Neck pain and stiffness are common complaints, especially in the morning after waking up. The way you sleep can contribute to neck pain. Thankfully, there are some simple adjustments you can make to prevent neck pain from sleeping. Here are 10 tips to help you wake up feeling refreshed rather than sore.
1. Use the Right Pillow
Your pillow is crucial for proper neck support and alignment. You want a pillow that is not too low or too high. The ideal pillow keeps your head level with the rest of your spine. Memory foam or contoured cervical pillows are good choices for neck support. Replace your pillow regularly as they lose their shape and support over time.
2. Try a Contoured Sleeping Pillow
Look for a pillow specifically designed to cradle your head and neck. Contoured cervical pillows have an indentation for your head to rest in with raised sides to support your neck. This keeps your head from tilting at an angle that strains the neck. These pillows align the spine properly.
3. Avoid Sleeping on Your Stomach
Stomach sleeping twists the neck to one side for hours, leading to muscle strain. Use a body pillow if you have a habit of stomach sleeping to prevent turning your neck. Sleeping on your back or side are better options. Place a pillow under your knees when lying on your back to take pressure off the low back.
4. Maintain Proper Spinal Alignment
No matter what position you sleep in, keep your spine in a neutral position. Avoid sleeping in postures that flex or hyperextend your neck. Your pillow thickness should allow your head to remain level with the mattress surface. Place pillows between your knees or under them as needed when lying on your side.
5. Invest in a New Mattress
An old, worn out mattress contributes to back and neck pain. Replace your mattress every 7-10 years or when it starts to sag. Choose a medium-firm mattress that provides even support from head to toe. Softer mattresses let your shoulders and hips sink in, twisting the spine.
6. Sleep on Your Side
Sleeping on your side reduces pressure on your spine compared to stomach or back sleeping. Draw your knees up slightly toward your chest when on your side. Place a pillow between your knees for added low back support and to keep your upper body aligned.
7. Stretch Before Bed
Loosening up tight neck muscles before bed prevents waking up with stiffness and soreness. Do some gentle neck stretches and rolls before getting into bed. Hold each neck stretch for at least 30 seconds. This helps relax the muscles that can tighten up as you sleep.
8. Watch Your Arm Position
Avoid sleeping with your arms overhead or stacked behind your pillow. This tilts your head forward and scrunches the neck. Keep your arms resting at your sides while sleeping on your back or side. You can bend your arms with your palms in front of your face when lying on your side.
9. Adjust Your Sleeping Position
If you wake up with neck pain after sleeping, your body is telling you something needs to change. Analyze how you are sleeping and make adjustments. Switch from sleeping flat on your back to inclining your head and raising your knees. Or place a pillow between your knees if side sleeping.
10. Know When to Seek Treatment
Persistent neck pain that doesn’t get better with self-care may need professional treatment. See your doctor if pain lasts more than a week or two. Ask about muscle relaxers or anti-inflammatory medications. Physical therapy also helps treat the root causes of chronic neck pain.
Making a few simple tweaks to how you sleep can prevent those annoying kinks in your neck in the morning. Adjust your pillow height and firmness, maintain proper posture, and try stretches before bed for the best chance at waking up pain-free. Pay attention to signals from your body and see your doctor if neck pain persists.