If you suffer with neck pain after sleeping, you are not alone. Millions of people report occasional neck pain when they arise from sleep. 

While some of the causes of chronic neck pain are related to age and wear and tear on your neck and spine, occasional, or acute neck pain occurs mostly because of your sleep position. On the other hand, if you suffer with chronic neck pain for other reasons, sleeping in the proper position may still help to reduce or eliminate your neck pain. 

Let’s have a look at how you are sleeping and what effect it may be having on your neck pain.

The Best Sleep Positions for Neck Pain

According to Harvard Health Publishing, the two sleeping positions that are best for your neck include sleeping on your side or your back. 

Back sleepers require a rounded style pillow that will support the neck’s natural curve while the cushioning around your head remains flat. You can get a special neck pillow with built-in neck support with a head rest indentation or tuck a neck roll inside your pillowcase with your soft, flat pillow. 

A good pillow is crucial to neck support and spinal alignment for the reduction or elimination of neck pain.

5 Tips for Side and Back Sleepers

1. Feather pillows are soft, and they conform to the shape of your neck, yet supports your neck and head well. Unless you’re allergic to duck feathers, or down, this is an efficient solution. Maybe Great (or Great Great) Grandma and Grandpa had the right idea way back when feather pillows were the only pillows available and they made their own.

2. Shaped neck pillows are designed to conform to your neck and head. Cervical pillows come with a variety of ‘fillings’ such as memory foam, poly-fiber, gel, buckwheat, or latex foam. The choice is determined by which one works best for the individual.

3. Side sleepers need to maintain a straight spine for sleep to avoid neck pain, which requires a pillow that sits higher under your neck than under your head. When your neck and spine are in proper alignment, neck and back pain are reduced or even non-existent. Free Your Spine recommends special orthopedic pillows for side sleepers.

4. Stiff or too-high pillows will cause your neck to be flexed all night, which is likely to cause neck pain and stiffness the next morning. When your neck is flexed all night, that means the muscles of your neck are constricted and active while you sleep, which is counterproductive to restful sleep and neck pain.

5. Travel pillows for riding in planes, trains, or cars are commonly ‘u’ or ‘horseshoe’ shaped and are designed to support your neck and to prevent your head from falling over to one side when you doze off. A travel pillow that is too big, will push your head forward, defeating the purpose of neck and head support. 

Stomach sleepers need to be aware that this position doesn’t promote proper spinal or neck alignment. While sleeping positions become habitual and difficult to change, back or neck pain may force the change, at least at the beginning stages of sleep. 

A good pillow supports your neck, which helps promote healthy spinal alignment, can result in a good night’s sleep and little or no sleep disturbances, which also helps reduce neck pain and stiffness. 

It’s worth investing in the right pillow for your overall health and wellness.


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