Travelling. It either conjures up joy or misery depending on whom you ask.
Uncomfortable long drives, long flights, and hotel beds are a common cause for people to seek chiropractic to get out of neck or low back pain. I've met my fair share of patients passing through Seattle over the years seeking a good chiropractor to get them out of pain.
The NapEazy pillow was created to help people out and about have a way to comfortably get some shut eye. This product obviously appealed to me as I've found myself placing my head and neck in odd positions too while sleeping on a plane or car which has led to discomfort. I finally had a chance to test this product out last autumn when I had to take an international trip to see family.
Unboxing & First Impressions
Normally, you'd find me on Youtube for this type of product review, but turns out the plane is a terrible place to record a clear video. Here are screen grabs of my unboxing video to give you the high level overview of the products and accessories.
The one I purchased from the IndieGoGo campaign came with a carrying bag and additional pillow covers for different uses. Included with the NapEazy is also a support loop that buttons into the pillow which allows it to be supported from behind to let you to use it at more upright angle. It's what they call the "Deep Sleep Mode."
The design of the pillow itself is not too complicated. It utilizes telescoping aluminum masts with spring loaded pins that lock into different notches to set the length. On each end is a memory foam pad to make up half the pillow. The memory foam pads make the pillow slightly egg shaped when closed as the top end is slightly smaller than the bottom end. The top pillow conceals the switch that retracts the mast pins so that you can expand and collapse the pillow. It also has the button for you to hook a rear-supported strap should you decide you don't want to hold the pillow while you sleep. The bottom pillow has a concealed storage pocket.
Upon seeing the size and weight of carrying this pillow, I wondered... is it worth the extra effort for this? It weighs around a couple pounds and is 14" x 8.5" inches. I had two cases checked into baggage and my carry-on to the plane was a backpack which I put the NapEazy into. I usually don't carry much in my carry-on aside from a laptop or reading material, but this definitely adds a little complication as it's another item that must be taken out and put away. It's not an issue when you happen to have whole row of seats to yourself on the plane, but under usual circumstances you'll be sitting next to other people which might make you want to move around less out of courtesy (still exists I hope?)
Otherwise, at first inspection the material quality appears to be good and appropriate for the task.
Putting it To the Test
Normally when I want to sleep on the plane I'll adjust the headrest on my seat to cradle my head if I want to be upright or I'll roll up my jacket on my backpack and place it on the food tray to place my head down. If I happen to have a window seat, I'll sometimes wedge my rolled up jacket between the wall and my head. The NapEazy's primary mode of use was to let you rest your head against one of its pillows while it is extended.
I gave it a try and also used the fastening loop to hook it behind my headrest to use its "Deep Sleep Mode" circled in the screen grab above.
Does it look a little silly? Probably.
After being in that position for 10 minutes I can say it felt better than laying my head down on the food tray or using the headrest but I could perceive a small shearing force developing up through the upper vertebrae of my neck partly because you are a bit chin down leaning into it to breathe. I also felt the memory foam could be a little more dense as I could feel my face starting to press into the encapsulated part of the mast with time. I would have preferred some extra cushioning to cradle your face and have a notch or depression to allow you to have your neck at a slightly more neutral position that you can breathe in.
I sometimes have issues with my locking and unlocking mechanism when collapsing the pillow where I'm not able to get the two ends of the pillow to lock easily without some finagling. This is a minor issue though and not a deal-breaker for me though.
I found that changing the covers was not simple. I know they probably wanted to keep the zipper off the outside of the cover for a cleaner look, but that made for a very tight fit to get the cover off and on because the zipper opening is fairly small to squeeze the large foam block through it. A Velcro or button down attachment may be easier but perhaps it may have affected the aesthetics as well. You can see a better quality picture here once I got settled in my hotel.
I didn't get a chance to test it as thoroughly on the plane so I did three 15 minute nap sessions in different positions to give a more through assessment of it. While I recorded myself, I won't make you watch 45 minutes of unflattering video of me sleeping so here are the screen grabs of the 3 positions.
The first is pretty much using it against the wall to lean against if you want to lay toward your side. This is one of the suggested uses of the pillow and this position is actually much more comfortable the leaning right into a window, car pillar, or curved airplane wall as your neck won't be as significantly bent sideways. The only issue though is once you start to pass out, the extended pillow might start to slip from the comfortable position you are holding it in which means you might wake up here and there to adjust it. Otherwise, not too many complaints about this particular position.
The second is using it as an angled front wall which was another one of its suggested uses. Instead of using the strap to support the pillow from behind, you are essentially leaning it up against the table edge. It felt pretty much the same as the plane set up I and I was starting to feel a bit of pressure in the upper neck as well. As you can see my neck is a bit extended. As you start to get deeper into sleep you will sink in even more. I'm pretty much kissing the mast part way into my nap and that doesn't feel good.
I got creative with the 3rd position and slightly parted the pillow halves to create a breathing space for my nose. This was actually pretty comfortable for the neck except after a few minutes in I was also kissing the mast again. If the foam pads were a little thicker then this position would have been a win for me. Perfect position to settle into for a short nap if you're pulling some late night study sessions in school.
It turns out my hotel had feather pillows, which are the worst from a prior post. They 100% always give me neck pain as a side sleeper because they lose all support quickly. The solution I've settled in over the years at home is to place a folded towel under a memory foam pillow to help maintain the perfect amount of support for me to sleep and wake up without discomfort. I decided to use the feather pillow as a "topper" for my NapEazy here.
I actually liked the thickness of the NapEazy as I found it to be a very good height for a side sleeper like me and it was comfortable initially. But like using it in the upright positions, I felt the density of the pillow wasn't quite enough and I started to feel like I was pushing hard into the mast in the middle of the night that it woke me up a couple of times. Of course, this wasn't one of their intended uses so I can't hold it against them for that. However, an extra 1/4" inch layer of gel or thicker density foam surrounding the current memory foam would probably be helpful for all uses.
As I received one of the first iterations of the product since I purchased it from IndieGoGo, there's usually room for improvement. Mainly, I think the memory foam could be a little denser to help keep me from feeling the aluminum channels over time and I think the changeable covers could be easier to swap out. I think the NapEazy definitely has potential to help a lot of people who travel to feel more comfortable in the neck but it's not quite mature yet in its current form. I purchased mine for $59 but it is looking to retail around $90 at some point where I hope it's a better product then. I would keep an eye on it for now.
Thanks for reading! If you're travelling through Seattle and need a trusted chiropractor to help you get out of neck or back pain, you can find me close by in Kirkland.