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Neck Pain and Sleep: What is the Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain?

By Edited Jun 17, 2014 1 1

Sleep Doesn't Have to be a Pain in the Neck.

Cervical Spine
Although we spend almost a third of our lives asleep most of us don’t put much thought into the activity. Sleep position, pillows, mattresses, and pre-sleep routines all have a significant impact, not only on how we spend that 33% of our lives, but also how we feel during the other two thirds. In particular, sleep affects our energy, attitude, ability to concentrate and our creativity, as well as neck and back pain and physical power and energy.

In fact, neck and back pain connected with sleep afflict a large number of people every year. It is one of the more common complaints of chiropractic visits. Most people suffer through such pain needlessly as there are some simple changes that can be made to drastically improve the situation.

The main causes of neck pain while sleeping are:

  • Sleep position – the primary positions are back, side and front
  • Pillows and mattresses – You don’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get good quality sleep equipment, but don’t go too cheap
  • Sleep quality – The quality of our sleep is most affected by our pre-sleep routine, especially the last hour before bed time.

Sleep Positions

Sleep Positions
Most of us take sleep for granted, assuming it will happen when we get tired enough. It’s not until a person runs into trouble with sleep that they put any thought into it. Some people just flop into bed exhausted and sleep in whatever position they landed. Others find it difficult to get to sleep so they gravitate towards whatever position feels most comfortable and will get them to sleep most quickly.

Although there are variations on these, there are three basic sleep positions:

Back Position – Sleeping on your back is excellent for both the back and the neck. It is easy to keep the spine and head aligned. Along with this position it is important to keep the head properly supported by a good quality pillow. Use a cervical support neck pillow under your neck/head. This allows the head to be in correct position, and minimizes the stress on the cervical spine. A positioning wedge for the lower back can also be beneficial.

Side Position – This is a natural position for many people. The legs can be bent somewhat at the knees and hips. However, the back must not curve too much into a fetal position or this will put strain on the neck and back. The pillow must have enough support to keep shoulders relaxed. If the pillow too low or flat your head will bend down. If the pillow is too high your head will be stretched upward. The best pillow is a cervical support pillow that is properly sized. These often come in set sizes, such as small, medium and large. Placing a pillow between knees to keep them hip-width apart will reduce stress on lower back area.

Stomach Position – The stomach position should be avoided. It is the worst position by far for many reasons. It places extra stress on the cervical spine and upper back area. Additionally, this position can stress the stomach muscles. When in the stomach position the head must be turned to one side in order to breathe. This can cause the neck to be stiff and sore by morning. If this is a favorite position of yours you may want to place a pillow next to your body to prevent you from rolling onto your stomach while asleep.

Front or Stomach Position
Changing your sleep position can be challenging at first; this is especially true if you have developed bad sleep habits over years or decades. Never the less, it is worth the effort. To change your sleep position habits start at a time when the quantity of sleep is not critical for you, such as during a long holiday weekend or while on vacation. This will allow you to be able to relax more easily and there will be less negative effect if you get a bad night of sleep at first. Also, don’t change other aspects of your sleep, such as the time you go to bed or the activities you do beforehand while changing your position. Visit this site for more information about sleeping positions.


Feb 15, 2012 6:36am
You have some helpful tips for people with neck problems and good sleeping positions and ones to avoid.
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