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Home » The Vine

The Vine: October 12, 2012

Submitted by on October 12, 2012 – 11:32 AM40 Comments

I am in desperate need of a good pillow. I’ve always been picky, but in the last few years, I wake up with a stiff neck almost every day. I’ve tried all kinds of different ones and the best solution I’ve come up with is to buy cheap pillows at Target and replace them every few months when they start to get uncomfortable. Unfortunately, it seems that I’m starting to replace them more and more often.

I need something that is supportive, but soft. I like my head to sink down into the pillow. Medium-thick. I need it to hold its shape not get flat or lumpy or hard. I am both a side and back sleeper — I start off on my side but tend to roll over on my back halfway through the night. Fillings that make noise are bad because I’m a very light sleeper. Also, if something that meets these criteria exists and also will hold up to occasionally being slept on by a cat or 40-pound dog, it would be great.

Pillows I’ve tried that did not work:

  • Memory foam: Was awesome for about six weeks, but then it was like it stopped having any give. It just felt hard.
  • Feathers: They get too lumpy.
  • This thing from Amazon: The way it’s sewn together made it hard to be comfortable and when my cat tore it, the stupid beads went everywhere.
  • Those neck pillows with the weird bump on one side that looks like it should shape to your neck but really just makes it so you have to lie in only one position to be comfortable. I move around a LOT.

There has to be something in existence that is both soft and squishy but also will support my neck. I’m hoping one of the readers is a neck-pain expert and has a good suggestion. I would prefer to spend less than $100, but if something comes really recommended and will work, I’ll give it a shot.

Thanks in advance!



I have a problem that seems perfect for the Red Cloudsource: help with my Red Riding Hood Halloween costume.

I love Halloween, but I rarely love wearing traditional costumes because the ones I can afford are usually itchy and ill-fitting. I solve this by updating/remixing the traditional elements into something that is more quirky homage than typical costume. Think Slacker Red Riding Hood or Butt-Kicking Ninja Assassin Red Riding Hood, something like that. (Thus I’m not looking for this.)

I chose Red Riding Hood mostly because I love capes and want to wear my new shiny red Docs. Beyond that, I’m leaning toward a mid-thigh to knee-length hooded cape*, pants/jeans, and either a relevant graphic tee or a cool shirt and corset belt. But I’m open to other suggestions. I’m also looking for wolf-/grandma-/red-related jewelry and other fun accessories. Google has not inspired me much so far, especially for tees/tops, so I hope the Red Nation can help me out. I’m willing to stray pretty far from the Riding Hood theme so long as it sticks somewhat with the red or wolf themes. The cape will tie everything together.

Requisite info: I wear a size 14 and my total budget for purchases, including the cape, is $100 max. (Though cheaper is always better.) Before you ask, no I don’t sew and neither does anyone close to me.  I also live in a small town two hours away from Seattle, so Internet shopping is preferred.


What I really need for this costume is a Better Red Than Dead tee

*something like this




  • Cara says:

    Jo – I have a solution to your pillow problem, but it’s a bit pricy. This pillow from The Company Store is the perfect blend of supportive and squishy. I know you said that feathers are too lumpy, but Company Store pillows are magical. A daily fluff and a wash every six months and you should be lump-free.

  • Maryse42 says:

    Hi Jo:

    I’m a side sleeper and I swear by this:

    I take it with me whenever I travel. I can’t sleep on anything else without neck pain. I think it’s perfect. I got mine through a chiropractor.


  • Maryse42 says:

    P.S. I think I got the “firm” one for side sleeping. YMMV.

  • Leigh says:

    I am a side sleeper who sometimes rolls onto my back in the night with picky pillow issues too! I currently have and like this pillow (which I found cheaper at Costco):

    It does require occasional fluffing, but so far I’ve had it for several months and it’s the same as ever. The broken up memory foam doesn’t seem to get as hard as the solid foam ones (my old pillow was a contoured memory foam) Remember that memory foam also gets hard when it’s cold but warms/softens up after you’ve been lying on it for a minute.

  • jenmarc says:

    I have the exact same issues and just bought this pillow from Bed Bath and Beyond: Claritin™ Anti-Allergy Back and Stomach Sleeper Pillow with Removable Cover. I’m a side sleeper, but the side sleeper pillow seemed too hard for my taste. It’s only been about a month, but it’s doing a good job so far.

  • JenK says:

    Jo–Consider one of these:

    It has kapok filling that is similar to feathers, but I think it’s better. It also has a zipper so you can adjust the amount of filling to suit your needs. You can also buy additional filling if you want to stuff it even more. I left mine completely full, but I love it. My husband has always had sore neck problems, but this pillow seemed to take care of a lot of those problems.

  • Renee says:


    Threadless has two cute tees:

    There’s also Three Wolf Moon!

    For jewelry, I would go with a (fake? cruelty-free?) wolf fang necklace.

  • AlisonC says:

    Jo – I don’t have any answers for you but want to say I feel your pain! If anyone has similar answers for the UK I would love to hear them

  • Sev says:

    As someone with wicked neck spasms, I have to plug buckwheat pillows. I’ve had this one for more than 10 years. It’s ridiculously customizable and holds its shape until you move it (kinda like a sack of rice or something). If I want to sleep on my back without elevating my head, I hollow out a space for the back of my head and leave a pile of hulls to support my neck. If I want to sleep on my side without dislocating my jaw, I make a little dent in the pillow so that my jaw is supported in its natural position.

    You’d probably want to use a protective sham that goes underneath the pillowcase. Water-resistant ones (terry on the outside, plasticky cloth on the inside) do a pretty good job of protecting mine from claws and drool.

  • c8h10n4o2 says:

    For pillow rejuvenation, I’ve had really good luck with washing them and the throwing them in the dryer with a few tennis balls. It’s noisy as hell, but seems to punch everything back into place.

  • Apostrophina says:

    I’ve got this: It’s a memory foam pillow with outside channels of down for people who feel weird on memory foam.

    It’s also sort of reasonably priced and, since Target carries it in-store, may be easy to get. I suspect everybody’s pillow issues are different, but I love this one.

  • Jo says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone! Keep ’em coming. I’ll look at all these and figure out which one to try.

    JenK: I love the idea of being able to remove or replace the filling. That seems like a very good plan.

  • HLM says:

    Better Red, you could do a bad-ass post-fight RRH: Shred up a t-shirt and use fabric paint to put in blood and dirt stains, maybe do a little injury stage makeup to give yourself scratches or bruises, get a faux-fur tail to stick out of the edge of a wicker basket, and you’re good to go.

  • Soph says:

    OMG, you HAVE to do hipster red riding hood! @Leigh, that’s an awesome idea. You could basically get everything except that tshirt (a must) and the cape online at Forever 21 for very cheap (to wit: sunglasses– (in the brown) and socks– Urban Outfitter usually has excellent, cheap hipster accoutrements as well–including a Halloween section.

  • ferretrick says:

    What works for me and is cheaper than any fancy pillow. Get three pillows at Target, decent quality, but they don’t have to be super expensive. I put one pillow under my lower back, and two or three under my head, so that I end up sleeping with my upper body kind of sloping downward, with my head at the highest level down to my waist. Takes care of pain, and it helps with my snoring.

  • Kristin says:

    Heh heh, see the link below; Cafe Press may be juuuust the place for you, O Slacker Red Riding Hood! And Sars will like it, too!

  • Karen says:

    Re: the pillow – what worked for me is also the most expensive option – a new bed with proper support and a new medium support feather pillow to go with it. And a physiotherapist who is working with me to build up my core so that I’m not creating neck strain during the day.

  • avis says: would be a great resource for a red cape.

  • DMC says:

    I have had the Room Essentials® Contour Memory Foam Pillow from Target ($17.99) for over a year now, and I absolutely love it. I used to wake up a million times to adjust my pillow, and now I sleep straight through the night.

  • SolitaryBlue says:

    @Kristin: That shirt is made of awesome.

    I totally feel you on the pillow question. I’m going to have to try some of these ideas myself!

  • Colleen says:

    Jo, are you anywhere near an Ikea? They have a pretty wide selection of pillows for different types of sleepers. And, they have samples of all of them out so that you can feel/test them.

  • Hannah says:

    Just an alternative Red Riding Hood suggestion, perhaps a Phoenix Coyotes t-shirt? Not a wolf, obv, but maybe close enough? Especially in something like this:

    …and hey, since it looks like there’s not going to be a season, you can probably find tons of NHL stuff at bargain basement prices! (*sigh*)

  • Profreader says:

    I’m seconding the buckwheat pillow suggestion – I don’t *think* they are too noisy. For me, it’s the perfect combination of firm yet giving – stays cool, doesn’t get all heated up.

  • KellyU says:

    I fixed my waking up with a sore neck issues by going to the physiotherapist and fixing my neck. Damn sight more expensive than a new pillow though.

  • Jennifer says:

    Jo, I second Sev’s reco for the buckwheat pillow. I have had mine for 15 years and I love it as much today as I did when I first got it. And, it’s washable, but be warned that it will color the water brown, so wash it by itself. Sev’s pillow might even be the same model as mine – can’t remember because it’s been so long.

    I don’t use a waterproof cover, but I do have one trick for keeping it from bunching up: I put it inside a zipped pillow cover crosswise, so its widest width is the same as the pillow cover’s widest width; I then put the pillow cover in the pillow case, zipper down – this seems to hold it in position pretty well so it doesn’t become a wad in the middle of your pillow case.

    It’s much better than the bead pillows because the buckwheat hulls kind of lock in to each other – the problem with the bead pillows is that the beads slide all over each other, so the pillow keeps collapsing as the beads shift around.

  • Amy B says:

    I have a Tempur-pedic that I like, but it probably wouldn’t work for you (cutout for my neck). They do have other options without the cutout, and it’s a nice combination of firm and cushy (they have 2 levels of firmness). What I did though, was find a back store locally and went and tried out lots of different pillows there. The sales people were actually pretty knowledgeable, and I left with a completely different pillow than I thought I wanted. If you’re going to spend $100 on a pillow (that you likely can’t return), you might want to take a test drive first.

  • Red says:

    LW #2 here.

    @Kristin- holy crap, that is perfect. You win. +1000 everythings.

    I didn’t think it was possible to be more excited for Halloween, having spent the day helping my niece and nephew craft their costumes (zombie-killing Girl Scout Brownie and undead Celt, respectively). I was wrong.


  • LW #2 says:

    @Kristin- holy crap, that is perfect. You win. +1000 everythings.

    I didn’t think it was possible to be more excited for Halloween, having spent the day helping my niece and nephew craft their costumes (zombie-killing Girl Scout Brownie and undead Celt, respectively). I was wrong.


  • Nee S says:


    After getting sick of waking up with a pinched nerve in my neck about every 6 weeks, I finally just threw away my pillow and have been pillow-free and pain-free for at least 3 years. And I don’t have to worry about foreign pillows when I travel! It might be something for you to try.

    Good luck!

  • Jo says:

    Nee6: Can’t sleep without pillows, but I’ve heard other people say it works for them. But thanks for the idea! One thing you’re sure right about is trying to use foreign pillows. I take my own pillow on road trips, but it’s always kind of a crap shoot when I fly and stay with other people.

    Even though I have no suggestions for the other letter writer, I have to say, I love your idea! I used to have some amazing knee-high red platform boots and always wanted to go as Red Riding Hood/Supergirl, but couldn’t find the right kind of cape.

  • MelPo says:

    This may sound crazy (because I didn’t think anyone actually bought anything from that catalog they leave on your bed) but I bought pillows from Marriott after a ridiculously comfortable night in the Courtyard in Philadelphia.

    The “hotel pillow” has a firm core of really hard packed feathers with an outer sack of softer feathers. This combination is magic–feels soft but supports everything it’s supposed to. And the feathers don’t get lumpy at all.

    I got them from and they have been fantastic for two years now. Highly recommended.

  • Emily says:

    My husband used to sell mattresses and knows a lot about pillows. I read him your letter and when I got the part where you said “I would prefer to spend less than $100” he said, “There’s the problem.”

    About the memory foam, a cheap(ish) memory foam pillow (<100$)is not a Tempur-Pedic. The cheaper ones will behave exactly as you experienced. A Tempur-Pedic pillow will stay supportive and soft, and has a three year warrantee against a half-inch impression (if the pillow is permenantly squished down half an inch from where it was when it was new.)

    Also worth considering is a latex pillow. This is what I have, it's soft and supports my head really well. I've had it for 7-8 years. (Latex pillows also do not attract dust mites so it's not disgusting that it's 7 years old.) I also move around a lot and am a side and stomach sleeper, with some back sleeping. This pillow cost $120 (in Canada). These pillows don't get hot and don't make noise. A good quality latex pillow could be the best value for you.

    You could spend up to $250 on a good pillow, but you won't wake up with a stiff neck every morning. Lots of people can sleep on cheap pillows but with issues like yours you want to get a good quality one.

    When you go to a speciality bedding store, try out there pillows. Spend up to 1-2 hours trying pillows. Don't feel rushed into buying something. There are enough speciality stores out there that if someone is insistent on rushing the process, go somewhere else. Don't go to Target, go to a place where the employees sell only bed stuff so where they're very knowledgeable about their product.

    Lastly, consider your mattress. You didn't mention it, but if it's old it might be part of the problem. Where your shoulder is in relation to your neck and your head does make a difference.

  • katxena says:

    Why not go for the better red than dead t-shirt? Here are a few: one, two, three.

    Or go in a totally different direction with a Red Dawn t-shirt.

  • Kate Monster says:

    Pillow: If there’s a Costco near you, you can scout out and see whether they have any of the “fancy” (read: pricey) type pillows there at the traditional Costco cheapness. I know mine has had legit nice memory foam pillows, among others, as well as visiting hotel-bedding sales, both of which make for good bed shopping.

    Which shape memory foam pillow do you use? From the description, you seem to sleep exactly the way I do, so I thought “Well, memory foam!” until I saw your criteria. I use the type with the neck scoop in it, not the pillow-shaped one, and I’ve really liked it.

    Little Red: I think Hipster Red might probably wear something like this cape, from etsy:

  • Beth says:

    As someone who has constant neck and back problems, this pillow from temperpedic changed my life:

    I’ve been using it for a year and a half now and it is so amazing that I even take it with me when I travel. I stack it on top of a regular pillow for height, but the coziness of it is amazing. I’m not sure what kind of memory foam you’ve used in the past, but temperpedic is the real deal. My head sinks into this coziness and it then stays firm to the shape of my head. The price tag is steep, but worth every single penny.

  • Nicole says:

    I also have the memory foam type pillow that Leigh recommended, or something very similar, that I found at Costco as well. I move around ALL night and I have a lot of neck issues, and this pillow is pretty great. One side is a bit more cushy and the other side is more firm. I purchased mine in late Winter I think, and it is almost time to go on the hunt for a new one, but it has held up well and for around 30$ I don’t mind spinging for another one.

  • Nikki says:


    I am a very picky pillow person and I have the same taste as you. Firm, but lets my head sink in, and I usually sleep on my side.

    I’ve bought my pillows from Wal-Mart / Target for about $10. It sounds silly, but they have tons of choices and I stick with the big semi-squishy cotton stuffed pillows. Just go there, squeeze them all and try one out. For $10 you can’t really go wrong.

    Another thing that REALLY helped me when I was recovering from surgery is a neck pillow. I slept sitting up with 2 pillows behind me, and it was super comfy. I take it with me everywhere for travel, and I sometimes will pop it on at home.>

  • Laurie says:

    I have to second (third?) the suggestion for a latex foam pillow. I’ve had one since I was a teen- not the same one, obviously, as the latex does start to get crumbly after about 10 years- and it’s the only pillow that supports my head and neck decently without shifting or lumping or flattening. They were recommended to me by a physical therapist after I had some neck and back injuries in a car accident.

    IIRC, they run about $50-75, but check or your local Sam’s Club/Costco. I got my last one (about a year ago) on Overstock for $35.

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