Rest easy on your next long-haul jaunt with the most comfortable sleeping companion
Not only are airline pillows pretty useless, but now you will have to pay for them on some flights. Get some decent sleep on your next flight by with these snoozy beauties.
Releaf Neck Rest
$19.99 ($41.91 to UK with p&p)
MOST DISCREET This inconspicuous wraparound device fully surrounds the neck, closing at the back with Velcro. Testers found this exceptionally comfortable to wear throughout the flight and also for snoozing because it stops the head from lolling about to the left, right or forward. This is best one to wear with headphones, too, because it doesn’t come up to ear height. The only downside is that it’s not long enough for those with very large necks. Apart from the inflatable pillow, it’s the smallest and lightest tested, and for the fashion conscious, it looks as if you’re wearing a small scarf. This isn’t available in the UK yet, so allow 28 days shipping to get it from the US. It’s worth the wait.
BEST FOR KIDS With a hole for the back of the head, and soft wraparound neck support, this product for kids aged one to 10 comes in three sizes for different age groups. It’s very comfortable and soft against the skin, and doubles up as a soft toy. Best of all, it has concealed magnets that bring the two arms together in front, keeping your child’s head from falling too far forward. Physiotherapist Paula Coates says: “This is my favourite pillow because it supports the head at the back, from each side and the front, ensuring the head can’t fall forward. Shame there isn’t an adult version.” This is the most awkward to pack, though.
£20 (+£2.50 p&p)
An unusual-looking cross-body product, this works a bit like a car seatbelt with a pillow attached to it. It takes a bit of adjustment to get the pillow in the right position for your height, and if the top of your head sticks above the airline seat, this will not work for you at all. But once it’s fitted, it’s supremely comfortable. Coates says: “This is great as it is fully adjustable, but it supports the head in one position, which is the only negative.” It packs down to 17cm x 10cm and weighs just 135g, so it won’t eat into your luggage allowance too much.
MOST PACKABLE An inflatable pillow with soft, fleecy cover, this is a crucial evolutionary step for the typical u-shaped neck pillow because the back is flat and doesn’t inflate, so it doesn’t push your head forward. Coates says: “The main problem with this support is it does not stop your head from falling forwards as the arms don’t sit close enough together in the front.” It’s also not ideal for those with larger necks. The testers found that using this with the Releaf, for its neck support, provided the most relaxing in-flight sleep situation.
HoMedics Ortho Therapy Neck Pillow
A U-shaped pillow made of memory foam, an ultra-supportive foam that molds to the shape of your body, with a soft, fleecy cover, this offers good support on the sides. However, it’s too full at the back, so unless your seat reclines quite far, your head will be pushed forward and end up on your chest. If your seat does recline enough, it provides great side-to-side support. But it’s bulky and awkward to pack.
Tempur travel pillow
The original maker of memory foam, has produced a travel version of its hugely popular pillow. At 31 x 25 x 10cm, it’s the largest of this selection when unpacked, but it squeezes down to just 30 per cent of its size into the zip-up case it comes with. Unfortunately, it’s useless as a neck pillow unless your seat reclines extensively, but if you get a window seat, it’s quite comfortable used against the wall because it maintains its shape, making it much better than the typical airline pillow.
Thousands of polystyrene micro-granules fill this oblong nylon pillow, which is pretty useless in an airline seat. It’s shape means it won’t stay behind your neck, and if you are lucky enough to be able to lie down or rest your head against a window, the granules disperse, leaving your head in a hole in the middle of the pillow. The polyester cover is also so slippery that your head slips right off, even if you can bunch up the granules enough to stick together Bulky and slippery, it’s difficult to pack. It’s only benefit is as basic lumbar support.
Chartered physiotherapist Paula Coates (www.paulacoates.com) specialises in back pain and sports injuries. Her most recent book, Back Pain: Exercise Plans to Improve Your Life (£6.99), is out now.