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Sleeping with Neck Pain: Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Rest

Neck pain can make it incredibly difficult to get a proper night’s sleep. Between sore muscles, stiffness, and pinched nerves, your neck may hurt no matter what position you try to sleep in. While the root cause of the pain needs to be addressed, there are some adjustments you can make to your sleep habits and bedroom setup to help you rest more comfortably with neck pain.

Choose the Right Pillow

An improper pillow that doesn’t adequately support your neck is a common cause of pain. The right pillow keeps your head, neck, and spine aligned.

  • Memory foam contours to the curves of your neck. Look for a cervical pillow with an indentation to cradle your head.
  • Side sleepers need a thicker pillow to fill the space between the neck and mattress.
  • Stomach sleepers need a slimmer pillow to avoid neck hyperextension.
  • Adjustable pillows allow you to customize the height and shape.

Use Extra Pillow Support

Adding a second pillow under or between your legs, behind your back, or under your arm can help maintain proper spinal alignment and take pressure off your neck.

  • Placing a pillow between your legs keeps your spine neutral if you sleep on your side.
  • Stomach sleepers can put a slim pillow under their pelvis/abs to avoid arching the neck.
  • A pillow under your arm prevents the shoulder from pulling on the neck if you sleep on your side.

Try Cervical Traction

Applying gentle traction to the neck can relieve muscle tension, separate compressed vertebrae, and take pressure off pinched nerves.

  • A traction device keeps the neck elongated. Or improvise with a rolled up towel secured around your neck.
  • Use care to avoid over-stretching the neck which could cause injury. Start with light tension for short periods.

Adjust Your Sleep Position

The way you position your head, neck, and spine during sleep greatly impacts pain levels.

  • Side sleeping avoids pressure on the back of the neck. Place a pillow between your knees.
  • Back sleeping works well if you put pillows under your knees to flatten the lower back.
  • Stomach sleeping generally causes neck hyperextension and rotation and is best avoided.

Mattress and Bedding Support

Your mattress and bedding should keep the spine aligned and minimize pressure points.

  • Memory foam contours the body to relieve pressure. Firm mattresses prevent sagging.
  • Cotton sheets allow air circulation to prevent overheating.
  • Avoid thick, lofty comforters that can force the head and neck out of position.

Create a Neutral Body Position

Maintaining a neutral position means keeping the natural curves of your spine aligned.

  • Avoid positions that overarch the neck like reclining on multiple pillows.
  • Use pillows to keep your body in alignment if you sleep on your side or back.
  • Stomach sleeping twists the neck and is generally not recommended.

Relax Before Bed

Getting into bed with tense, sore muscles will make it hard to fall asleep.

  • Take a warm shower or bath to loosen up muscles before bed.
  • Do gentle stretches and range of motion exercises for the neck before lying down.
  • Deep breathing and relaxation techniques quiet the mind making it easier to fall asleep.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety often manifest in neck tension, leading to pain at night.

  • Practice stress management during the day through exercise, relaxation techniques, or speaking with a therapist.
  • Avoid stimulating activities like computer and TV use before bedtime.
  • Listen to calming music or read something uplifting to distract your mind.

Adjusting your sleep position, pillows, and other bedding can mean the difference between waking up with aggravated neck pain or feeling refreshed. Proper sleep hygiene, managing stress, and relaxing at night are equally important. Give these tips a try for obtaining restorative rest while dealing with neck pain.