How Should I Sleep With Neck And Shoulder Pain?

A gram of prevention is a thousand times more effective than a ton of cure. This holds true for sleepers with neck and shoulder pain. Sacrificing your sleep to cope with neck or shoulder pain or both can be frustrating, particularly if you can’t pinpoint the pain’s root cause. It’s true if your neck or shoulder pain or other forms of joint pain is caused by injuries or aging.

On the other hand, you can reduce your neck or shoulder pain by sleeping on the best mattresses under $1000, adjusting your sleeping position, or changing your pillow the suits your sleeping positions. If you’re some who like to read before sleeping, check out our recommendation for the top pillows for reading!

Said that, in this article, we’ve put together expert advice on how you have a good night’s sleep with neck and shoulder pain.

The Main Causes of Shoulder or Neck Pain

If you’re suffering from any form of neck or shoulder pain—know this you’ll be surprised it a common problem among people of this generation. You’ll be surprised how much work our neck muscles and shoulder muscles do even while performing some of the simplest of movements, say look at your phone, for example. Yes, agree or not, your neck or shoulder pain can be caused by the way you use your phone, sit on a chair, or use your computer.

But for the sake of this article, some of the common causes of neck and shoulder pain:

  1. Sleeping incorrectly in a bad sleeping position
  2. Sleeping on the wrong mattress
  3. Sleeping on the wrong pillow
  4. Inflammation of the joints from medical conditions like osteoarthritis
  5. Pinched nerves

How Your Sleeping Position Can Worsen Your Neck and Shoulder Pain

One of the major reasons for your neck or shoulder pain could be the way you sleep, or in other words, your sleeping position. It’s always recommended that you sleep on your side or back to avoid neck or shoulder pain. Stomach sleepers are most likely to be inflicted with neck pain because this position puts a lot of strain on the neck and lower back. We can easily categorize this position as one of the worst sleeping position.

I Sleep With Neck And Shoulder Pain

If you’re already suffering from shoulder pain, we highly recommend you avoid sleeping on your side, particularly on the side that you feel the most pain. Ideally, back sleeping is best for people with shoulder pain. Just make sure you position your arms on your side. If you sleep with your arms above your head, this will exacerbate your shoulder pain.

How An Ill-Fitting Mattress Or Pillow Can Worsen Your Neck And Shoulder Pain

Your neck and shoulder pain can also be associated if you’re sleeping on the wrong mattress or pillow. If you already have neck or shoulder pain, or experiencing neck or shoulder pain—check your pillow. Your pillow’s main purpose is to support your head and keep your neck in a neutral position, and if your pillow isn’t doing it for you, maybe it’s time you change your pillow. 

Said that pillows and mattresses go hand-in-hand. Sleepers with shoulder pain should, no doubt, be wary about their sleeping position, and change it if it is associated with their pain. At the same time, they should also be aware of their mattress choices; especially if they sleep on their sides.

To alleviate your shoulder pain, ensure that your mattress isn’t too soft or too firm. If your mattress is too soft, you’ll sink too deep into it, which will put your neck joints and spine into misalignment.  On the other hand, if a mattress is super firm, it will be difficult for you to sink enough into the mattress exerting excess pressure in your shoulders.

Neck pain is also caused by injuries, muscle strains, poor posture, and improper sleeping positions, and fortunately, these can be treated at home, which will greatly improve your sleep quality.

5 Tips To Avoid Neck or Shoulder Pain While Sleeping

It is imperative that you clearly understand that having good quality is requisite in alleviating neck or shoulder pain. Changing your sleeping position, using the right pillow and mattress, performing gentle stretches before bed, and maintaining a healthy posture throughout the day can do wonders in combating your shoulder or neck pain as well as improve your sleeping experience.

Let’s get to the details one-by-one:

1. Change Your Sleeping Position

By now, you probably know that not all sleeping positions are good for your body, and some sleeping positions will cause your neck or shoulder pain. Sleeping on your stomach is, by far, most agree that contributes to neck pain because it puts a lot of pressure on your neck, even more so if you sleep with a thick pillow. If you’re a stomach sleeper—switch to sleeping on your back as it will be enough to alleviate your pain.

According to health experts say back sleeping is the ideal sleeping position for everyone. The reason is when sleeping on your back, your head, neck, and spine stay in a proper alignment. This is essential for reducing your chances of having neck or back pain at night.

So, what if you’re a side sleeper? Well, sleeping on your sides exerts a lot of pressure on your shoulders, the hips, and the knees while you sleep, which can cause, or worse, your shoulder pain.  If you’re someone sleeping on your side and have shoulder pain, train yourself to get out of it. You can also avoid sleeping on the affected side, and for added comfort, consider placing a pillow between your knees.

If you find it hard to change your sleeping position, sleep on a contouring mattress that will provide extra support to the shoulders. And don’t forget to pair it with the right pillow.  If you’re looking for an ideal mattress or pillow that properly supports this position, check out our list of the best mattresses and pillows for all types of sleepers.

2. Pick the Right Mattress

Simply changing your sleeping position isn’t enough to relieve you from chronic neck or shoulder pain. It is important that you invest in a supportive and comfortable mattress that keeps your neck, shoulders, spine, and knees in proper alignment while you sleep. Your mattress’s firmness depends on your weight and sleeping position.

  • Lightweight sleepers: If you’re sleeping on your side, choose a soft mattress, and if you’re sleeping on your stomach or back, pick a medium-firm mattress.

  • Average-weight sleepers: If you’re sleeping on your side, choose a medium to medium-firm mattress, and if you’re sleeping on your stomach or back, pick a medium-firm mattress.

  • Heavy sleepers: If you’re sleeping on your side, choose a medium-firm to firm mattress, and if you’re sleeping on your stomach or back, pick a firm mattress. If you’re looking for the perfect mattress for heavier people, check out our list of the best mattresses for heavy people.

3. Choose A Supportive Pillow

Picking the right pillow will reduce your persistent neck or shoulder pain while sleeping. An ideal pillow will keep your neck and spine in proper alignment.

Neck Pain

So, how can you tell which is the best pillow for you?

Choosing the right pillow should be based on your weight, height, sleeping position, and personal preferences. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Side sleepers: The thickest/firmest pillows are ideal for them because they need to support their head and neck and keeps them in a neutral alignment. A rounded pillow is best for side sleepers.

  • Back sleepers: Flatter pillows are a good choice for back sleepers because they contour the neck and spine’s natural curvature and keep them in a neutral alignment.

  • Stomach sleepers: Pillows no more than 3-inches in height are ideal for people sleeping on their stomachs as it prevents additional strain on their necks.

Lastly, pick pillows made of feather and memory foam, not because they’re comfortable, but they provide the adequate support needed to reduce neck pain. And avoid high or very firm pillows at all costs.

4. Do Gentle Stretches

There are some simple exercises that you can regularly perform to relieve your neck and shoulder pain for a better night’s sleep. Depending on your condition, we recommend performing gentle stretches on your neck or shoulder before going to bed. Stretching your neck and shoulder will loosen the tight muscles around them, which may help lessen your pain.

5. Improve Your Posture

If you work on your computer or stare at your phone all day, improving your posture will stop or reduce your neck or shoulder pain. Maintain your posture by positioning your hips and ears aligned with your shoulders. Don’t sit on your chair for longer periods, and take breaks throughout the day. Stretch your shoulder muscles by rolling your shoulders backward and squeezing the shoulder blades together at least ten times. Keep your computer at an eye level and refrain from using your phone in bed.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons for neck or shoulder pain—some can be addressed by making simple adjustments like changing the pillow or mattress, correcting our sleeping position and posture. Some are beyond our control and require help from professionals. Either way, neck or shoulder pain while sleeping is an issue that can be reduced and eliminated by taking the right procedures.

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