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This is something I wrote for The Travel Doc:
While traveling cross-country a few times last year, I experienced something I suspect that a lot of travelers out there can relate to. All of the travel pillows I tried were more uncomfortable than not wearing one at all.
I tried numerous travel pillows, and more often than not, I would arrive tired and with a sore neck that would last for hours or even days. My head and neck just weren’t being supported properly.
A little research helped me identify the problem.
All day long, your postural muscles in your neck are in contraction, to support your head. When you try to relax, your postural muscles want to relax with you. This is fine when you are lying down, because your bed supports you. However, when you are sitting up, like in an airline chair, your head is left unsupported.
The travel pillows that I tried were poorly designed for this purpose. There was no support under my chin. To make matters worse, the excess padding in the back, pushed my head forward even further.
Remember this equation:
Posture = Comfort.
When you are lying in bed, gravity helps keep your body in alignment. The trick is to keep that same posture sitting up as you have when you are lying down.
When you are sitting up and trying to relax, gravity is the enemy. Without full support gravity will take over and as your neck muscles try to relax, your head will drop forward or you will cock it to one side. You have lost your posture.
Now you are out of alignment and the weight of your head is placing stress on your neck. In addition to being uncomfortable and unable to relax, you will likely be sore and get very little rest. Remember, the average adult human head weighs 15-20 pounds. Pick up a 20 pound weight the next time you’re in a gym and think about that tugging on your spine as the plane bumps and jars.
The best travel pillow is one that is comfortable, lightweight, and gives you full support, including under the chin.
Recently, several major airlines announced they will no longer provide pillows on their flights. Good riddance. In addition to the question about sanitation and hygiene, those little white pillows were basically worthless.
Use this opportunity to get yourself a top quality memory foam travel pillow with full support. You will arrive healthier and happier. Isn’t that what travel and life are all about?