Sleeping with Neck Pain

A sore or stiff neck can really throw a wrench in your day. Because you use and turn your neck all the time, neck pain isn’t just unpleasant: it also interferes with your daily life. It’s quite literally a pain in the neck.

The average head weighs 12 pounds, so your neck has to work hard to keep it balanced and painless. While there are many causes of neck pain, nearly all of them come from lifestyle choices including:

  • Bad posture
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Stress

Perhaps one of the most common causes of neck pain, however, is your sleeping position. Sometimes our sleeping habits can be hard to change. Often we’re in the habit of one position, or we wake up in a different position than we fell asleep in. However, managing your sleeping position when you go to bed is a good strategy for reducing neck pain in the long run.

Let’s look at the best sleeping positions for neck pain and other pro neck pain tips!

1. Back: the best option by far

Sleeping on your back is highly recommended by experts. This position keeps your spine and neck in a neutral position, which can be restorative for neck pain. It also assures that no pressure is being placed on the body.

What pillow to use: Experts recommend a pillow that supports the curve of your neck. This will keep your neck aligned with your body.

2. Fetal: popular and painless

The majority of people sleep in the fetal position. This position is similar to the side position, except you’re curled up and your arms don’t stay down by your sides. Instead, they rest in front of your body. It’s good for your health and has similar benefits to sleeping on your side.

If you’re pregnant, this is also an ideal position because it encourages blood flow to the fetus.

What pillow to use: Use a pillow that supports your head.

3. Side: still a good choice

Another common choice, this position can put pressure on certain areas of your body, including your shoulders and hips. With a good pillow, neck pain can be neutralized.

If you can, try to sleep on your left side. Studies show that sleeping on your left side can keep your stomach neutral and prevent heartburn.

What pillow to use: Use a firm pillow that supports your head and another under your knees to keep your spine aligned.

4. Stomach: simply not ideal

Sleeping on your stomach isn’t an ideal position for neck pain. In fact, it’s the worst position for neck and back pain. It throws your spine out of whack, which means you’ll could get stiff muscles.

What pillow to use: No pillow or low pillow. Try to sleep facing the mattress instead of to the side, which can make neck pain worse.

How to change positions

If you’re looking to change sleeping positions, you might want to try “boxing” yourself in with pillows so you don’t move during the night. You can also train yourself by making sure to start the night in the position you hope to adopt.

At the end of the day, you should choose the sleeping position that’s most comfortable to you. If your neck pain persists, you should try to change positions. If you find this impossible, you can also adapt your current position. For example, if you sleep on your stomach, you can try removing your pillow and see if it helps your neck pain. Do what’s best for you.

Pro tips for preventing neck pain

If you want to take neck pain prevention to the next level, these tips are for you! Be sure to consider all aspects of your sleep routine for maximum results.

  • Improve your pillow situation: Make sure your pillow is comfortable and keeps your body in alignment. Try a memory foam or feather pillow to increase comfort.  
  • Ban your phone in bed: You heard us. Tuck your phone away at night so that you aren’t using it in bed. That’s because using your phone in bed could make you turn your neck in weird ways and increase pressure.
  • Focus on sleep quality: Sleep isn’t just about position. If you really want to get restorative sleep, focus on sleep as a whole. Have you created a sleep routine? Do you engage in relaxing activities before bed? Make sure you do everything possible to get quality ZZZs.
  • Make the most of buses and airplanes: If you travel a lot, you might consider getting a neck pillow to minimize pain in uncomfortable situations.

Consult a chiropractor

If your neck pain doesn’t go away within a month, you may need to see a chiropractor to get an expert opinion on how to relieve your pain. Usually, neck pain isn’t a sign of something serious, but it could be if coupled with migraines, fevers or dizziness. An expert can screen you and provide a care plan for your neck pain that involves massage therapy.

In addition, if you’re experiencing pain throughout your body, you may have fibromyalgia. A chiropractor expert can also help with fibromyalgia treatment. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to consult an expert near you or you can visit my clinic Chiropractor Juneau.


  • Dr. Brent Wells


    Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab

    Dr. Brent Wells is the author of over 700+ online articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. These articles include various types of information about how you can live a healthy and happy life. He founded Better Health Chiropractic in Alaska in 1998. Dr. Wells has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients who suffer from varying problems. Dr. Wells is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.