DIY Cervical Roll for Neck Support While Sleeping

Many people with neck pain require extra support in their pillow. This helps to keep their neck in the optimum position while sleeping. A cervical pillow can be used to help support your neck while you sleep. If you have neck pain, you can make your own cervical roll. This article teaches you how to do it.

Woman experiencing neck pain after waking up
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Neck pain can be a difficult experience that can limit your ability to work, drive, or sleep normally. If you develop neck pain, a visit to your physical therapist may be in order to help you manage your symptoms. Sometimes treatments and modalities like cervical traction may be necessary to help get pressure off of your cervical nerves.

If you have neck pain, it is important that you take steps to self-manage your condition. These steps may include performing specific exercises for your neck and learning how to sit with proper posture.

While sitting with proper posture is important, sleeping with your neck in the proper position is equally important. Using the right pillow with the right support can help keep your neck in proper alignment and help you quickly decrease or eliminate your neck pain and get you back to your normal activities.

Supporting Your Neck While Sleeping

Your neck is comprised of seven bones called vertebrae, and these bones normally form a slight forward curve called a lordosis. Maintaining that forward curve in your neck is important while you treat your neck pain. It can help take pressure off of spinal discs and nerves.

A simple way to support your neck while sleeping is to use a cervical roll. A cervical roll, also known as a neck roll or cervical pillow, is a small pillow placed in your pillowcase that supports your neck while you sleep. The cervical roll helps to provide the right amount of support for your neck to help keep it in alignment while lying in bed.

You can purchase a cervical roll online or at a local pharmacy for a low price. You can also contact a physical therapist to help you obtain a cervical roll.

Making Your Own Cervical Roll

Making a cervical roll to support your neck while you sleep is simple to do. Here's how:

  1. Obtain a bath or beach towel.
  2. Fold the towel in half.
  3. Starting on one side of the towel, roll it up until your towel looks like a roll about the length of your pillow.
  4. Slide your rolled up towel into your pillowcase along the lower edge.
  5. Be sure the roll is tucked all the way into your pillow so it does not slip out.

When you place your head on your pillow, the rolled up towel should support your neck. You should feel slight pressure on the back of your neck when you lie on your back. Your towel roll will also help to support your neck when you lie on one side or the other, as it will help to fill in the space between your head and shoulder. If you have neck pain, it is usually not recommended you sleep on your stomach.

Exercise and postural correction are essential components of your treatment for neck pain, and finding the right sleeping posture can help you quickly eliminate your pain. Of course, if your neck pain persists, worsens, or is accompanied by arm weakness or numbness and tingling, a visit to your healthcare provider may be in order to assess the cause of your neck pain.

A visit to your local physical therapist can also help—your PT can show you what to do right away to start treating your neck pain.

A Word From Verywell

Neck pain can cause you to lose sleep, as it may prevent you from falling to sleep or remaining asleep. While sleeping, you must find a way to keep your neck in the optimal position, and this may be accomplished with a cervical roll.

By taking the time to make your own cervical roll, you may provide your neck with the right support while you sleep. This can help you quickly and safely manage your own neck pain and help you return to your previous level of function.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gudavalli MR, Salsbury SA, Vining RD, et al. Development of an attention-touch control for manual cervical distraction: a pilot randomized clinical trial for patients with neck pain. Trials. 2015;16:259. doi:10.1186/s13063-015-0770-6

  2. Hesby BB, Hartvigsen J, Rasmussen H, Kjaer P. Electronic measures of movement impairment, repositioning, and posture in people with and without neck pain—a systematic review. Syst Rev. 2019;8(1):220. doi:10.1186/s13643-019-1125-2

  3. Gross AR, Kaplan F, Huang S, et al. Psychological Care, Patient Education, Orthotics, Ergonomics and Prevention Strategies for Neck Pain: A Systematic Overview Update as Part of the ICON Project. Open Orthop J. 2013;7:530-61. doi:10.2174/1874325001307010530

  4. Harvard Healthbeat. Say "good night" to neck pain.

Additional Reading

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.