Travel Neck Pillows for Safe and Healthy Sleep: A Detailed Buying Guide

Travel Neck Pillows for Safe and Healthy Sleep: A Detailed Buying Guide

If you have ever tried sleeping in a plane, bus, car, or any other mode of transportation, then you can attest to the multiple pains and aches that accompany it. In fact, it is remarkable how painful pressure points can get after sleeping in an upright position. Using high-quality neck pillows is important, an indispensable sleep accessory for frequent fliers and road trippers.

A travel pillow is a much smaller form of standard pillow which allows it to be stuffed and scrunched up. It is also lightweight and can be stored easily between destinations. Many travel neck pillows are made from high-quality lightweight foams and plush fabrics. They come in a number of innovative designs, including the popular U-shaped variety.

Many people rely on a neck pillow for airplane travel sleep and comfort. There are others who swear by neck support pillows while travelling in trains, buses, cars, and other forms of transportation. They are even popular among backpackers and campers because they are compact enough to fit in any kind of luggage. These pillows provide optimal support and cushioning to the neck, head, shoulders, and spine.

Who Can Benefit from a Neck Support Pillow?

Sleep and travel don’t always mix because seats in most modes of transportation, including airplanes, do not recline much. They come with minimal leg room and almost no cushioning for the neck and head area. The problem is exacerbated during long travels, such as an overseas flight spanning 8 hours. It is of little surprise that most international travelers look strained and achy since the travel sleeplessness is combined with jet lag.

There are many train lines and airlines that don’t offer basic comforts, like pillows, to make it easier for the passengers. Even when they do, the pillows are often hard, thin, and surprisingly firm. This does not allow the pillow to conform to the neck and head contours, much less provide any support.

Loft or thickness is what makes a pillow comfortable. Most airline pillows measure less than 3 inches, making them low-loft. These kinds of pillows are primarily suited for people with narrow shoulders and small heads. People with larger dimensions would be more uncomfortable with the pillow than without.

Neck support pillows or travel pillows are usually high-loft or medium-loft, with a thickness of more than 3 inches. They also adjust to your unnatural upright sleep position that often includes lolling heads and very little recline.

Typically, when in a reclined position, the neck cranes forward as soon as a person is asleep but not when there is a proper horizontal stretch. This can cause neck pain but can be avoided with the help of travel pillows. These pillows also reduce the risk of falling forward while sleeping.

Sleep position may not be a problem for campers, who can lie down flat on their backs when in their tents. Campers still require a decent measure of loft, however, since standard pillows are not available at campsites. High-loft travel pillows are recommended for campers, backpackers, and other adventure travelers who sleep on a pad or in a sleeping bag.

What Are the Features of Non-Inflatable Neck Pillows?

These 3 of the more common features.

1. Adjustment 

Non-inflatable models are unlike inflatable travel pillows in terms of loft adjustment, due to their solid construction. Sleepers should try testing the pillows before making a purchase to determine whether it meets their loft preferences or not. 

2. Memory Foam

Memory foam or visco-elastic polyfoam is used in most non-inflatable travel pillows. This material tends to become softer when in contact with body heat, then recovers as soon as it cools down.

Generally, firmer memory foam is used to create travel pillows and this helps provide continuous support to the neck, spine, head, and back. Softer foam is more pliable and tends to sink, which results in aches and pain.

Unlike inflatable pillows, non-inflatable pillows are made from firmer memory foam and come with washable covers that can be removed. Certain non-inflatable models are made from other materials, like fleece and polyester, and may not feature a removable cover. However, these materials are generally washable and the entire pillow can be put in the washer.

Travel neck pillows may also be filled with polyester puffballs and beads. These tend to be uncomfortable, though, and even the slightest tear can result in the material escaping and compromising the pillow’s overall loft.

3. Loft and Thickness 

Non-inflatable neck pillows have more loft than inflatable ones but cannot be adjusted. The drawback to these pillows is that they are bulkier and therefore difficult to fit into luggage because. Inflatable pillows can be easily reduced in size by deflating them.

While non-inflatable pillows can be scrunched, moulded, and adjusted to fit into limited baggage space, they may be unsuitable for travelers who prefer to travel light. For instance, backpackers or people making extended trips would not appreciate the loss of space. Non-inflatable pillows are perfect for people taking short trips and who have extra baggage space.

Tips for Purchasing the Right Travel Pillow

Here are 8 factors you need to keep in mind when comparing different models and brands as you purchase a travel pillow.

1. Cost:

Non-inflatable pillows tend to cost more than inflatable ones. The cost also depends upon the quality of the pillow and the comfort it provides. You should focus on the health and posture of your neck as this is far more important than the one-time price.

2. Loft:

If a pillow is shared by multiple users or used multiple times, loft can be achieved with inflatable pillows by adjusting them to the proper thickness. However, when inflated to capacity, inflatable pillows are only medium-loft. On the other hand, non-inflatable pillows can be medium-loft to high-loft, even if they cannot be adjusted.

3. Inflate:

Human oxygen is used in inflatable pillows. This can be done manually or by using the built-in valves and buttons. Many inflatable pillows work well with forced air as well. Choosing between an inflatable pillow that uses oxygen and one that uses air usually boils down to personal preference.

4. Pieces:

Certain non-inflatable models may feature a memory foam center and a separate, washable cover, while others may be one-piece designs made entirely out of washable material. These one-piece models would ideally be filled with puffballs or beads. The majority of travelers, long and short haul, tend to prefer memory foam over beads, simply for the comfort and feel. They also prefer having a separate, washable cover rather than using fleece or polyester.

5. Machine Washable:

You will find that a vast majority of neck pillows come with removable and washable covers that are machine washable. Some pillows can also be popped into the washer; however, you need to make sure your pillow or its removable cover is machine washable in order to maintain hygiene.

6. Space:

Non-inflatable pillows can take up more space than inflatable pillows that are deflated. You also need to make sure all pillows don’t come in contact with any sharp objects while inside the luggage.

7. Sleep Position:

U-shaped pillows are generally preferred by people who like sleeping on their back as they offer more comfort and added support. Side sleepers, though, are better off with a differently shaped pillow since they are not accustomed to leaning their heads back.

8. Warranty:

Some rare travel pillows might come with an included product warranty that lasts for a year or two. However, it’s critical to understand that most are not accompanied by a warranty, even though many of these pillows offer a money-back guarantee.

How to Get Sleep While Traveling

Sleeping is very different from dozing, and getting sleep while travelling can make the difference to your mood, attitude, behaviour, and health when you reach your destination. Of course, each mode of travel comes with its own set of challenges. For instance, airplanes are short on humidity, while trains and buses usually come with a lot of disruptive stops.

These tips will help you sleep better, regardless of the travel method you choose.

1. Comfort First:

Gone are the days of completely dressing up when undertaking even the longest travels. Now you can choose whatever you want to wear and it is recommended that you consider comfort first. Loose-fitting clothes improve blood circulation. You should also consider carrying hats, sweaters, or light-weight wraps to stay warm during temperature fluctuations.

2. Sleep Mask:

Light is a major deterrent to sleep, and every mode of transport – airplane, bus, train, or car - is flooded with light. Hence, carry a high-quality sleep mask that does not allow disturbing light to creep through.

3. Noise-Cancelling Devices:

Noise in airplane cabins can be very loud, sometimes reach 105 decibels - this is not good for sleep or for your ear-drums. Consider wearing noise-cancelling earplugs or headphones.

4. Hydration:

Hydration is important for all kinds of travelers, but particularly important for air travelers. Dehydration can be caused by the low-humidity in cabins. Limit your alcohol and drink lots of room-temperature or iced water. Fruit juices, carbonated drinks, and other sugar-heavy beverages may result in more dehydration. You could also carry an empty bottle and fill it before boarding the airplane.

5. Snacks:

High-sodium snacks are going to dehydrate you and cause trouble falling asleep. Instead, carry snacks such as cheese, milk, nuts, berries, cherries, and bananas. You could make your own trail mix and keep munching on that. These snacks contain essential chemical compounds, like calcium, magnesium, and tryptophan, which encourage your brain to doze off.

6. Posture:

Keep your spine aligned and try to relax all your other muscles. Don’t keep your legs crossed for long periods of time since that cuts off the blood flow to your feet and may result in a tingly sensation.

Choose the Right Travel Pillow to Keep Your Head Upright

Here are 3 of the most common travel pillows you can purchase

1. U-Shaped Pillow

If you want to keep your head upright and not have it loll forwards, then choose a U-shaped travel pillow. This will keep you comfortable and put you to sleep even through turbulence. The straight-forward, U-shaped pillow is an excellent choice if you tend to sit upright and can’t help but roll your head to the side.

2. Wedge Pillow

Wedge pillows are another great option as they provide neck support and do not completely encompass the neck or shoulders. These pillows look a lot like seatbelts. They cross over the chest, cheek, neck, and the hip area. They help provide overall body support and ensure you stay in your place.

3. Memory Foam Travel Neck Pillow 

These pillows are the firmest on the market and offer excellent support for the neck and head. They can be clipped and compressed for compact packing and are usually recommended by most experts as the best travel partner. They are pliable, able to mould to your neck’s shape. However, these pillows are also one of the most expensive on the market.

What Should You Consider Before Buying a Travel Pillow?

1. Neck Support

You need to ask yourself how you sleep while travelling. Do you lean backwards, forwards, or sideways while sleeping? Are you troubled by constant neck aches? Neck support is a vital consideration in choosing a neck pillow for travelling. Memory foam or inflatable pillows are usually recommended for neck support. You could also consider neck braces if you tend to lean forward while sleeping upright on your travels.

Make sure you consider the way you sleep and then choose a pillow that will provide the best neck support.

2. Pillow Fabric

Pillow fabric is almost always overlooked by travelers when considering a travel neck pillow, but this is a vital factor when it comes to comfort. Plastic inflatable pillows are known to be irritating to many people’s skin.

So, make sure you devote a decent amount of time to considering which fabric will keep you cool and comfortable, even when travelling through hot and humid areas.

3 Weight and Size

There are many models and types of travel pillows that differ in size and weight. It is important to choose a pillow which fits with your travel style. Lightweight and compact pillows are best if you prefer travelling light. You could also pick up inflatable pillows or those made from memory foam, as long as you can size them down.

Microbead pillows are bulky and should not be considered in instances when you don’t have enough space in your carry-on. Almost all travel pillows are made lightweight, but some are smaller and lighter than others.

4. Durable

You want to invest in a durable pillow, especially if you are a frequent traveler. Consider a cost-effective travel pillow that offers the most value for your money.

What Are the Health Benefits of Using Neck Pillows?

Neck pain is very common and only increases as you age. It may radiate down to your shoulders and arms, causing you to wake up with a stiff neck or morning headache. Neck pillows are vital for sleep since they help support your body, mainly 2 important parts:

1. Cervical Spine

Your cervical spine is made up of seven bones that work together to cushion the spongy cervical disks and to support tendons and muscles. Normally, the cervical spine has a gentle curve to it, known as the lordotic cervical curve.

Things like sleeping with your neck extended or bent can cause you to lose the natural neck position. This can result in spinal stress and cause pain in the neck area and supporting structure.

While research is limited in the area of neck pillows, emerging results have shown that neck pillows with firmer support and better shape can be more effective than standard pillows in reducing morning neck pain. In a recent study involving 128 participants with chronic neck pain, use of a neck support pillow, in combination with exercise treatment administered by a physical therapist, was seen to be more effective than exercise alone.

2. Supporting Natural Position

Your neck and head are supported in a natural position with a specially designed neck pillow, and this is very important when you are travelling. There are many travel pillows on the market that are aimed at reducing neck pain and aiding in sleep while travelling.

Travel neck pillows are designed so that you place your head in a natural resting position, maintaining the lordotic curve of the cervical spine. You can choose from inflatable, non-inflatable, water filled, fiberfill stuffed, or microfoam.

Almost all physical therapists, chiropractors, and medical doctors recommend using a neck pillow when travelling to avoid pains and aches. Personal preference also plays a major role in deciding the type of travel neck pillow you want.

Travel Neck Pillows Fit All Needs

People do not all have the same shape and tend to sleep differently. Hence, you need to find the right neck pillow that will allow you to sleep comfortably during travel. There are various models designed specifically for people sleeping on their back or side. This allows you to choose the most comfortable position when travelling.

You should consider purchasing the Xtreme Comforts Contour Neck Pillow, which comes with a removable cover, string ties, and offers cervical support. Check out some of the finest quality travel pillows from Xtreme Comforts at very attractive prices on Amazon today!