I Wasn’t Able to Sleep on Airplanes Until I Bought This Chiropractor-Approved Neck Pillow

Photo: Getty Images / Taisen Lin
When I was a kid, I used to be able to sleep anywhere. In my stroller, in the backseat of my mom's minivan, at my desk in algebra class (sorry, Mr. Woods!), on the hard ground on a camping trip. Anywhere. My parents joked that as a baby they just had to show me a blanket and I would pass out.

As an adult, however, I'm kind of like the Goldilocks of sleep. It can't be too loud, too quiet, too bright, too hot, or too cold for me to drift off. (I'm truly a delight to share a bed with!) Which makes falling asleep on a plane—one of the loudest, most uncomfortable places on the planet—the white whale to my Ishmael. I've tried face masks, ear plugs, and just about every kind of neck pillow on the planet. None of it has ever worked, until I tried the Bullbird BR2 Travel Pillow for neck support ($60).

The Bullbird doesn't look (or feel) like your traditional neck pillow. According to the company's website, the pillow was designed by medical product engineers and chiropractors to properly align your neck vertebrae as you sit. Unlike most neck pillows (usually just U-shaped beanbags that hang around your neck), the Bullbird is shaped like a C, and combines memory foam with a solid, ergonomic frame to make it more supportive than plushy; it sits at the base of your skull to cradle and hold up your neck. Plus, it's light and super compact, making it easy to throw into your carry-on without taking up too much space.

It's not at all a plushy, cozy neck pillow, and that's what I love about it. As a very tall person with a longer-than-average neck, this pillow provided just the right support I needed to comfortably drift off to sleep without having to lean awkwardly against the window or my seat mate. My head felt cradled and secure, and I didn't find myself accidentally jerking myself awake, either. On my recent red eye flight from San Diego to New York, I slept for four solid hours out of the five-hour flight—a miracle, considering I usually sleep for maybe 20 to 30 minutes tops. And getting off the plane, I had zero neck pain, zero headaches, zero discomfort—aside from the jet lag, of course.

I am the first to admit that this is not the most affordable travel pillow for neck support. (I bought mine at the airport, so it was more like $75.) But for comfortable, pain-free airplane seating, I found this funky-looking, ergonomic pillow to be well worth the up-front cost. And given the fact that I wasn't a total mess in the office after my red-eye flight (thanks, sleep!), I'm sure my coworkers would say it's worth it, too.

Make the rest of your trip just as dreamy by packing like a minimalist:

Here are some clever ways to take the trip of your dreams without totally blowing your budget. And you heard it here first: "solo travel" is the next big thing for vacations.

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