Heads Up

You’ve been sitting on a plane for an hour or more and you close your eyes for just a moment. Then you feel that telltale jerk of your neck that notifies you and everyone around you that you fell asleep. Of course, that’s no big deal as airline passengers fall asleep for thousand of miles every day, but to your neck, it’s a very big deal. Even if you’ve only been snoozing for a few minutes, drooping your head down or to the side can leave your neck muscles tweaked and make the rest of the flight miserable.

The tight confines of an airplane—bus, train or automobile—seat make finding a comfortable position challenging as it is, but they can be particularly difficult for the neck. Most seats are not ergonomically designed to support the neck for long periods, but that’s exactly what you need. After a while, your neck muscles can fatigue. And if you do lean to your side for a quick nap, you run the chance of kinking the muscles. A travel pillow offers you a little extra support and comfort.

Individualized Support
Of course, you can always grab the pillow off your bed to use on the plane or in a car; however, these are usually too large and can make the situation more uncomfortable. The majority of airlines offer passengers pillows and blankets, but some companies have begun charging a fee for them (you do get to keep them after the flight). Also, there’s no guarantee this little pillow will provide you with the support you need and want.

Instead, consider bringing your own travel pillow. Most of these resemble a “U” or cervical collar shape instead of the rectangular bed pillow. This design is meant to take over some of the neck’s duty, such as absorbing the weight of the head while keeping the neck vertebrae in line, especially when the head starts to feel heavy when dozing off. The support also helps alleviate stress and strain on the jaw.

Recently, manufacturers have produced a variety of different designs that look like dumbbells, a comma, or even an airbag.

Also, you have a choice of different fillings:

• Air-Filled
Inflatable pillows allow you to fill it as full or as soft as you like for a personalized effect. Many of these designs attach to the headrest of car or plane seats instead of wrapping around your neck.

• Foam-Filled
Substances like Memory Foam offer firm support but also enough cushion to feel comfortable during a long trip.

• Microbeads
Squish this type of pillow and you’ll feel the tiny beads between your fingertips. The benefit of this filling is that, as you relax your head into it, the individual beads will move and reposition themselves to fill out other areas where the support is needed most.

• Polyester Pellets
These are slightly larger than the microbeads, but work in much the same manner.

For a better look at different types of travel pillows, check out http://www.bestpillowguide.org/best-travel-pillow.