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How to sleep to support your neck

woman waking up with neck pain

If you’ve ever had a stiff or sore neck after a night’s sleep, you’ll know how uncomfortable it can be. Many of us have experienced what is often called ‘a crick in the neck’ due to our necks getting stuck in awkward positions while we’re sleeping. In fact, this is one of the most common causes of neck pain. Other common reasons people suffer from neck pain include bad posture and accidents, such as falls or car accidents.   

In this blog, we’ll give you tips on how best to support a sore neck while sleeping. We’ll also discuss how you can prevent a painful neck with pillows. 

How to sleep on a pillow for neck pain

Whether you’ve developed neck pain through bad posture, by sleeping in an uncomfortable position or as a result of an accident, it’s important to take good care of your neck to prevent the pain and stiffness from getting worse.   

Unfortunately, neck pain can negatively impact the quality and duration of your sleep, and not getting enough restorative sleep can slow down healing and prevent a sore neck from getting better. To speed up the healing process, it’s important to do everything you can to find a comfortable sleeping position when suffering from a sore or stiff neck. This includes making sure you use an appropriate pillow for your sleeping position when you go to bed at night.   

 ●     If you sleep on your back, it’s important to avoid sleeping on a pillow that is too high as this will force your neck to be flexed, which could result in further stiffness and pain.   

 ●     If you sleep on your side, you need to lie on a pillow that is higher around your neck than your head so that your spine is evenly aligned throughout the night.   

 ●     It’s best to avoid sleeping on your stomach as this forces your neck into a twisted position. You can train yourself to stop sleeping on your stomach by using a full body pillow to prevent you from turning over in your sleep. If you must sleep on your stomach, it’s best to use a very thin pillow to avoid putting too much strain on your neck.

How many pillows should you sleep with for neck pain

To avoid putting strain on your neck during sleep, you need to keep your spine in a straight position as much as possible and ensure your head is positioned at the same height as the rest of your body.     

As long as it is supportive and comfortable, one pillow should be enough to help you to achieve a healthy and comfortable posture. The pillow you use should support the hollow of your neck and not cause your neck to tilt upwards, sideways or downwards while you are sleeping.

Is sleeping with two pillows bad for your neck?

Sleeping with two or more pillows, or sleeping with a pillow that is too high, can force you to stretch your neck. If you sleep on your side with too many pillows, you’ll find that your neck is forced to one side. If your head is too elevated when sleeping on your back, your neck will be tilted forwards.   

Using too many pillows can cause you to wake up in the morning with pain and stiffness so should be avoided as much as possible.

Is sleeping without pillows bad for your neck?

It’s thought that side-sleeping, also known as lateral sleeping, is the most common sleeping position. Lying in this position without a pillow means that your neck needs to stretch to the side in order for your head to meet your mattress. Over time, this stretching is likely to result in strain and pain not only in your neck but also in your back.   

Similarly, many back sleepers will find that sleeping without a pillow puts pressure on their necks as the neck stretches back for their head to touch the mattress.   

The only position in which sleeping without a pillow may be beneficial is the stomach sleeping position but as we discussed earlier, this position should be avoided if possible, and many stomach sleepers will find that they need a thin pillow for comfort.

What is the best pillow for neck pain?

There is no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to pillows. What one person finds comfortable, another person might find intolerable.   

As a general rule, side sleepers should choose a firm pillow and back sleepers are likely to feel most comfortable with a medium/firm pillow. If you suffer from neck pain, it’s important to find a pillow that is firm enough to support your head and neck but soft enough to provide pressure point relief.   

Here are some options to consider if you’re looking to relieve or prevent neck pain:   

Orthopedic pillows   

An orthopedic pillow is one that has been specially designed to correct your body’s position when lying down. This type of pillow encourages perfect spinal alignment and thereby helps to relieve or prevent stress or strain on your body.   Memory foam pillows   

Memory foam pillows can provide relief to people who are suffering with neck pain and help to prevent neck pain by allowing your spine to adopt a natural, relaxed position. As they mould to the contours of your head and neck, they can be used by both back and side sleepers.   

Feather or down pillows   

Feather or down pillows are popular options as they have a long lifespan and remain comfortable and supportive for longer when compared with pillows with synthetic fillings. Side sleepers may benefit from the lofty, full shape of a feather or down-filled pillow.   

Microfibre pillows   

Microfibre pillows are a good choice for the majority of sleepers as they come in many different shapes and heights so you should be able to find one that suits you and your sleeping position.     

If you’re suffering from neck pain and you think your pillow is to blame, it may be time to invest in a new one. By choosing a pillow that supports your neck and your sleeping position, you may be able to say goodbye to neck pain once and for all.    

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