8 Best Pillow For Headaches In 2020: Migraine Pillow Buying Guide

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Anyone who has experienced one can tell you, migraines are awful. These splitting headaches are among one of the most painful things a human can experience and can completely ruin an otherwise good day.

Many are aware that regular quality sleep is one of the best ways to stave off migraines. However, a lot of pillows out there are really bad at providing the thickness, stability, and breathability that a good migraine pillow should have.

That’s where we come in. We have put together this list of the best pillows for headaches that will help you get the quality sleep you deserve. We understand that this boilerplate intro spiel might be causing you a migraine right now, so let’s jump straight into it!

In this article, we’re going to review the following Migraine Pillows:

  1. Editor’s Choice For Best Migraine PillowCoop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow
  2. Best Value Migraine PillowEPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow
  3. Best Bamboo Pillow For HeadachesXtreme Comforts Hypoallergenic Adjustable Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow
  4. 2-Pack Headache Pillow Sable 2 Pack Adjustable Down Pillow
  5. Best Water PillowMediflow Fiber Water Pillow
  6. Best Contour Pillow For HeadachesSleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow
  7. Best Orthopedic PillowArc4Life Cervical Neck Traction Pillow
  8. Best Budget Water PillowChiroflow Waterbase Pillow

Migraine Pillow Buying Guide

What Causes Migraines?

Migraines are severe, recurring, painful headaches that can last for hours or even days. According to the American Migraine Association, over 36 million Americans report experiencing frequent or infrequent migraines each year which is about 12% of the population. Many who experience migraines report sensing “auras”—abnormalities in vision, hearing, or coordination—shortly before the onset of an episode. 

Unfortunately, the underlying causes of migraines are still unknown. They are believed to be caused by abnormalities in the neurovascular system, though the exact mechanism is still a mystery. Some theorize that the pain from migraines is caused by abnormal contractions of the blood vessels in the brain, while others think central brain structures like the brainstem or the diencephalon are involved.

While the physiological causes of migraines are not known, doctors have identified several “triggers”—occurrences that increase the likelihood of a migraine.

Common migraine triggers include:

  • Stress, hunger, and fatigue
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Poor diet
  • Environmental quality
  • Light intensity

Migraines are believed to have a genetic component as well.

How Can a Pillow Help My Headache?

One of the major known migraine triggers is fatigue brought on by a lack of quality sleep. Having a comfy supportive pillow that allows you to get a full night’s rest is one way to decrease your chances of having a migraine.

Further, sustained pressure on the neck and back are two other common migraine triggers, so a supportive pillow can reduce pressure on these critical areas of the neck and spine. Overheating is another major migraine trigger so a good migraine pillow should keep you cool and dry during the night.

Lastly, a good migraine pillow helps keep your head level while sleeping, which can prevent the changes in blood pressure that are associated with migraines. Keeping your head level and flat also reduces external pressure on the vessels in your skull, which are believed to be implicated in migraines.

Types of Migraine Pillows

Technically, any pillow can be a migraine pillow if it has the right mix of shape, comfort, support, and breathability. However, those who suffer from migraines tend to find themselves gravitating to a few major types of pillows.

Contoured Neck Support PillowsBuckwheat PillowsMemory FoamGel Memory Foam
Contoured neck support pillows are usually made from memory foam and feature a shallow indent where the base of the head and neck rest against the pillow. Contoured pillows are made to support the neck and head and prevent head movement while sleeping. Because your neck and head are somewhat engulfed by the sides of the pillow, contoured pillows can get a bit hot if they are made out of a dense memory foam.
Buckwheat pillows are traditional Japanese pillows known as Sobokawa that are filled with pouches of buckwheat seeds. Buckwheat pillows tend to be flatter than other pillows and so better hold your head level between the shoulders. The individual buckwheat seeds flow like sand on the beach and shift to fit the shape of your head and neck. Buckwheat seeds are hypoallergenic, do not emit a chemical smell as some memory foams do, and the individual seeds breathe very well.
Memory foam is usually the default option for those who have generic sleep problems. Memory foam is made to conform to the pressure of the neck and head and spring back to the original shape when the pressure is released. Memory foam is an excellent therapeutic material as it evenly distributes body weight and does not create pressure points due to the contouring action. However, in the case of migraines, some memory foam pillows can do more harm than good. Thick and heavy memory foam pillow may actually make your migraine worse by keeping your head angled upwards and failing to properly cool you off. If you want a memory foam pillow for migraines, your best bet is to get something that is slim and light.
Part gel, foam, gel memory foam pillows combine the best of both of these highly versatile materials. Gel memory foam molds to the shape of the head like memory foam but stays cool like a gel. Gel memory foam pillows are best for those sensitive to heat and who like the feel of memory foam, but not its density. Some people report being sensitive to the factory odor some gel pillows have, but many gel pillows are infused with natural anti-odor agents such as green tea, charcoal, and lavender.

What to Look for in a Migraine Pillow

Thickness

Contrary to what some may think, a thicker pillow does not necessarily mean a good migraine pillow. While you certainly want a migraine pillow to have some cushion, the most important thing is that it is slim enough to keep your head flat and level between your shoulders. This is where memory foam can do either very well or very poorly. Traditional cotton and polyester pillow have a bad tendency to get lumpy over time which makes your head lie unevenly.

Breathability

A good migraine pillow has to keep your head cool. Materials like gel memory foam are particularly good at dispersing heat, but even they can get hot if laid on for a long time. In general, the less thick the pillow, the better it will breathe.

Hypoallergenic

Allergies can be another migraine trigger. Most types of memory foam are hypoallergenic as are most buckwheat pillows. However, some memory foams have a lingering factory smell that takes a few days to disperse. Those with particularly sensitive noses may find those scents off-putting.

Stability

Stability is another feature of good migraine pillows. Those who suffer from migraines tend to find their symptoms lessened when their head is kept still. This is one reason why contoured pillows are a go-to option for those who have migraines. The indented shape cradle the neck and base of the head, preventing head movement while sleeping.

Our Top Picks

1. Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow – Editor’s Choice For Best Migraine Pillow

Coming in at 5th is this premium adjustable loft pillow from Coop Home Goods. This pillow is filled with a medium-firm mix of memory foam and microfiber that provides an equitable balance between support and comfort. A zipper on the side gives full access to the filling so you can remove and add to achieve your desired firmness.

The pillowcase is made from bamboo-derived viscose rayon and polyester, two materials that are known for being smooth and durable. The cover is 100% hypoallergenic and dust-resistant, so those with allergies can sleep easy. The Premium adjustable loft pillow is made in the USA and all used materials are CertiPUR-US and GREENGUARD certified to be environmentally safe and non-toxic.

Best of all, the manufacturer offers a 100-night money-back guarantee and an amazing 5-year warranty policy. It is a bit on the pricier side as far as pillows go, but the amazing quality is worth the extra change.

Pros

  • Microfiber/memory foam interior
  • Bamboo fiber and polyester case is smooth and cool
  • 100-night money-back guarantee
  • Amazing 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Bamboo fiber does not handle in the wash very well. Hand washing is recommended
  • Memory foam may have a funky factory smell for a few days after purchasing

2. EPABO Contour Memory Foam Pillow – Best Value Migraine Pillow

Starting off our list is this contour memory foam pillow from EPABO. Made from a plush breathable memory foam, the EPABO has a small 2” shallow indent near the base that lets the neck and lower spine rest in its natural shape. The orthotic design is very effective at relieving pain from muscle and neck injuries as well as reducing pressures that trigger migraines. Odds are your body won’t be used to sleeping in a contour pillow, so it will take a few days to get used to.

The EPABO is covered with a hypoallergenic rayon/polyester cover that is dust-resistant and has a texture similar to silk. All used materials are free of harmful chemicals and the case is 100% machine washable. The EPABO contour memory foam pillow also comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can return it for full price if you are not completely satisfied.

Pros

  • Contoured shape hold the heady steady and level
  • Hypoallergenic polyester cover is machine washable
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Takes a few days for you to get used to the contour shape
  • Memory foam can flatten over time

3. Xtreme Comforts Hypoallergenic Adjustable Bamboo Memory Foam Pillow – Best Bamboo Pillow for Headaches

Next up is this adjustable memory foam pillow from Xtreme Comforts. Featuring an ultra-plush shredded memory foam filling, this pillow also comes with a polyester/bamboo fiber cove that provides excellent air circulation and breathability. The Xtreme Comforts Bamboo Memory Foam pillow is good for back, stomach, and side sleepers and you can adjust the spacing of the memory foam to achieve your desired thickness.

The bamboo cover features Xtreme Comforts micro-vented Kool-flow technology that disperses heat more effectively than traditional polyester fibers. In general, bamboo fiber does not go through the wash very well, so the cover should be hand washed.

Best of all, the Xtreme Comforts is 100% hypoallergenic, dust-resistant, and is made from materials that are CertiPUR-US certified to meet content, emissions, and durability standards.

Pros

  • Bamboo/polyester blend cover
  • Adjustable memory foam filling
  • Kool-Flow tech and micro-venting keeps things cool

Cons

  • The cover is technically machine washable but bamboo tends to not hold up well in the wash
  • Removing/adding memory foam filling is messy

4. Sable 2 Pack Adjustable Down Pillow – Best 2-Pack Headache Pillow

The first thing to notice is that this is a 2-for1 deal. This 2 pack from Sable features 2 ultra-soft pillows filled with a luxurious down-alternative that can be adjusted to your desired sleeping position. One pillow has a 100% cotton case and the other a polyester case. A zipper along the side gives access to the interior, letting you add or remove filling.

Cotton is a pretty light material so the 100% cotton casing and lining are breathable and will keep you cool at night. Unfortunately, cotton does retain water pretty readily, so it takes a while to dry out if it gets wet. Both Sable pillows are 100% machine washable and you don’t even have to remove the case to wash the whole pillow; just toss the entire thing in.

The Sable 2-pack is registered with the FDA as a class 1 medical device and has been shown to have orthopedic benefits. The adjustable filling makes it an excellent pillow for side, back, and stomach sleepers.

Pros

  • 2-for-1 deal
  • You do not need to remove the cover to wash it
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • Cotton breathes fairly well but holds water
  • Down-alternative filling can flatten and lose springiness over time

5. Mediflow Fiber Water Pillow – Best Water Pillow

Up 4th is something a bit different; a water pillow. That’s right, the Mediflow Fiber gets the majority of its support and cushion by using water. Each Mediflow pillow has a small interior pouch filled with water that is covered by a resilient Dacron Hollofil fiber, wrapped up with a 100% hypoallergenic cotton shell. You adjust the firmness and support of the pillow by adding or removing water from the center pouch.

The Mediflow fiber has actually been clinically proven in an independent Johns Hopkin clinical study to reduce neck pain and promote better quality sleep. The 200-thread count exterior is soft to the touch and can be removed for machine washing. The adjustable firmness means it can be used as a side, stomach, or back pillow.

Despite what you might assume, the Mediflow fiber is actually pretty affordable all things considered. Even better, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and generous 3-year warranty policy. All used products are CertiPUR-US certified for emissions, content, and durability. Water is often said to be the key to life; it turns out it’s the key to sleep too.

Pros

  • You can adjust the thickness by adding or removing water
  • Clinically proven to help neck pain and promote better sleep
  • Generous 3-year warranty

Cons

  • Although not common, the water pouch can puncture if handled too roughly
  • Can get somewhat heavy (~4lbs) when filled with a lot of water

6. Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow – Best Contour Pillow for Headaches

Another contour pillow, this memory foam pillow from Sleep Innovation features a horizontally oriented contour that is meant to sit under the neck and cradle the back of the head. The unique shape and high impact memory foam provide therapeutic support for neck and back problems. The back raised portion is slightly higher than the front, so you can flip the pillow around if you need a bit thicker neck support.

This contour memory foam pillow comes in 3 different sizes, queen, standard, and a smaller travel size. The case is made from a cotton/polyester mix that is removable for machine washing.

All of Sleep Innovation’s products are manufactured right here in the USA and all materials are sourced for quality and durability. Even better, the Slee Innovation comes with an extremely generous 5-year warranty.

Pros

  • 2-sided contour can be switched around to adjust support
  • 3 different sizes
  • 5-year warranty

Cons

  • Memory foam has a bad tendency to retain moisture
  • Tends to flatten over time

7. Arc4Life Cervical Neck Traction Pillow – Best Orthopedic Pillow

The Arc4Life cervical neck traction pillow is a contour pillow, although a rather impressive specimen at that. Instead of a shallow trench near the base or across the center, it has a central shallow divot that fits the back of your head. The Arv4Life is filled with synthetic polyester fiber and comes in 3 sizes, small, medium, and large.

The pillow itself has 2 key components: the neck roll side which supports the neck and the V side that gently stretches your neck, called “traction”. The gentle pulling action loosens neck muscles and aligns the cervical vertebrae. The Arc4Life is best for those who have neck tension and associated migraines.

This cervical headache pillow is a bit more expensive than a lot of other pillows, but that is to be expected given the sophistication of the design. If you have serious neck problems though, this pillow can be a godsend.

Pros

  • 2-component design supports the head and gently extends the neck
  • 3 different sizes
  • Durable synthetic polyester filling

Cons

  • Not very good for side or stomach sleeping
  • A bit pricier

8. Chiroflow Waterbase Pillow – Best Budget Water Pillow

Closing out our list is another water pillow, this one from Chiroflow. The Chirflow features a polyester blend covering surrounding a sealed water pouch. You can adjust the thickness and support by adding or removing water. The Chiroflow has been clinically proven to reduce neck pain and improve overall sleep quality.

The outer case is 100% hypoallergenic and machine washable. The water does a great job keeping your head cool and dry and it can be used as a back, side, or stomach pillow. The pillow can get a bit heavy when full of water.

Pros

  • Waterbase tech lets you adjust thickness by adding or removing water
  • 100% hypoallergenic cover
  • Cover is good for skin irritation

Cons

  • Heavy when filled with water
  • Warranty is apparently difficult to redeem

Final Thoughts

So which pillow for headache is the best? The winner of our roundup is the Coop Home Goods Premium Adjustable Loft Pillow in virtue of its microfiber/memory foam mix, bamboo fabric cover, and amazing 5-year warranty. This adjustable Loft pillow does an excellent job of keeping your head level and stable and the bamboo covering keeps your head cool and dry.

There is no silver bullet cure for migraines; the only real option is to engineer your environment to avoid migraine triggers. With a good headache pillow, you can get the quality sleep you need to about migraines down the road.

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