How To Use A U-Shaped Neck Pillow

By Max. D Gray. Updated: October 9, 2017
How To Use A U-Shaped Neck Pillow

Getting a good night's sleep can be difficult at the best of times, but travelling can make it almost impossible. Whether planes, trains or automobiles, trying to find comfort in cramped positions while your vehicle moves is tricky. You might find yourself stuck against a hard arm rest or worry that you'll lean too far to the left, drooling into your neighbor's in-flight meal. This is where U-shaped pillows come in. They are designed to support the back and stop your neck from rolling around, all to provide a good night's sleep. But they are not only useful for travelling. Reading oneHOWTO's guide on how use a U-shaped neck pillow will show you how to get the most out of these comfortable little comforters.

You may also be interested in: What to look for when choosing a new pillow

What is a U-shaped neck pillow?

As you can see from our picture above, a U-shaped neck pillow is pretty self explanatory. It is a pillow used to support the neck which is in the shape of a letter U. You can buy other types of neck pillow. These range from the more classic rectangular pillow shape to specially indented pillows to support the back of the head during sleep.

The reason why U-shaped neck pillows allow for such great rest is that they support your neck. If you have neck trauma, a doctor will most likely give you a neck brace (again there are varying styles and uses). The U-shaped neck pillow works in a similar way, except that you use it when you sleep and it is not a medical aid. Please seek a doctor's opinion if you are suffering from undiagnosed neck pain.

It can help you with muscle cramps, strains or tension in the neck. The reason why it is so popular during travel is that it is a great way to support your neck during rest while you are travelling in an upright position. Bus, car and plane seats all are notoriously difficult to sleep in.

How to use a U-shaped neck pillow - travelling

When travelling, it is not always possible to find a comfortable place to position for sleep. Even if you purchase a specific seat, it is not always easy to find a good sleeping position. If you have a bad neck, even the most expensive seat can be difficult to rest in. According to the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, this is because the "best sleep position is one in which the normal cervical curve is maintained"[1].

A U-shaped neck pillow supports this natural curvature of the spine (neck and back) by creating the position for you. It wraps around your neck and holds it in position so that your head doesn't move around when trying to sleep. With other types of pillow all you can do is wedge it between your neck and the seat, which is much less effective.

Take the pillow and hook it around your neck. The first way is to have the "bend" of the U (as opposed to the opening) at the back of your neck. If you don't change position much while sleeping, you should be able to rest your head against the headrest of the seat and the pillow will support your neck.

If you are tall, it is possible your head will fall forward a lot while sleeping. In these cases, turn the U-shaped pillow around so that the bend is at the front and the opening is at the back. This supports your chin when your head moves forward and prevents the horrible jumps you give yourself when nodding off to sleep.

Not all U-shaped neck pillows have a cord on the front, but they are very helpful. The cord has a toggle which can be used to secure the U-shaped neck pillow into position around your neck. This makes it more of an O-shaped neck pillow and gives your neck all round support. If you don't have a cord on the front, it should be easy enough to make sew one on yourself. Alternatively you can attach a clasp like you have for jackets.

Remember that it isn't just how you use the U-shaped neck pillow which helps when sleeping while travelling. How you sit is also important. If you slide your buttocks forward in the seat and use the neck pillow to support you as you lean back, it can make all the difference.

How to use a U-shaped neck pillow - in bed

U-shaped neck pillows are great for travelling as they help you to support your neck and backbone while seated. However, if you experience neck pain or even back pain, then a U-shaped pillow can help here as well. This is because it is possible that, according to Harvard Medical Shcool, "sleep disturbances disrupt the muscle relaxation and healing that normally occur during sleep"[2].

When sleeping in a bed, we use pillows to support our head. Not because it is our head which needs the support, but because it keeps our spine in alignment. This is why highly stacked pillows can be just as bad as no pillows due to the disruption of this curve. According to Dr. Dennis Ogiela from the University of Rochester Medical Center, a "pillow that's too high can put your neck into a position that causes muscle strain on your neck, back and shoulders"[3].

A U-shaped pillow will keep your head supported, keep your spine aligned and help prevent neck and back pain. This is because, like on a plane seat, it keeps your neck in a support position. To make sure that you're using your neck pillow properly, lie down and look sideways from this horizontal position. Your head and neck should be aligned and be in the same position as if you were standing.

How To Use A U-Shaped Neck Pillow - How to use a U-shaped neck pillow - in bed

U-shaped neck pillow material

You can find a huge variety of pillows on the market nowadays. They can be made of latex, down, synthetic material (the most common material) or the famous viscoelastic. We suggest you try different pillows out before selecting the right one for you.

Viscoelastic pillows are ideal if you have a sensitive neck as their shape adapts to perfectly fit every type of neck and head. In addition to the normal pillows explained above, there are neck pillows that are shaped especially for supporting the neck area.

In this OneHowTo article we help you to find out how to choose a good pillow.

Finally, remember that although there's no such thing as a miracle pillow, a neck pillow will help reduce your muscle cramps and tension in the neck, ensuring greater head and neck support that will give you a better night's sleep.

If you find yourself with difficult sleeping, use us to find the best positions for sleeping and answer what are the consequences of little sleep?

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How To Use A U-Shaped Neck Pillow, we recommend you visit our Diseases & secondary effects category.


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Where can I purchase this u-shaped pillow?
OneHowTo Editor
You can find them in many mattress shops or online
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