Sydney Headache & Migraine Centre

Is My Pillow Causing My Headache?

If you are waking up in the morning with headache consistently, perhaps it is worth taking a look at your pillow. Pillow preference is very individual. They come in every size and shape imaginable! Some people like fluffy feathers or the firmer bamboo style, contour or flat. It’s up to you and your neck.

Practitioners at Sydney Headache and Migraine Centre recommend you visit a bedding specialist or store where you can actually lie down to feel the pillow support your neck. This is a great way to see whether it feels right. The right pillow should support your heavy head so you can relax your whole body in a neutral position ready for sleep. 

So, what is a neutral position for your neck? 

Your neck should not be bent too far forward, such as when a pillow is too high but maintained in a natural curve (neutral) neck position. 

Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

If you are a back sleeper your pillow does not need to be as high. If you are a side sleeper the pillow needs to fill the gap between the tip of your shoulder and the curve of your neck which will be higher than a back sleeper. That’s why you see pillows with the contour in the middle (usually lower for back sleeping) and more height at the sides of the pillow for side-to-side sleeping. Most of us sleep in a combination of side, back, side.

Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

If you are a tummy sleeper your neck will be rotated to one side or the other. This puts pressure and can create tightness in the cervical spine joints. We recommend you try hugging a pillow to stop yourself rolling over onto your tummy whilst you are sleeping. There are slim cushions to support your lower back too.


  • Avoid slumping and reading in bed before sleep. If reading helps you fall asleep, it is best to sit up in a chair and get comfortable with your neck until you feel sleepy and ready to hop into bed. Scrolling through your phone is another way our neck can be kept in an uncomfortable position. There are book holders (like book buddy or book seat) that can hold your book up for you too so you can sit with relaxed shoulders and neck muscles. 
  • Avoid tummy sleeping – you can train yourself to do it! Use pillows to support the position you want to maintain through the night. 
  • Consider how you can improve sleep hygiene. Look out for our sleep hygiene blog!!
  • Happy Zzzzzzzzz!