If you regularly wake up with neck stiffness, soreness, or full-on pain, your sleeping position could be to blame. The way you align your neck and head throughout the night can either alleviate or aggravate discomfort. So what is the healthiest pose for taking pressure off your neck muscles while getting rest? The answer may surprise you.
First, Why Neck Pain and Sleep Are Connected
During sleep is when your body ideally relaxes into a restorative state, allowing muscles to repair after a long day’s strain. But if you snooze in a way that crunches nerves or pulls muscles, you lose out on that rejuvenation. In fact, you may inflame existing issues or even provoke new ones. Neck tension builds over time leading to chronic pain.
Finding a pose that keeps your head, neck, shoulders and spine neutral can prevent this damage. This evenly distributes weight without twisting. When done properly night after night, you give sore spots a chance to properly heal.
Back Sleeping Is Best For Neck Comfort
Studies consistently show back sleeping, sometimes called the “supine position,” allows for ideal head and neck alignment. With your gaze pointed to the ceiling, gravity pulls weight down through the back versus straining sideways at the neck. This minimizes compression, over stretching, and torqueing during crucial repairing sleep hours.
What To Do If Back Sleeping Doesn’t Work
Some people simply can’t slumber on their backs due to other health issues like sleep apnea. And for a lucky few, back snoozing itself causes neck distress. Fortunately side and stomach crunching can still work if done properly. Here’s how:
On Your Side:
- Bend knees slightly towards chest
- Use slim pillow between knees
- Optional pillow under head for very gentle lift
On Your Stomach:
- Fold slim pillow under pelvis and abdomen
- Use very flat pillow or none under head
- Avoid turning head to either side
Common Mistakes That Cause Pain
Just as there are productive sleep poses for those with neck issues, there are also unwise moves that can make matters worse:
- Using tall, thick pillows forcing neck to bend
- Using multiple pillows stacking head too high
- Sleeping flat on back without shoulder support
- Twisting neck sideways for hours
- Stomach sleeping with head turned sharply
- Failing to align spine properly in any position
Ask An Expert
As with any attempt at self-treatment for chronic discomfort, it’s wise to consult an expert first. A doctor, physical therapist, or sleep specialist can properly diagnose your neck pain’s root cause. Once identified, they will guide your use of sleeping positions tailored to your symptoms and needs. That said, back resting centered on a slim, supportive pillow is almost always the top starting recommendation.
Sometimes all it takes is tweaking small daily habits like how you snooze to cure nagging neck issues. Rule number one is keeping everything aligned sans twists, starting with your sleeping position. Try supine back resting first, then experiment with adjusted side and front techniques if needed. Avoid positions that over arch and get help ensuring you have it just right. With consistent proper posture all night, you’ll be resting easy and pain-free!