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15 ergonomic pillows that help with sleep and posture — and why you need one

What the various types have in common? They support your alignment and relieve pressure points, whether you're sleeping or sitting.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

For some of us, trying to get a good night's sleep can prove to be exceptionally difficult. Even people who take all of the proper precautions can still struggle to wake up feeling rested and refreshed, sometimes even experiencing severe bodily pain instead. At this point, you've probably even heard the term "ergonomic pillow" being thrown around. But what exactly is an ergonomic pillow, and how can one be beneficial to your well-being?

Let's start with the difference between an ergonomic pillow and a standard one. According to perinatal and pediatric chiropractor Dr. Ashley Elmer, “an ergonomic pillow supports the alignment of the spine and alleviates pressure points that can occur from being in one position for an extended period of time.”

Whether you sleep on your back, stomach or side, chances are you can find an ergonomic pillow meant for however you tend to sleep.

Kelly Murray, Founder and Owner, Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting

Elmer says the results of using one of these pillows can be pretty substantial: “Many people find they wake up with less stiffness and tension and feel more well-rested when using this type of pillow.”

But before you go out and buy one, it’s important to note that ergonomic pillows are not necessarily one size fits all. Sleep consultant Kelly Murray tells us, “Some types will be more helpful than others, depending on your typical sleeping position.”

Murray, who was named one of Tuck's Best Sleep Consultants in the U.S., adds that there's good news: “Whether you sleep on your back, stomach or side, chances are you can find an ergonomic pillow meant for however you tend to sleep.”

Due to the wide range of products available, we compiled our top picks based on a wide range of needs, including factors such as sleep style and price. Read on to see our experts’ and the Shop TODAY team's recommendations for the 15 best ergonomic pillows on the market. Use the links below jump to a specific category.

What to look for | How we chose | Best for neck pain | Best for side sleepers | Best budget | Best orthopedic | Best memory foam | Best wedge | Best for back sleepers | Best for pregnancy | Best for knees | Best cooling | Best adjustable | Best for stomach sleepers | Best for combination sleepers | Best hypoallergenic | Best for travel | FAQs | Meet our experts

What to look for in an ergonomic pillow

Sleep style

How you sleep will largely determine what kind of ergonomic pillow is best for you.

Side and back sleepers generally receive similar advice when pillow-shopping. Elmer recommends these types of sleepers to find something that fits into the “Goldilocks zone” — a term that refers to when a sleeping tool, such as a pillow, offers that sweet spot of supporting alignment while still aiding in pressure point reduction.

“A good starting place is to choose a medium-firm pillow that fits this description. Then, if you notice that the pillow isn’t supportive enough, you can increase the firmness,” Elmer elaborates.

Conversely, those who sleep on their stomach should be more concerned with loft (a pillow's height and thickness) than firmness, Elmer says. “For stomach sleepers, a thin pillow is best to keep the spine aligned. Large, firm pillows increase the angle between the neck and thoracic spine, which can lead to less alignment and comfort.”

Material

Elmer tells us that it's important to prioritize safe and healthy materials when shopping for an ergonomic pillow. Her recommendation? Choose a pillow that's made from organic, nontoxic, and natural or low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) when possible.

She also recommends looking at the label for certifications like Greenguard Gold and CertiPUR-US. “[These] generally mean that the product is free of harmful levels of toxic materials," she explains.

In addition to finding materials that are safe, Murray advocates looking into pillow materials that provide temperature-regulating features, especially if you’re a hot sleeper.

Shape

At first glance, some ergonomic pillows may seem unusually shaped compared to what you're used to.

One common shape you may have seen is a contour pillow. Elmer describes this type as having "two raised ends, with a dip in the middle to provide neck and head support for back and side sleepers.”

Another common style is a cradle pillow, which Elmer says is also designed for back and side sleepers: "It has lower center to support the head and neck for back sleeping, and higher sides on the outside for side sleeping.”

Ergonomic pillows may also take the form of the aptly named butterfly pillow; this type features arm cutouts so you can keep your arms by your head.

If you struggle with snoring, acid reflux or sinus issues, you may want to look into a wedge pillow, which keeps your upper body elevated. They are also a good choice for the late night reader.

Price

As always, it will be important to find a pillow that fits within your means, and as Murray notes, the costs of these pillows can vary dramatically. Fortunately, there's no shortage of great pillows available all along the price spectrum. We made sure to include options that are more affordably priced — a great night of sleep shouldn’t be cost-prohibitive.

Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

How we chose the best ergonomic pillows

In addition to gleaning expert insights from Elmer and Murray, the Shop TODAY team also spent hours researching the dozens of ergonomic pillow brands on the market, making sure to filter for a wide range of needs. From there, using our experts' buying guidance, we specifically looked into customer ratings and reviews, examining both the pros and cons of each product and considering who they would be ideal for.

The end result of our digging: A carefully curated selection of 15 ergonomic pillows that caters to various types of sleepers with highly particular needs.

Best ergonomic pillow for neck pain

TempurPedic TEMPUR-Cloud Pro Pillow

Material: Memory foam, knit cover | Filling: TEMPUR material | Firmness level: Extra soft, soft, medium | Shape: Rectangular | Care: Cold machine wash, air-dry

It should come as no surprise that a product from TempurPedic has made our list — the brand has established itself prominently as a maker of foam products designed for contouring support. (The TEMPUR material that makes up this pillow was originally designed by NASA to cushion astronauts during lift-off.)

The TEMPUR-Cloud Pro Pillow, in particular, is a great choice for people with neck pain, according to many reviewers. It’s available in low, medium and high-profile lofts to accommodate stomach, back and side sleepers alike. Additionally, the aforementioned TEMPUR material adapts to your own specific shape ("a one-of-a-kind, body-hugging feel," the brand boasts) while cradling your neck and shoulders.

The result? A pillow that reviewers say aids in alignment and leads to pain-free mornings. Plus, it comes with a five-year limited warranty.

Something to note: Standard-sized pillow cases may not match; quite pricey (but reviewers say if you find it on sale it's more than worth it)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Tempur-Pedic is offering bundle savings on the Cloud Pro and its other bestselling pillows through March; if you buy two Queen Cloud Pro pillows, you save $99.

Best ergonomic pillow for side sleepers

Cushion Lab Deep Sleep Pillow

Material: Nylon, spandex, polyester, memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Medium | Shape: Contoured | Care: Machine-washable cover, air or tumble-dry on low heat

While The Cushion Lab’s Deep Sleep Pillow is designed for all kinds of sleepers, we particularly love it for side sleepers. It’s made with CertiPUR-US certified high-density memory foam that creates the feeling of sleeping on a cloud, thanks to a zero-pressure top layer. The cradling support it offers for both your head and neck aid alignment. Additionally, a sweeping shoulder line lets you sleep closer to it to ensure even better cushioning support.

Two bonuses: The pillow comes with the Freshface Pillowcase, which the brand says helps you avoid skin creases, wrinkles and hair frizz; it also comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Something to note: May be too thin for tall or wide-shouldered people

RUNNER-UP, BEST FOR SIDE SLEEPERS: Associate editor Kamari Stewart prefers Kohl's The Big One Gel Memory Foam Side Sleeper Pillow, a slightly cheaper option for those who sleep on their side. She reports: "The curve provides the perfect groove for my shoulder, and the memory foam is just firm enough to keep my head aligned with the rest of my body through the night. I used to think I needed more than one pillow for sleep, but as it turns out, I just needed one really good one."

Best budget ergonomic pillow

Comfort Revolution Contour Memory Foam Bed Pillow

Material: Polyester, spandex | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Medium | Shape: Contour | Care: Machine-washable cover, tumble dry

Finding a great ergonomic pillow for you doesn’t need to break the bank. And at under $25, this pillow doesn’t skimp on quality. The medium-density foam makes it a viable option for stomach and back sleepers alike. It also offers excellent contouring thanks to a foam that adapts to the shape of your head, shoulders and neck. Plus, the mesh cover is breathable and washable.

Overall, it’s a hit among reviewers, boasting an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 stars on Target; customers appreciate the overall support for a great price.

Something to note: It may not have an adequate loft for side or stomach sleepers; has a strong smell

Best orthopedic pillow

Dosaze Contoured Orthopedic Pillow


Material: Bamboo, memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Medium | Shape: Contoured | Care: Spot clean the core, machine wash cover in cold water, line-dry only

Designed by an in-house ergonomist, Dosaze’s Contoured Orthopedic Pillow is a great choice for stomach, back and side sleepers alike. It features a head basin, an arched neck pressure-relief cushion, a sloped neck alignment ramp and a curved shoulder cushion.

The contouring shape helps you to maintain spinal and neck alignment, while the high-density memory foam does its job for alignment, comfort and support. All of these features combine for a pillow that provides exceptional support if you tend to move throughout the night.

Plus, a cover made of bamboo will help make sure your night of rest stays cool.

Something to note: Pricey; not cooling enough for some

Best memory foam ergonomic pillow

The Original Groove Pillow

Material: Bamboo, polyester, memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Medium-firm | Shape: Contoured | Care: Machine-washable cover

“Memory foam pillows are made to mold and contour around your head and neck. They provide stability and pressure relief, but do not always offer the best support for alignment," Elmer says.

This option from Groove is one of the few we found that is actually said to aid in alignment: It's designed to promote a neutral spine and combat the effects of slouching. Additionally, a thermogenic protective inner layer does its part to keep your foam intact and protecting it from dust so it lasts longer.

The pillow's memory foam filling is infused with bamboo charcoal, which is helpful for odor resistance. Dozens of reviewers report that they no longer wake up with neck pain as a result of this pillow.

Something to note: Some say it takes a few days to get used to it

Best ergonomic wedge pillow

Sleep Number Adjustable Wedge Pillow

Material: Cotton, polyester memory foam, polyurethane | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Medium-firm | Shape: Wedge | Care: Spot-clean foam, machine-wash cover in warm water

Sleep Number’s Wedge Pillow is an excellent choice for sleepers who need extra elevation to aid with things like snoring prevention. What we love about this particular model is its three inserts, so you can adjust the pillow to meet your specific needs. The process of adjusting is easy, thanks to the removable cover — which also happens to be hypoallergenic machine-washable.

Two of the inserts help with support, while one is designed for cushioning that conforms to your specific shape. The wedge is versatile: It can be used to prop your legs up, help you read before sleeping, and some reviewers even note that it has helped with their acid reflux.

Something to note: Some reviewers say they prefer it for reading or watching TV over sleeping

Best ergonomic pillow for back sleepers

Sutera Dream Deep Pillow

Material: Microfiber, memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Medium | Shape: Contour/butterfly wing | Care: Removable cover, machine-wash on cold, air-dry

While Sutera’s Dream Deep Pillow is a viable choice for all kinds of sleepers, we particularly like it for back sleepers. That's because it features a plushly cushioned “Ortho-Groove” for your head that's specifically designed to keep your head feeling secure without sacrificing comfort and support. Additionally, its high-density memory foam construction, which is CertiPUR-US Certified, provides extra contouring and "cloud-like" comfort, the brand says.

Back sleepers can benefit from a pillow that helps maintain alignment, and this does just that. But we really love that it's designed with two “butterfly-wing” cutouts on the sides for you to place your arms throughout the night — which also benefits side and stomach sleepers.

Something to note: Takes several days for body to adapt; some reviewers wish it were larger

Best ergonomic pillow for pregnancy

Babymoov B.Love U-Shape Pregnancy Pillow

Material: Cotton, microbeads | Filling: Microbeads | Firmness level: Firm | Shape: U-Shape | Care: Removable and machine-washable cover on cold cycle

Sleeping when pregnant can be a difficult undertaking.

Fortunately, there are also ergonomic pillows designed to help pregnant people sleep, "especially when it becomes more difficult to change positions at night," according to Elmer.

This pillow from Babymoov is designed specifically with those concerns in mind. Designed in a U-shape, it’s highly versatile and can be used as support for your back, legs and stomach. Plus, it's said to help eliminate pressure on certain parts of your body.

The B.Love is filled with micro-beads that are nontoxic to aid in air flow, all encased in a super-soft and stretchy organic cotton fabric — that fabric is also OEKO-Tex and GOTS-certified, so you know you’re enjoying a product that's as safe as it is comfortable.

Something to note: The pillow itself is hand wash-only

MOM FEEDBACK: "My pregnancy pillow was a game changer to stay comfortable while my belly got bigger and sleeping progressively got more and more uncomfortable. It also lasts beyond pregnancy; I've used it as a bed for my newborn, a breastfeeding pillow, a barrier during co-sleeping — and now my toddler likes to bounce and lay on it! not to mention, your partner will probably steal it from you as well." — Megan, first-time mother of an 18-month-old

Best ergonomic knee pillow

Luna CoolLuxe Orthopedic Knee Pillow

Material: Memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Soft | Shape: Contour/knee | Care: Removable cover, machine wash

An alternative way to alleviate pressure on your body is a knee pillow. We love this hourglass-shaped one from Luna because it’s ergonomically designed and also features CertiPUR-US certified memory foam. The adaptive foam hugs your shape, helping to distribute your weight evenly to alleviate pain in typical problem areas for side sleepers, like your hips, joints and sciatica nerve, the brand says.

In short, the pillow lets you sleep comfortably in the position you prefer while still maintaining spinal alignment; it's also a great alternative if you’re someone who doesn’t want an ergonomic pillow around their head. A plus: The temperature-regulating cover that can be unzipped to throw in the washing machine.

Something to note: Several reviewers say the cover pills and grabs lint easily

Best cooling ergonomic pillow

Zamat Butterfly Button Shaped Cervical Pillow

Material: Polyester, bamboo | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Firm | Shape: Butterfly | Care: Machine-washable cover

One drawback to some memory foam pillows is that the material doesn’t particularly promote breathability. But if you’re someone who sleeps hot but craves the support a high-quality memory foam offers, fret not.

Zamat’s Butterfly cervical pillow features a hollow design that cradles your head helping the cervical spine maintain its natural C-shape while supporting the shoulders, which the brand says helps maintain an open airway (and decrease snoring). This is version 2.0 of the original, which now includes a center cavity design that gentle stimulation and immersion of an infant's skull according to brand's website.

What makes this pillow both ergonomic and cooling is its hollow shape and its breathable, machine-washable pillow case that reviewers note do help keep them cool during the night. We also like that you can adjust the pillow between two heights.

Something to note: Takes a while to find the right height; some reviewers say it could be a bit firmer

Best adjustable ergonomic pillow

Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow

Material: Rayon, polyester | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Soft | Shape: Rectangular | Care: Machine-washable cover

No two sleepers are alike, and some people even switch up their sleep styles throughout the night. That’s why we like Coop Home Goods’ Eden Pillow it accounts for that variety.

The Eden Pillow comes with an extra half pound of its memory foam/microfiber blend filling, so you can adjust it to your own specific needs. That means that weather you want to alleviate snoring or need more support for your neck, you'll be able to take matters into your own hands.

Beyond that, the mesh tape gusset ensures that the fill stays distributed evenly so you don’t have any slumping. Plus, hot sleepers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that this option’s memory foam is gel-infused for added temperature regulation and breathability.

Something to note: Some reviewers found it tricky to find the right amount of filling for their needs

Best for ergonomic pillow for stomach sleepers

Elite Rest Ultra Slim Sleeper Memory Foam Pillow

Material: Cotton, memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Firm | Shape: Rectangular | Care: Machine-washable cover

Elmer tells us that stomach sleepers can benefit from lower-lofted pillows, such as this option from Elite Rest, to promote spinal alignment. The brand's Ultra Slim Sleeper memory foam pillow measures only 2.5 inches in thickness, making it ideal for maintaining a stomach sleeper’s optimal spine alignment.

It’s made from hypoallergenic memory foam (that's also odor-resistant and antimicrobial) that provides supportive contouring, while its lower profile helps keep your neck aligned. Numerous reviewers note that it offers them just the right amount of support to wake up without pain and that they stay comfortable throughout the night.

Plus, its pin-hole design is said to help with ventilation helpful if you run hot while sleeping.

Something to note: Some note the strong chemical smell out of the box that takes a while to dissipate

EDITOR'S NOTE: You can save a further 11% off on Amazon by using the on-page coupon on the product's page.

Best for ergonomic pillow for combination sleepers

Ikea Klubbsporre

Material: Polyester, memory foam | Filling: Memory foam | Firmness level: Firm | Shape: Rectangular | Care: Machine-washable cover

Ikea's Klubbsporre ergonomic pillow is one of the company’s bestsellers, boasting an overall average rating of 4.5 out of five stars on the company’s site. And for good reason: This ergonomic pillow features memory foam that aids in pressure relief by cradling the head, neck and shoulders. And the pillow offers two types of comfort: One side is the memory foam; the other has a cooling gel layer if you're craving that sensation. (The brand says the gel layer is made of the same foam material, but with a different density.)

The firmer and higher nature of the pillow make it a viable option for both back and side sleepers who need added support; it's also a great choice for anyone who moves throughout the night. Plus, the pillow features small perforations in its core to promote air circulation wick away any moisture.

Something to note: A standard pillow case may slip off during the night if you tend to move while sleeping

Best hypoallergenic ergonomic pillow

Bedsore Rescue Bolster Bed Cushion Pillow

Material: Antibacterial polyurethane breathable fabric | Filling: High-pile fusion fiber | Firmness level: Soft | Shape: Rectangular | Care: Clean with disinfecting wipes

Having a pillow that supports you is important, but for some of us, making sure that it’s made without any allergens can be just as vital.

Enter: this choice from Bedsore Rescue. The bolster pillow is made from so-called Chemflex medical fabric (aka "gurney fabric") that is hypoallergenic and skin-friendly, bacteria-resistant, and breathable. The high-pile "Fusion Fiber" filling is also unique; it's made of soft chopped material that doesn't stick or clump that means that when you're not using it, the pieces spread out so air can flow through via a side "breathing strip."

In terms of support, the ergonomic design features contouring to alleviate back and neck pain, while the 30 degrees of loft is specifically designed to make sure you maintain a healthy position throughout the night. Plus, it's super versatile: The brand says you can even use it for elevating your legs or feet, placing it between your knees when side-sleeping to support your hips, or even as a maternity or nursing pillow.

Reviewers also say that they use it to help loved ones with mobility issues or pressure wounds.

Something to note: It can't be machine-washed, only hand-cleaned with disinfecting wipes

Best ergonomic travel pillow

Cushion Lab Ergonomic Travel Neck Pillow

Material: Polyester, cotton, spandex | Filling: Extra-dense memory foam | Firmness level: Medium | Shape: Donut | Care: Machine-washable cover

A great ergonomic pillow can be a game changer for your well-being, but that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice optimum comfort and support when you're on the go.

This ergonomic travel pillow from Cushion Lab does a great job of alleviating all of the frustrations that come with trying to sleep in a car or on a flight, according to several reviews. And that's not surprising it was designed by frequent travelers and the brand's own ergonomist. It features an asymmetrical design and filled supportive and responsive high-density memory foam; the pillow secures beneath your chin to help you avoid the nuisances that come with head-nodding.

Furthermore, the wrap-around shape provides 360-degree neck protection, and adjusting it is simple; just rotate it. As far as convenience goes, the neck pillow is designed to be collapsible (to a size that's slightly larger than a travel mug, the brand says!), and it comes with a travel pouch with a carabiner for portability.

The brand recommends to choose the Medium if you are 5-foot-7 and below with an average build; choose Large if you are over 5-foot-8 and above, and/or prefer more support for sleeping.

Something to note: The medium size may still be too large for very slender people.

RUNNER-UP, BEST TRAVEL PILLOW: Stewart is a fan of Cabeau's Evolution S3 travel pillow, a slightly cheaper ergonomic travel option. This pick features a dual-density foam that, combined with an adjustable chin clasp, provides all-around support, whether your head leans to the side or forward. It also compresses down to half its size, and its travel case attaches easily to your luggage.

Questions about ergonomic pillows, answered by experts

Do ergonomic pillows really work?

Ergonomic pillows absolutely work, according to Murray: “Using an ergonomic pillow can help lengthen sleep and promote waking with minimal aches and pains or none at all!" she says.

Elmer agrees: "A great ergonomic pillow increases comfort, improves breathing and enhances sleep quality by optimizing the alignment of the spine. Many people find they wake up with less stiffness and tension and feel more well-rested when using this type of pillow," she explains.

She adds that these types of pillows can even help if you're under “unique circumstances, such as pregnancy [and] acid reflux.”

Is it better for my spine to sleep with or without a pillow?

According to Elmer, the answer is not so cut and dried.

Factors like "preferred sleeping position, sleep quality, prior injuries, age, comfort and overall health all come into play," she explains.

Elmer also notes that a pillow that's too large won’t be right for stomach sleepers, as it would lift the spine out of alignment. Instead, "sleeping with a low pillow or without a pillow would be preferable."

For the other two most common sleeping styles, Murray advises, "If you are a back or side sleeper, it is recommended you use a pillow to help with spine alignment and reduce bodily aches and pains."

What’s the difference between an orthopedic pillow and a memory foam pillow?

While both orthopedic and memory foam pillows are designed to keep you comfortable and well rested, there's a subtle difference, Elmer says: “Ergonomic pillows are intentionally designed with comfort and alignment in mind." Murray specifies that pillows labeled ergonomic are typically designed to support the head and spine.

Conversely, Elmer says that memory foam pillows are specifically designed to mold around the head and neck. Both experts point out that while memory foam does provide contouring, it generally doesn’t offer as much support as an ergonomic pillow.

Meet our experts

Dr. Ashley Elmer, DC, CACCP, CPD, is a perinatal and pediatric chiropractor, as well as a maternal wellness coach and post-partum doula. Elmer founded Connected & Inspired Media, an online resource platform for pregnancy, pediatric and post-partum providers and experts.

Kelly Murray is a Chicago-based sleep consultant who founded and owns Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting. She is trained in the Sleep Sense Method and is one of the 200 awardees of Tuck Sleep's Best Sleep Consultants in the U.S.