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Best Sleeping Positions for Neck Pain
Best Sleeping Positions for Neck Pain

Neck pain causes many people to get less sleep than they should.  Tossing and turning or waking up prematurely interferes with the quality sleep the body needs each night.  Unfortunately, our sleep habits can contribute to mild or moderate neck pain, stiffness, and even headaches.  Chronic or debilitating neck pain may indicate a more serious condition such as a herniated disc or degenerative disc disease

Importance of Neutral Sleep Positions

Poor sleep positions can aggravate neck pain.  Keeping the neck in a neutral position is optimal.  When the neck is out of alignment, the muscles, ligaments, and tendons are stretched uncomfortably.  A neutral position means the neck is not flexed to the side or too far forward or backward.  Studies have shown that people who sleep on their sides or back tend to have less neck pain than those who sleep on their stomach.

Side Sleepers

A man is resting on an orthopedic pillow. The concept of taking care of your health. Healthy sleep, prevention of neck and spine diseases

Sleeping on your side keeps the head and neck aligned with the body.  However, the pillow needs to properly support the head and neck in a neutral position.  Pillows that are too flat or too thick will not keep the neck in a neutral position.  Using more than one pillow may put too much stress on the neck.  Some people prefer the support they get from a memory foam pillow that adapts to the shape of their head and neck.  Since pillow preference will vary by individual, it may be necessary to try several types of pillows before finding one that works best. 

Back Sleepers

Overhead photo of a man sleeping in a bed on his back.  Sleeping on back.

Sleeping on the back is a good position for some people.  It helps maintain the natural curvature of the spine.  A supportive neck pillow is essential, and another pillow beneath the knees may also be helpful to relax muscles in the neck and low back.

The Worst Sleeping Position

Young woman sleeping on her stomach in white bed top view. Healthy sleep concept

Sleeping on the stomach is the worst position when dealing with neck pain.  It forces the neck to be turned to one side or the other.  It adds stress to the neck and shoulder muscles.  As the body sinks into the mattress, it forces the back to arch uncomfortably.

Other Considerations

Old, worn out mattresses can create pressure points on the body.  A sagging mattress may not provide enough support.  When replacing a mattress, try one that provides medium-firm support.  Test it out in the store to determine its comfort level.

Gentle range-of-motion stretches before bedtime may be helpful in relaxing tense neck and shoulder muscles.  A hot shower or bath may also aid in relaxation before bed.

Next Steps

Occasional neck pain will usually resolve with conservative home treatments.  However, chronic or severe neck pain is a reason to see a physician.  The specialists at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care offer patients access to some of the world’s most advanced treatments.  Contact us to schedule a consultation with a spine specialist.

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