Magical pillow for ear pain?
October 21, 2012 9:34 PM   Subscribe

Is there a pillow out there that won't hurt my ears and won't puff up in my face?

I get outer ear pain when I sleep on my side, and it gets inexplicably worse with earplugs. Firm pillows, memory foam, and feathers are a big fail. Whatever pillows they generally use in hotels cause pain, too. The thing that bothers my ears the least is an ancient softer pillow that doesn't have much left in the center, but I still toss and turn, and I hate how it gets all up in my face. The obvious work-around of lying on my back all night isn't an option for me.

I can't afford to buy and try a bunch of different pillows, so I'm hoping somebody has had the same experience and found their dream pillow.

Please oh please help me get some sleep.
posted by moira to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Why sleep with a pillow at all? Try a night with naught but a soft pillowcase folded up under your head and see if that's a more comfortable alternative. My mom and I do this when our ears or sinuses hurt. It can be very soothing sometimes.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 9:40 PM on October 21, 2012

Is there some reason you have to use a pillow at all? I've been known to sleep on a wadded up sweatshirt. Alternatively, you could fold a large towel or even a small blanket into a pillow case, which would be both soft and non-fluffy.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:41 PM on October 21, 2012

I don't have ear pain issues, but I prefer a very minimalist pillow. I went to Macy's and asked for the absolute thinnest softest pillow they carried. The salesperson pointed me to a Calvin Klein Home pillow that has been completely perfect. I don't know the model, but talk to a salesperson in a department store and you'll likely get some good advice.
posted by judith at 9:49 PM on October 21, 2012

Have you seen a doctor about the possibility of a "TMJ" disorder...? I get nighttime ear pain rather similar to what you describe, and it's a jaw problem. "Robaxacet" (which has a muscle relaxant called methocarbamol in it) usually brings the pain down to a tolerable level.
posted by kmennie at 10:08 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

No, not "a" pillow, more than that. Get a few medium or firm pillows and just configure them so there's an ear hole or neck-roll.
posted by rhizome at 10:12 PM on October 21, 2012

I found some relief from the ear pain with microbead pillows. They still shift around a bit but the puff-ups are easier to adjust than the ones that occur with regular foam pillows.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:27 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Note the warning on that link; you have to spot wash microbead pillows. The polystyrene beads can't get soaking wet or they shrink.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:33 PM on October 21, 2012

Try a pillow filled with buckwheat hulls.

Nothing has improved my sleep comfort like that. You can form the pillow and it pretty much stays put. I often "carve" out a dip in the middle for my ear. Plus it stays much cooler than any other pillow I have used.

BTW the Sobakawa brand name is used for both microbead and buckwheat pillows, but they are different.
posted by The Deej at 10:34 PM on October 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about a neck pillow? We couldn't find a good pillow to use on the couch and tried the neck pillow we had stored away from our last plane trip and it worked great! It's comfortable and you can use it to sleep on your back or on your side. The hole prevents the ear crushing you're talking about if you sleep on your side.
posted by wherever, whatever at 10:46 PM on October 21, 2012

Don't know if it will fit you but after a long search I found the perfect pillow, which is filled with a mixture of memory foam tubes and polyester fibers. Both me and my wife find them extremely comfortable, to the point where we take them with us whenever we travel.
I personally had a lot of trouble with neck pain and it completely resolved after this.
posted by Mai2k3 at 11:06 PM on October 21, 2012

Sleep on the edge of your soft pillow, so that it can't puff up in your face. No rule says you have to center up your head on your pillow.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:11 PM on October 21, 2012

I always use 2 pillows - one ordinary one that's not too thick, and a small one, possibly pilfered from an airplane, that just sits under the side of my head and keeps my face from smooshing up against the pillow. I hate smooshed face.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 11:27 PM on October 21, 2012

Pillows suck. I burrow into my pillows like a rodent, but rest my head on my arm/ nothing at all a lot of the time.

Consider memory foam, beanbag, and/ or those round donut-shaped cushions with a hole in the center. Also consider talking to your doctor about your ear problem. If it's an infection of some kind, medicine might be more helpful to you than new sleeping arrangements.
posted by windykites at 4:41 AM on October 22, 2012

Best answer: It could be kind of a pricy experiment, but my first thought was that what you should do is buy a memory foam pillow, figure out how you'd sleep on it most comfortably in the absence of the ear pain, then figure out where exactly the pressure was, and then carve out part of the foam with a utility knife so that there's a depression only there, and the rest of your head is supported by the surrounding foam.
posted by gracedissolved at 4:41 AM on October 22, 2012

Cover an inflatable hemorrhoid donut with fabric so it's soft and then sleep on that, with your ear in the donut hole.
posted by elizardbits at 5:55 AM on October 22, 2012

Came to nth the Soba Pillow. I had a Sobakowa pillow and it was good, but NOTHING has been as awesome as the Soba Pillow my mom bought me in Japan. I can't sleep without it now.

Also, I have a bite guard, which is also necessary for my excellent sleep.

So those two things might be the answer to your prayers.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:40 AM on October 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have this very same horribly painful issue, and I basically do what 5_13_23_42_69_666 suggests. The little pillow I use on top is generally a cheap-ass, not very firm, polyester fill pillow that I can fluff up each night. I looked to see if mine has a label but it no longer does. It's just a little 14x14 filler for a decorative pillow, possibly from Ikea. Memory foam and down did not work for me- it basically has to be something with no real support at all that doesn't press on my ear when compressed.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:17 PM on October 22, 2012

Oh, and good luck! I know how badly this sucks.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:18 PM on October 22, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions. I decided to start with what I had and go from there. I had an old contour memory foam pillow that was great for support. I cut an ear-sized hole in the appropriate spot and covered it (temporarily) with a stretchy tee, which I push in to create a little crater. Cutting all the way through caused it to lose some of its structural integrity, and if I had it to do all over again I'd leave some foam at the bottom, but it's wonderful. OMG it's wonderful. I've actually woken up 6 hours later in the same position I went to sleep in.

You guys rock.
posted by moira at 6:29 PM on November 1, 2012

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