Are you searching for the best sleeping position for neck pain? Do you wake up feeling stiff and sore with excruciating neck pain? Is it a constant struggle to get good sleep in general? Do you start your day with headaches? Your sleeping position could be the culprit. Many people underestimate the impact of their sleeping position on their overall health and well-being. But the truth is, how you sleep can significantly affect the condition of your neck.

In this article, we will explore how your sleeping position can alleviate neck pain and help you wake up feeling refreshed. Whether you are a back, side, or stomach sleeper, you can use specific strategies and adjustments to ensure optimal neck support and alignment.

We will explain the pros and cons of each sleeping position and discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks for neck pain sufferers. Additionally, we will provide some practical tips and recommendations on pillows, mattress firmness, and sleep accessories to improve your sleep quality and help alleviate your neck pain.

Say “Goodbye” to restless nights and “Hello” to restorative sleep. By optimizing your sleeping position, you can enjoy a pain-free and refreshed start to each day. So, let’s dive in and discover how you can wake up feeling your best self.

Common Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain is a widespread problem that affects millions of people worldwide. It can be caused by various factors, including poor posture, muscle strain, injuries, and underlying medical conditions. One of the most overlooked causes of neck pain is the sleeping position.

When you sleep, your neck should rest in a neutral position, properly aligned with the rest of your spine. However, certain sleeping positions strain neck muscles and ligaments, causing pain and discomfort upon waking.

Sleeping Position and Neck Pain

Sleeping positions play a crucial role in determining the health of your neck. The three main sleeping positions – back, side, and stomach – each have their plusses and minuses when it comes to neck pain. Actually, sleeping on your stomach is all minuses, but we’ll get to that later.

Sleeping on your back allows for proper alignment of the thoracic and cervical spine, provided you have the right mattress and pillow combination. This position supports your body weight evenly, reducing pressure on the neck and preventing strain. However, it may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who snore or suffer from sleep apnea.

Sleeping on your side is another popular position to relieve neck pain sufferers. Placing a pillow between your knees and ensuring proper head and neck support can maintain neutral spinal alignment and reduce the risk of waking up with a stiff neck.

On the other hand, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended for anyone. This position can strain the neck excessively and lead to discomfort and soreness. There are only two types of stomach sleepers: people with neck pain now and those who will have neck pain soon. If you prefer sleeping on your stomach, there are alternative positions that can provide better support for your neck.

Now that we understand the impact of sleeping positions on neck pain, let’s delve into the specifics of each position and how they can be optimized for maximum comfort and pain relief.

Sleeping on Your Back: Benefits and Proper Alignment Techniques

Sleeping on your back, also known as the supine position, is often considered the best position for overall spinal alignment. Maintaining a neutral position minimizes neck strain and reduces the risk of waking up in pain.

Here are the four keys to optimizing your back sleeping position:

  1. Start by choosing a pillow that provides adequate support for your neck.
  2. Look for pillows specifically designed to allow both back and side sleeping. These pillows have a specific shape that keeps the cervical spine in a neutral and supported position.
  3. Avoid using pillows that are too thick or too thin, as they will cause increased stress on your cervical spine.

Another technique to consider is placing a small rolled-up towel or a cervical roll under your neck for additional support. This helps maintain your neck’s natural curve (Lordosis) and prevent it from flattening or even reversing during the night.

Sleeping on Your Side: Benefits and Proper Pillow Placement

Sleeping on your side is a popular position to alleviate neck pain and the best. By adopting this position, you can keep your spine in a relatively neutral alignment and reduce the risk of developing discomfort in your neck.

To optimize your side sleeping position, choosing the right pillow is crucial. You must find a pillow that fits the space between your ear and shoulder, providing proper support for your neck. Our office suggests the Therapeutica pillow, which can be used for both side and back sleepers. It comes in 6 sizes to ensure a near-custom fit for your specific needs and is an ideal orthopedic pillow for neck pain.

Additionally, consider placing a pillow between your knees to help maintain proper hip alignment and further reduce strain on your lower back and pelvis. This contributes to more comfortable sleep and minimizes the risk of waking up in the morning in pain.

Sleeping on Your Stomach: Risks and Alternative Positions

Sleeping on your stomach, also known as the prone position, is generally not recommended for those with neck pain. This position increases strain on the neck, leading to pain and stiffness upon waking.

If you find it difficult to sleep in any other position, there are alternative positions that can provide better support for your neck. One option is to try sleeping in a semi-prone position, where you place a pillow under your chest and shoulder, allowing your head to rest on its side. Place another pillow between your knees to prevent you from rolling completely onto your stomach. This helps reduce the strain on your neck while allowing you to sleep on your stomach.

Alternatively, you can transition to a side or back sleeping position gradually. This may take some time and patience, but it will reduce your risk of waking up with neck pain. When training yourself to sleep in a new position, don’t get discouraged, it can take some time.

Choose The Right Pillow for Neck Pain Relief

Regardless of your preferred sleeping position, picking the right pillow is crucial for alleviating neck pain and promoting restful sleep.

For back sleepers, consider using a pillow with a medium loft and good support for the neck’s natural curve. Memory foam pillows or those with adjustable firmness are often recommended for their ability to contour to your neck and provide customized support.

Side sleepers should opt for a pillow that fits the space between the ear and shoulder, keeping the cervical spine in alignment. Look for pillows with a higher loft and good contouring properties to ensure proper support and pressure relief.

Stomach sleepers should choose a thin, soft pillow or consider sleeping without one. This helps minimize neck strain and reduces neck pain and discomfort. However, the best advice for stomach sleepers is to do everything you can to break this bad habit.

What Pillow Do Chiropractors Choose for Their Patients?

The most important thing you can do for your neck is choose a pillow that correctly supports your specific sleeping position. If your pillow is too soft, it won’t support the cervical spine. If your pillow is too firm, it can put pressure on your neck and shoulders, preventing your neck from resting in a supported, neutral position. The best way to find the right balance is to consult an Integrative Health and Rehabilitation chiropractor. Patients frequently ask us for the best type of pillow for their specific condition, and we are always more than happy to help them find a “perfect” fit.

As experienced neck specialists, the 5-Star Denver chiropractors at Integrative Health and Rehabilitation exclusively recommend Therapeutica orthopedic pillows. To find the right size pillow, follow these simple steps:

1. Have someone assist in measuring you. If you don’t have anyone to help measure you for your pillow, contact us and have an experienced Denver Chiropractor measure you.

2. If you wear a shirt with a collar, ensure it doesn’t interfere with the measurement.

3. Stand facing the person measuring you, with arms relaxed and at your side.

4. The person measuring you should hold the ruler level and measure from the base of the neck to the outside tip of the bony prominence at the shoulder. 

For the best fit, ignore any muscle mass beyond the bony prominence. Choose one size smaller if you measure between two sizes, or sleep on a softer surface like a memory foam or pillow-top mattress.

Therapeutica pillow measurement diagram

Pillow Size and Shoulder Width (Follow links to purchase through Amazon)

Additional Tips to Improve Sleep and Reduce Neck Pain

In addition to optimizing your sleeping position and choosing the right pillow, you can implement several other strategies to improve your sleep quality and reduce neck pain.

Maintaining good sleep hygiene is essential. This includes creating good “Sleep Habits” that include:

  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule
  • Creating a pre-bedtime routine or ritual
  • Make your bedroom a comfortable and conducive environment for sleep.

Investing in a supportive mattress is also essential for neck pain sufferers. Look for a mattress that provides adequate support for your spine because it promotes proper alignment. Medium-firm mattresses offer a balance of comfort and support. If you have a mattress that you feel is too firm, a simple and inexpensive memory foam topper can turn it into an ideal sleeping surface.

Finally, consider incorporating relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or gentle stretching into your bedtime routine. Relaxation or simple meditation practices (“box breathing” is easy and effective) help relax your muscles and promote a more restful sleep.

Conclusion: Find the Correct Sleeping Position to Relieve Neck Pain and Headaches

In conclusion, your sleeping position is crucial in alleviating neck pain and ensuring a refreshed start each day. By understanding the pros and cons of each sleeping position and making the necessary adjustments, you can optimize the quality of your sleep, waking up pain-free and well-rested.

Remember to choose the right pillow based on your sleeping position, invest in the correct type of mattress, and incorporate relaxation techniques into your bedtime routine. By taking these steps, you can say goodbye to groggy mornings and hello to restorative sleep. So, start paying attention to your sleeping position and make the necessary changes to support your neck. Wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead!

Still have questions? Contact us! Still not sure? Read some of our 5-Star Google reviews and see what patients have to say. Our integrative Chiropractors have been helping patients in ArvadaNorth Denver, and Wheat RidgeColorado, for over 20 years. Lastly, learn more about the conditions we treat and the benefits of the many types of treatment we provide on our Health Articles page. Ready to start feeling better? Book an appointment online!