How to Sleep with Neck Pain

Written by in Sleep Health

Neck pain affects many of us from time to time. It can be caused by excess strain on our neck muscles due to work, injury, or a poor sleeping position. Fortunately, neck pain is rarely a cause for concern. Typically, it disappears after a few hours or a day or two before you even need to figure out how to sleep with neck pain. However, some occasions warrant an immediate call to the doctor. These include:

  • If the pain persists for a week or more
  • Neck pain is accompanied by numbness or tingling in your arms and hands
  • Neck pain is accompanied by shooting pain in your arms and hands

How to Sleep with Neck Pain

Symptoms of Neck Pain

Neck pain can occur in tandem with other symptoms. A person may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Reduced head movements
  • Muscle spasms and tightness.

Most of the time, neck pain disappears with the help of a few home treatments. However, when symptoms last longer than a week or are accompanied by nerve pain, it’s time to call the doctor to determine the source of the pain and appropriate treatment.
Causes of Neck Pain
Getting a good night’s sleep may be next to impossible when you’re experiencing neck pain since you need to be careful not to strain your muscles too much. But what causes this issue in the first place?
Muscle strain and tension
Many factors can cause muscle strain and stress from time. These include poor posture, poor sleeping position, working hunched over a computer for hours or suddenly jerking your neck while you exercise.
Heart attack
Not everyone associates neck pain with having a heart attack, but if you experience pain flaring up in your neck and is accompanied by shortness of breath, nausea, sweating, jaw or arm pain, seek emergency care immediately.
The neck is prone to injury during car accidents because of the sudden jerking movement. This is called whiplash. Extreme sports or simple falls can push your muscles to different positions that can damage the vertebrae.
Meningitis is a result of an inflammation in the thin tissue that surrounds the brain as well as the spinal cord. If you experience a headache and fever in conjunction with neck pain, seek immediate medical attention.
Degenerative Disc Disease
As we age, the cushioning discs in our cervical spine start to break down due to normal wear and tear. This can result in a stiff and sore neck. If the discs break down to the degree that it creates nerve pressure, you can also develop weakness, numbness, and pain from your shoulder to your hand.
Sleep Apnea
Those who experience sleep apnea often sleep on their side to help aid their breathing. This position sometimes creates a pinched nerve resulting in neck pain and headaches. Neurologists from Rowe Neurology Institute in Lenexa, Kansas performed a retrospective chart review of 700 records. 81% of those who complained of migraines also had a pinched nerve in their neck. Most of these patients slept on their side due to sleep.
How to Sleep with Neck Pain?
Chronic neck pain can stop us from sleeping well at night, leading to sleepless nights and stiffness the following day. Discovering out how to sleep with neck pain may just help you deal with neck pain and headaches so that you will finally find permanent relief.

  • Consider pillow height
    When sleeping, consider the neck support that you require to prevent neck pain. Correct pillow height is essential. It should be high enough to suit your particular sleeping position.Back sleepers: Back sleepers should opt for a thin pillow so that your neck will follow its natural curve.
    Stomach sleepers: Experts do not recommend this sleeping position. The position will further strain your neck muscles.
    Side sleepers: Side sleepers need thicker pillows to ensure that their neck and shoulder are equally distributed. An excellent method to determine what pillow you should get is to measure the height as well as the width of your shoulders. If you are a petite person, a slim pillow will work.How to Sleep with Neck Pain 
  • Cervical Pillow
    The cervical pillow is specifically designed to keep your neck in its natural curve when you sleep. If you can retain this position throughout the night, you will reduce the possibility of strained neck muscles because of the cervical support the pillow provides. One of the benefits of this pillow is that it can help you to sleep better at night. These pillows function by helping keep the neck in line with your head as well as your back. Correct cervical alignment plays a role in preventing injury, stiffness, as well as pain.
  • Sleep position
    Are you looking for tips on how to sleep with neck pain? Your sleeping position can play a role when it comes to the neck pain you are experiencing. Experts recommend that you sleep on your back as there will be less strain on your neck.
  • Neck support
    Another way to get some neck pain relief is to place a small rolled towel under your neck to get more support. The rolled towel fills the gap between the head and neck to maintain proper alignment and ease any pain.
  • Mattress
    If you are looking for tips for how to sleep with neck pain, your choice of mattress should be considered. The type of mattress that you sleep on will have an impact on your sleeping position and overall health. If you are a stomach or back sleeper, then sleeping on a firmer mattress will give you better support. Side sleepers, on the other hand, need a softer surface to help support the spine, hips, and shoulders. Memory foam contours around the body to protect the joints.
  • Apply heat
    Neck pain can be alleviated with the help of placing some heat on the affected area to soften the tension in the muscles. You should apply heat around 10 to 15 minutes before going to bed.


Why You’re Waking Up with Neck Pain

Ever wonder why you’re waking up with neck pain? Here are a few possible scenarios that caused neck strains when you wake up in the morning.
How to Sleep with Neck Pain

  •  Sleep position: Some of us don’t realize that our sleeping position can be a source of neck pain. This is especially true for those sleeping on their stomach. The unnatural position puts stress on your neck especially as you twist your head from left to right. Sleeping on your side or back is much better
  • Poor sleep hygiene: Your sleep hygiene may also play a part in your neck pain. Staying up late watching TV, piling up pillows under your head or checking your device while in bed can contribute to chronic pain in the neck and other parts of your back.
  • Stiff or weak muscles: Another possible cause for neck pain is stiff or weak muscles. If you wake up with neck pain, it is possible that your muscles themselves are stiff or may be weak. You can work with a physical therapist to help strengthen them
  • Pillow:  A  pillow for neck pain can be a great asset as long as you pick the correct pillow. A pillow that fits poorly can be a source of pain. If you’ve been using too thick of a pillow or one that is too thin, you are not giving your neck enough support as you sleep. Depending on your body frame and sleeping position, a firm pillow or foam pillow may be a good solution.
  • Stress:  Emotional stress can manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches and neck pain. When you are stressed, you tense the muscles in your body. The tightness in your neck muscles can be a big contribution to neck pain.
  • Posture: Practicing good posture during the day, when sitting or when standing can affect how you’ll feel at night.


How To Sleep With Neck Pain: Helpful Remedies

It is understandable that neck pain occurs from time to time. But when it is causing long-time or acute discomfort, then you need to take steps to alleviate it. Fortunately, there are several methods that you can try to help ease the pain.

  • Stretching
    For those who want to reduce neck pain due to the wear and tear of sitting in front of a computer all day, start by positioning your computer monitor at eye level. This way you can maintain proper posture. A good stretch can also help ease the stiffness on your neck muscles.  Start by rolling your shoulders backward, then downwards 10 times. Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times. Repeat with the other ear.  Squeeze shoulder blades together 10 times.  You’ll find that your muscles will feel loose and more malleable after doing these exercises.
  • Massage
    Another possible treatment that will help with your neck pain issues is getting a massage. Have your partner or a family member knead the muscles on your neck, shoulders, and back. These are the locations where stiffness is most likely to occur. Massaging increases blood flow to the affected areas.
  • Physical therapy
    If your neck pain is caused by injury, physical therapy is likely to be recommended so that you do not develop chronic neck pain issues. Your therapy session will most likely include muscles and joints to reduce stiffness in your movements.
  • Heat or cold compress
    Neck pain relief can also be accomplished by applying a hot or cold compress to the affected area. The temperature change can help loosen up your muscles increase blood to flow to the affected parts of your body. You can place some ice cubes in the middle of a clean towel then wrap them up before placing on the injured part and leave it for 20 minutes at a time.
  • Choose a good mattress
    As we grow older, our body changes. It’s essential that you pick a mattress that meets the needs of your body and helps align your spine. You may be able to accomplish this with a good mattress and perhaps, an adjustable frame. Add a support pillow if you still experience pain. The goal with any pillow is to bring your neck to its natural curvature as you lie down.
  • Continue moving
    Working out can still be done even when you are dealing with neck pain as long as you avoid jerking your head or neck during your training. When you exercise, more blood will be flowing in your system which can reduce the inflammation in your body.
  • Over the counter medications
    Ibuprofen can help ease the neck pain that you are feeling which is something you should consider the next time when your neck is starting to hurt.
  • Change your body position
    If you’re a stomach sleeper, it’s time you made a change. Sleeping on your stomach is bad for your body. Not only can it result in improper alignment of your neck and your back, but it can contribute to sleep apnea.
  • Practice good sleep hygiene
    Developing a good sleep hygiene routine does wonders. It gives your body the rest it requires to rejuvenate.


Choosing A Pillow For Neck Pain

Finding the right type of pillow for neck pain along with a proper mattress can result in a good night’s rest on your part.
How to Sleep with Neck Pain

  • Orthopedic pillows
    These pillows are specifically designed to follow the natural curve of your neck thus helping to prevent or alleviate neck pain while you sleep. 
  • Cervical pillows
    Roll-shaped pillows called cervical pillows can be placed under your neck at night to help you maintain the natural curvature of your neck. 
  • Feather pillows
    Another option that you can choose for your neck pain is feather pillows. This old fashioned pillow can be shaped into comfortable support to your head and neck. Feather pillows offer less resistance when compared to using foam pillows. 
  • Water-filled pillows
    Water filled pillows can also be a good option. This type of pillow helps distribute the weight from your head and neck. You can customize it according to your needs.

At some point in our lives, most of us experience neck pain. Typically, it resolves on its own. But when it doesn’t, neck pain can disrupt your sleep or be a sign of a more serious condition. If you develop neck pain that does not resolve, it’s best to see your doctor.