We all know the U-shaped travel neck pillow. We love the U-shaped travel pillow…sort of? If it isn’t scratchy, bad smelling, or seemingly missing a lot of its polystyrene foam beads, leaving its fabric gaping like an ill-fitting dress. (How do they get so deflated?) Actually, on second thought, U-shaped travel neck pillows suck.
Why does something whose whole purpose is to help us get shut-eye often leave us with nothing more than short, fitful slumber and a stiff neck? Maybe it’s because our heads are just doo damn big to stay propped up by a doughnut around our necks (the average human head does weigh 5 kg). Or maybe it’s because we’ve been wearing them wrong.
While this travel accessory evolved out of a 1929 bath pillow meant to rest behind your head while reclining in the tub, we weren’t able to find any “instructions” on how to use the modern-day iteration. And yet, probably because the tag is on the bulkier closed-end, we’ve collectively developed the habit of wearing that part behind our heads.
But, instead of placing the travel pillow around the back of our necks, as TikTok user SidneyRaz (whose page chronicles things he wishes he had known before he was in his 30s) demonstrates in a viral video, turns out they’re actually supposed to be worn in front. “Mmm, I’m so comfy,” he tells viewers.
This view is corroborated by Dr. Michael Breus, the self-dubbed “Sleep Doctorm” who told News.com.au, “One thing I tell my clients is that if you have a [U-shaped] neck pillow, turn it around so the bottom of the U is under your chin…because your head tends to bob, which will wake you up, and by rotating the pillow, it stops your head from bobbing.”
So, there. Please put this knowledge to good use on your next trip and see if a front-facing neck pillow lends better support to your gargantuan, lolling cranium. And by all means, if back-of-the-neck positioning works better for you, keep doing you. Failing either of those methods, you can always take more drastic measures.