If you’ve ever felt neck pain after a night of sleep, you’re not alone. All of us have dealt with neck pain from sleeping wrong sometime in our lives. However, failing to address the issue can result in chronic neck pain – and no one wants that, right? If you’re reading this article, you’re clearly wondering how to prevent neck pain from sleeping in the future.
It’s certainly possible to reduce your chances of neck pain if you educate yourself and make important changes to your sleeping posture. But how? What are the right things to do? What are the right things to stop doing?
Fixing sleep-related neck pain doesn’t have one easy “fix” – it’s a complex, multidimensional issue. Changing the position of your body during sleep is one step in the right direction. For most of us, neck pain from sleeping is the result of many things at once.
In this blog post, we’ll explore this topic in depth and offer solutions that should help you sleep better and eliminate your neck pain.
Why Does My Neck Hurt After Sleeping?
The first instinct when you wake up with neck pain is to blame posture – like sleeping with a crick in your neck. But this isn’t always the primary reason for neck pain when you wake up. Many people use old or clumpy pillows, which prevent you from being able to fully relax the neck. In other cases, you might be using too many pillows. Or, you’re using a pillow that is too rigid or too soft.
When your head is not laying parallel to your mattress, it’s likely that there is a strain or pressure point somewhere in your neck. Prolonged strain while you’re asleep is a direct factor in neck pain. Indeed, if your sleeping position prevents the muscles in your neck from relaxing fully, it’s no surprise that you have neck pain. Usually, minor pain or aches will go away after a day or two. But if you’ve been sleeping in a suboptimal position for, say, years, that pain will become sharper and take longer to go away.
This can be a real downer, as pain in any part of the body can cause (1) stress, (2) physical discomfort, and (3) distraction in your daily life. So, how can you prevent sleep-related neck pain from happening in the future? Below, we’ll explore solutions for people who suffer either minor pain from sleeping, or more severe pain.
For Major Neck Pain – Wear a Neck Brace While You Sleep
If you’re dealing with severe pain while trying to sleep or you just have neck pain after sleeping, you might consider a neck brace or cervical collar. Major pain in the neck indicates that your habits over time have resulted in sub-optimal neck orientation. If your neck is strained in your “resting” state, you need to re-define what your “resting” neck position is.
By wearing a neck brace for sleeping, you can hold your neck firmly in one position. This provides a more significant level of support that a simple pillow can’t provide. Over time, wearing that cervical collar will “re-train” your neck to sleep in a healthier, safer, pain-free position.
Alternatively, you may be suffering from neck pain due to a sports-related injury or accident. In these cases, many people report that they can’t sleep due to neck discomfort. This can be harmful to your daily life – without the right amount of sleep, your health decreases and your productivity worsens. Using a neck brace while you sleep should eliminate pain both during sleep and when you wake up.
For Minor Neck Pain – Address Your Sleeping Style
Earlier in this post, we talked about the importance of using the right pillow for sleeping. One of the most important questions to think about is “what position do I usually sleep in?”
If you’re a back sleeper, you likely need a more flexible, soft, rounder pillow. Round, softer pillows provide complete cushion around all parts of your neck – basically filling out all the pockets. If your sleeping pillow completely touches all parts of your neck with no gaps, then you’re getting excellent neck support while maintaining the natural curvature of the neck.
Side sleepers should use firm memory foam pillows or a body pillow for back pain. Firm pillows are better for side sleepers because they provide better support of the head. Soft pillows simply won’t give you enough head support, resulting in morning neck pain woes.
When Should You See a Doctor or Physical Therapist For Neck Pain?
Changing your sleeping position, using a neck brace, or buying a special pillow can resolve many cases of neck pain. But there’s also a chance that your cervical pain won’t go away with a simple fix.
If you have a major injury, you should always go see a doctor. This is especially true for neck injuries, as the neck is an extremely sensitive and important part of your body. Chronic, stubborn pain in the neck area could signal a sprain, a joint injury, or even a fracture.
There are also a few medical conditions you should be aware of that may be related to your neck pain. One is osteoarthritis – the natural erosion of cartilage in your joints. Another neck condition you should watch out for is acute torticollis. Finally, if you’ve been in a car accident, your neck pain may be the result of whiplash.
In most cases, implementing small lifestyle changes will resolve cervical pain. Even just changing your sleeping position can have a huge impact. If you’re a stomach sleeper, it might take a few nights to get used to sleeping on your back or side – but it’s worth it!
We recommend trying out neck supports if you’re suffering from more severe pain after sleeping. If you’re only dealing with minor pain, we suggest trying out a new pillow or new sleeping position. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Stomach sleeping is the absolute worst position for neck pain.
- Try sleeping on your back or side to reduce neck pain and sleep better.
- Use a cervical brace if you had surgery or were in a car accident.
- Try memory foam if you’re a side sleeper.
By implementing our recommendations, you should be on your way to more restful slumber, less neck strain, and happier mornings.