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Why Neck Pain May Be Worse After Sleeping
Why Neck Pain May Be Worse After Sleeping

Sleeping should allow the body to rest and recover from daily activities.  It should be restorative for our health.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen as it should.  Depending on our sleep position, the type of pillow we use, and the condition of the mattress, we may actually be creating more stress and tension on muscles, ligaments, joints, and the spine itself.  The result may be that we wake up with more pain than when we went to bed.  The following are some tips that may help us enjoy a better night’s sleep and wake up with less pain in the morning.

Find a Neutral Position

Posture makes a difference when we sleep just as when we are awake.  Finding a neutral sleep position is important, particularly as we age.  It’s helpful to keep the body and spine aligned as much as possible.  Those who sleep on their back should use a small pillow under the knees to maintain the spine’s natural curvature.  A pillow that keeps the head in a neutral position is ideal.  Side sleepers can use a pillow between the legs to keep the spine aligned.  Another pillow should support the head and neck.  Side sleepers may need to alternate sides during the night.  Sleeping on the stomach should be avoided since it seems to cause the most problems.  It often puts too much pressure and stress on the neck, as it is twisted to the side for long periods.  People who are only comfortable on their stomach may want to skip the pillow.

Choose a Supportive Pillow

Sleeping beauty. Calm serene young woman lying on back at comfy king size bed at suite room of luxury hotel being tight asleep resting on cozy textile sheets relaxing on orthopedic mattress and pillow

Your pillow should ease stress on the neck.  An individual may need to try a number of pillows to find one that works well for their preferred sleep position.  Side sleepers will usually need a thicker pillow to ensure the head and neck are properly supported.  Some people find that feather pillows and memory foam pillows offer good support.  Others favor water-filled pillows and buckwheat filled pillows.  If using two pillows, stagger them slightly so the top pillow supports the neck and the bottom pillow supports the shoulders.  Pillows may need to be replaced every year or two since many tend to compact over time.

Get a Comfortable Mattress

A medium-firm mattress is the best choice.  If the mattress is too hard, a foam pad on top may help.  A mattress that sags or creates pressure points on the body may need to be replaced.  When purchasing a new mattress, testing it out first in the showroom is important.

Other Helpful Tips

Stretch the neck before bed to loosen the muscles.  Gentle range of motion stretches may be helpful.  Avoid using the computer or texting before bed.  People may bend their head too far down when using these devices, causing more neck stress.  Another helpful tip is to apply heat to the neck for 10-15 minutes before bed to relax the neck muscles.  Try a hot shower or bath or use a heating pad.

Next Steps

Restorative sleep is essential for the body.  Changes to the spine can interfere with a good night’s sleep.  Arthritis, cervical spinal stenosis, and degenerative or herniated discs in the neck become more common as we age.  If you are experiencing chronic neck pain that interferes with sleep or feels worse after waking, it may be time to see a specialist.  The physicians at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care are experts in diagnosing and treating neck pain and spinal disorders.  Contact us today to schedule an appointment.    

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