting in a seated position. Weighted neck pillows, on the other hand, support the neck and also use the weight to create a soothing, grounding sensation. This can be particularly beneficial for people who experience anxiety or need help relaxing in stressful environments like airplanes​​.

  • Hot/Cool Therapy: Distinguished by its four-pound clay bead filling, the Gravity weighted neck pillow offers the unique option to be heated or cooled, enhancing its therapeutic effects.
  • Pressure Relief: Weighted neck pillows gently press on the points where the head meets the neck, easing tension and enhancing neck support.
  • Alleviation of Neck Pain: These pillows distribute weight evenly, offer targeted compression and support the cervical spine, helping to lessen neck pain and potentially improving mobility.
  • Stress Reduction and Improved Sleep: The soothing pressure of weighted neck pillows can decrease stress-related tension, contributing to more restful sleep.
  • Sensory Stimulation: Beneficial as sensory tools, these pillows provide a comforting sensation that can calm nerves and improve focus, which may aid individuals with conditions like autism, ADHD or sensory integration disorder, when prescribed by a healthcare practitioner. 
  • Portability and Versatility: Designed for travel, some weighted neck pillows offer a sense of grounding, increased attention span and stress relief on the move.

Complementing Neck Pillow Comfort with Gravity Wellness Products

To enhance the overall wellness experience, Gravity offers a range of products that pair well with their neck pillows, especially for those seeking relaxation and stress relief. Here's how you can use these additional Gravity products to further elevate your comfort and well-being:

infrared sauna device on stomach

  • Infrared Heating Pad: Gravity's infrared heating pad is designed to deliver soothing warmth deep into your muscles. It's perfect for use after a long day or a strenuous workout. You can place it on areas like your back, shoulders or legs to help relieve muscle tension and improve circulation. The gentle heat complements the pressure relief provided by the neck pillow, creating a full-body relaxation experience, showing there are many infrared heating pad benefits. It’s portable and can be taken with you when you travel. 
  • Sauna Blankets: These blankets are an innovative way to enjoy the benefits of a sauna in the comfort of your home. Using far infrared technology, sauna blankets envelop your body in gentle warmth, helping to detoxify your system, relax muscles and promote a sense of calm. After using your neck pillow to ease any neck tension, wrap yourself in a sauna blanket to extend the relaxation to your entire body. It's an excellent way to unwind before bedtime or during a self-care day. And if you’re unsure about the technology, learn more about what infrared light therapy is.
  • Weighted Blanket: The Gravity weighted blanket is a well-known sleep and relaxation accessory, noted for its ability to provide a comforting, gentle pressure that mimics a hug. This sensation can be deeply calming, reducing anxiety and improving sleep quality. Pairing a weighted blanket with your neck pillow can create an enveloping sense of comfort, perfect for relaxing on the couch or preparing for a restful night's sleep. The weighted blanket can also help in grounding your body, reducing tossing and turning, and promoting a deeper state of relaxation. For a more portable version, check out our travel weighted blanket

Embracing Comfort with a Neck Pillow

As we wrap up, remember that the key is finding what works best for you. Whether you're traveling, relaxing at home or seeking a better night's sleep, a neck pillow can be a game-changer. It's about more than just having a pillow — it's about understanding how to use it effectively to support your neck and improve your overall comfort. Feel empowered to experiment with different positions and settings to discover your ideal comfort zone. With these insights and tips, you're now equipped to make the most out of your neck pillow, enhancing your comfort wherever you are.

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