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How Should I Sleep to Relieve Neck Pain?

If you suffer from ongoing neck pain, your sleeping position could be contributing to unnecessary discomfort. Learning how to sleep to properly support your head and spine is an important component of relieving pain. By making adjustments to your sleep setup along with practicing good sleep hygiene, you may finally be able to wake without that familiar neck stiffness and soreness.

Assess Your Pillow Situation

Take a look at your current pillow for some telltale signs that it’s not giving you the support you need:

  • Is your pillow too thin? This allows your head to dip down, straining your neck.
  • Is your pillow too thick or firm? This can force your neck into an uncomfortable angle.
  • Is there a large gap between your shoulder and head when you lie on your side? Your pillow may be too thick.
  • Do you wake with imprints on your face? Your pillow is likely compressing too much.

Getting a pillow with proper loft and support is crucial. Look for one specifically made for side sleeping that keeps your head level with the rest of your spine. The right balance of cushioning without too much give is ideal to fill in the space between your shoulder and head. Memory foam is a good option for even support and pressure relief.

Mind Your Position

No matter how excellent your pillow, if you sleep in a way that torques your neck, you’ll still have problems. Here are some tips for each sleep position:

Side sleeping: Draw your knees up slightly to a tucked position so your back and neck are well-aligned. Avoid reaching forward with your neck or craning it back too far.

Back sleeping: Support your neck with a rounded pillow made specifically for this position. Consider placing a pillow under your knees to release lumbar pressure.

Stomach sleeping: This is the worst position for neck strain. If you can’t sleep any other way, use the thinnest pillow possible to avoid neck hyperextension.

Improving sleep hygiene

Along with pillow upgrades and position modifications, improving your overall sleep foundation is key for reducing pain. Here’s how:

  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Limit blue light exposure in the evenings.
  • Avoid large meals, alcohol, and caffeine close to bedtime.
  • Do gentle stretching before bed to relax muscles.
  • Create an airy, cooler, and quiet sleep environment.

Consider a new mattress

If your mattress is more than 7 years old, lacks support, or you wake with stiffness and soreness, investing in a replacement can go a long way to easing neck issues. Speak to a specialist about finding an option suited for side sleeping that provides pressure relief and healthy alignment of the spine.

When to See a Specialist

If you’ve made the recommended sleep adjustments and are still waking with moderate to severe neck pain, consult your doctor or physical therapist. They can assess you for underlying conditions like herniated discs, pinched nerves, arthritis, or muscle strains. Additional treatments like physical therapy, chiropractic work, massage, or steroid injections could provide relief. Surgery may be an option for severe cervical issues without improvement from conservative treatments.

Sweet Dreams Ahead

Neck pain shouldn’t prevent you from getting restful sleep. Focus on supporting your head and spine properly with the right pillow and position adjustments. Developing healthy sleep habits will also enhance sleep quality and comfort. With some diligence to improving how you sleep, you’ll be waking refreshed and ready to start your day pain-free.