How to Position a Pillow for a Stiff Neck?

Waking up with a stiff neck can be an awful way to start the day. That stiffness and pain radiating from your neck can make even simple actions like turning your head difficult. While there are many potential causes for neck stiffness, one of the most common is using the wrong pillow or sleeping in the wrong position.

Luckily, there are some simple adjustments you can make to your pillow and sleep position to help alleviate neck pain and prevent future stiffness. With a few easy tips, you’ll be able to get comfortable and wake up pain-free.

Choose the Right Pillow Loft and Firmness

When it comes to pillows, one size does not fit all. The right pillow for you depends on your sleep position and personal preference. In general, back and side sleepers need a higher loft pillow to keep their head and neck aligned with their spine. Stomach sleepers need a thinner, flatter pillow so their head isn’t angled up.

Look for a pillow that is comfortable yet provides support and keeps your head level. Medium density memory foam or latex pillows usually offer a good balance of cushioning and support. Avoid pillows that are either too thin or too thick which can strain your neck.

Back Sleepers

If you sleep on your back, place an extra pillow or two under your knees. This helps maintain the natural curve of your lower spine. Keep your neck long by using a medium loft pillow to support your head. Make sure the pillow adequately fills the space between your shoulder and head to keep your neck aligned.

Side Sleepers

Since your shoulder width narrows when lying on your side, use a thicker pillow to fill in the gap between your head and mattress. Look for a high loft pillow or place a thinner pillow on top of a thicker one. Make sure the pillow keeps your head level with your mid and lower spine.

Stomach Sleepers

Sleeping face down isn’t ideal for your neck. But if this is your preferred position, use the thinnest pillow possible or no pillow at all. A pillow that is too high will strain your neck by turning your head to the side or up at an odd angle. You want to keep your neck neutral.

Try Different Pillow Materials

Experiment with different pillow materials to see what works best. Memory foam molds to your head and neck. Latex pushes back while still conforming. Feather pillows are very malleable while buckwheat hulls are firmer. See if one type feels more comfortable and supportive on your neck.

Additionally, try using a cervical contour pillow which has an indentation to cradle your neck. Or use a roll pillow meant specifically for neck support. Visit various bedding stores to test out pillows so you can find the right one.

Adjust Your Sleep Position

Make sure to maintain good neck alignment throughout the night. Avoid sleeping in positions that twist your neck which can lead to muscle tightness. If you sleep on your side, keep your neck, head, and spine neutrally aligned.

If you sleep on your back, you can try propping your neck up just slightly using a very thin pillow or towel roll under the nape of your neck. This provides a small amount of additional support. Don’t use too much lift though as over-angling your neck can make stiffness worse.

When sleeping on your stomach, turn your head frequently from facing left to facing right to vary the position and minimize strain. Or try placing a thin, flat pillow under your chest and abdomen to angle your neck closer to neutral.

Proper pillow positioning is key for keeping neck stiffness at bay. Follow these tips and with some experimentation you’ll find the right setup for comfortable, pain-free sleep. Pay attention to your body’s signals and make adjustments as needed. A good night’s rest is important for overall health – and an unsupported neck can detract from getting quality sleep. Alleviating stiffness will help you tackle each day refreshed and energetic.