Can Your Pillow Cause Headaches and Neck Pain?

Your chronic headaches or neck kinks could be caused by your pillow. Here's why.

Can Your Pillow Cause Headaches and Neck Pain?

Headaches and neck pain are often closely linked to problems with a stiff neck as the irritated spinal nerves lead to headaches. Neck discomfort due to sleeping on the wrong pillow result in a neck injury that is referred to as cervicogenic headaches.

One can easily encounter sharp shooting pains towards the back of your skull or temple when your cervical nerves are affected. Some compare the severe shooting pain you would experience to the feeling of being stabbed! This kind of pain can move down your spine and cause weakness within the shoulder region.

Inferior quality mattress or pillow

When you find yourself waking up early in the morning with a bad headache or neck pain, it could very well be due to an inferior quality pillow.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School discovered that participants who slept on a good-quality mattress with a top-quality pillow were able to prevent a throbbing headache and stiff neck syndrome. They went on to say that the proper sleeping position had a lot to do with supporting one’s natural curve of your neck.

The best way to prevent back pain and headaches would be to:

  • Sleep on your back or side to provide much-needed support for the curve of your spine.
  • Opt for a memory foam pillow to support your head and spine better.
  • Avoid using a pillow that is either too stiff or too high up.

Were you aware of the fact that up to 50 percent of intense headaches occur in the wee hours of the morning, between 4 am to 9 am? Is it any wonder that as much as 80 percent of migraine sufferers get up from bed feeling tired? Before you begin to blame your headache for disrupting your sleep, it is worth thinking about how sleep habits can be causing them.

It makes sense that headaches are closely linked to our sleeping habits and that it goes hand in hand with regions of our brain that control these symptoms. People with sleep disorders are more inclined to suffer from headaches than those who enjoy a peaceful sleeping experience. So, there is hope as it was reported that women who were suffering from migraines were coaxed into improving their sleeping habits and became less intense as a result.


If you sleep too little due to an inferior quality pillow, it can trigger headaches. When you toss and turn because your pillow is just not comfortable enough, you are bound to stay awake at night and eventually suffer from insomnia.


Another complaint that is often filed by a partner has to do with snoring, which is a by-product of sleeping on a pillow where your head is more down than up as the pillow is too soft. Now is the time to do your due diligence by ensuring you purchase a firm pillow with sufficient neck support.

How choosing the wrong pillow may result in tension headaches

Believe it or not, tension headaches take place when your scalp and neck muscles experience strain when held in the same position, often by a pillow that is too soft or wrong for you. Opt for a pillow that keeps your neck and head in a neutral position. Also avoid sleeping in a room that is too cold as it would also lead to neck tension and could trigger headaches.

What are the signs that a pillow is not supportive?

Even the best-quality pillows are said to last for three to four years before they need changing. Inferior quality pillows will last a few months only.

Why is this the case?

It boils down to its internal supportive structure that tends to wear down over time. Whether the pillow you are using is made from latex, rubber, memory foam, or feathers, they will all disintegrate eventually.

If you are consistently having trouble sleeping, then you may have to change your pillow. Some of the issues you might be facing can include:

  • Waking up at night with a headache, stiff neck, or neck pain.
  • Experiencing interrupted or restless sleep and finding it hard to fall asleep again.

One sure sign that it is your pillow that is giving you sleepless nights is when you sleep elsewhere, such as at a hotel, and experience a peaceful sleep using another pillow.

Maybe it is time you visit some online stores and take a look at memory foam pillows to see which ones would be suited to your sleeping style.

Resources— Reach MD, National Sleep Foundation, Physio Works

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