Pillows and Migraines

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If you’ve ever suffered from a migraine or even know someone who has, you will come to realise how exasperating or devastating that experience can be. 

People who suffer from migraines usually track and work out what their triggers are. The list is endless but just to name a few, they can include skipped meals, stress, strong smells, lack of sleep, weather changes and even back and neck pain. Having the right pillow can already have an effect on 3 of the mentioned triggers (smells, sleep and back/neck pain). 

Based on research, it was determined that when the nerves in the upper neck are irritated, this can result in pain in the head, face, temples, forehead and even behind the eyes. A migraine attack can arise if these nerves are pressurised or irritated, which could be due to poor sleeping posture or sleeping on a pillow unsuitable for yourself. Furthermore, migraineur or not, sleep is crucial as it plays a vital role in one’s well-being and can affect your mental and physical health, quality of life and safety. 

Based on Forbes, a pillow aids in providing you with a healthy sleeping posture. The posture should be where the body is “in alignment from the knees and hips, through the spine to the chest and shoulders, head and neck”. Watch a short clip down below to get a greater understanding of how to choose the right pillow!


However, we must also acknowledge and recognise that pillows are a very personal thing, and that although there are pillows out there which are specifically for migraineurs, a pillow which works for another migraineur or even a family member may not necessarily work for you. The different environment, weight of a person and even sleeping styles and habit could affect what a person looks for in a pillow. 

With that kept in mind, we decided to list some of the more popular pillows chosen by and for migraineurs today, to give our readers a wider range of options and choices when picking your pillow. 

Contoured Neck Support Pillows:

People who look for pillows for migraines usually naturally gravitate towards contoured neck support pillows. Majority of these pillow would be constructed from memory foam and an affordable example would be the Sleep Innovations Memory Foam Pillow. If you dislike the feeling of memory foam engulfing your head while you sleep, another viable option would be the Sunz Neck Support Pillow.



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Buckwheat Pillows:

Buckwheat pillows have increasingly become the 'go-to' pillow for migraineurs. This could be attributed to the smell, temperature, breathability, support and affordability. Unlike other pillows, buckwheat pillows do not emit a chemical smell. Due to the hulls of the pillow, breathability is high as it allows for air circulation.

Furthermore, buckwheat pillows are the most versatile in terms of temperature control. On hot nights, the pillow can be placed in the freezer. Freezing the hulls will allow the pillow to remain cool for a few hours. If you instead desire a warm pillow, all you have to do is to microwave the hulls.

In terms of support, the hulls in the pillow will naturally shift when you lay your neck on the pillow, giving you the ideal position for a good night's rest. In terms of affordability, buckwheat pillows are widely sold globally at a cheaper price than higher end foam pillows, and its durability makes your money spent worthwhile in the long run.

You can find some of the more popular brands of buckwheat pillows online and if you would like to read up on reviews of what people who suffer from migraines have said about buckwheat pillows, you can do so here!

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Memory Foam Pillows:

Memory foam pillows as mentioned above are usually the most sought after or recommended pillows. This could be attributed to the abundance in variety and also affordability of such pillows. Memory Foam Pillows are made such that it conforms to the shape of the neck and when pressure is released, it slowly conforms and springs back to its original shape. This provides the user with support and a more comfortable sleeping position at night.

However, one flaw that majority of these pillows have is that they tend to emit a 'manufactured-chemical' smell at first.  Especially with possible heightened sensitivity to smell for migraineurs, the smell could be a total put off and for some. Over time, the smell does naturally fade away but many migraineurs have found that they needed to leave the pillow out for a period of time before using it to get rid of the smell.

Based on online reviews, Z by Malouf Latex Zoned Pillow seems to be one of the more popular options when choosing memory foam pillows.

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"Cooling" Pillows:

Because of the pulsing hot headaches that many migraineurs undergo, “cooling” pillows have become a great option to have. Temperature therapy is a common measure for many when they are hit with a migraine attack. Cold therapy has also has been cited as the most common self-administered pain-relief measure and it even appears in most sources of migraine advice, which include cold compresses and ice packs among their many recommendations to help ease migraine symptoms.

Dr. Christiane Northrup has also mentioned that “cooling the blood traveling to the brain through your neck and warming your hands helps prevent the powerful vasoconstriction and rebound vasodilation that results in headache pain.” This has the potential to abort the attack, but must be done immediately on realisation of a possible migraine attack.

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Although they don't retain heat like most traditional and foam pillows do, "cooling" pillows do not necessarily remain cool all night during your sleep. Generally, it just means that it is a cooler option as compared to the mentioned pillows which hold heat.

Some of the more popular options could be found online. Some people swear by using the 'Chillow' which essentially is a “cooling pad” you can use on its own, or with a pillow placed underneath. Although this is a popular and cheap option, you actually have to fill the pad with water and there is a possibility of leakage. The hassle of refiling and water leakage incidents have however damaged its reputation despite its practicality. To avoid any hassle and leakage incidents, the Bluewave Gel Infused Pillow or Temperature Regulating Cooling Talalay Latex Pillow could be other viable options.

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There are countless options available in the market today for pillows which could help provide you the optimal condition for a good night's rest, or even aid in lessening the pain of migraines.  It may seem like such a trivial part of your life but we should not belittle this aspect. Since almost a third of our day is spent on our beds, our advice to you would be to do your research before choosing your pillow! It is such a crucial element of our sleep environment, and having the right one under your head after a long stressful day can make for many restful and comfortable nights.

Healint Singapore