Skip to content

Neck Pain from Sleeping: Facts You Need to Know

5 min read
5 min read
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Neck Pain from Sleeping: A good night’s sleep benefits your physical and mental health. No doubt about that but if you are sleeping “wrong,” then it can be a pain in the neck. Mind you, this isn’t any ordinary pain we are talking about but something that could make it hard for you to even move. This often makes people wonder what actually causes neck pain from sleeping?

Let’s talk about it in detail so that next time when you sleep, you make sure that your posture is right to avoid getting sore necks in the mornings.

What is Neck Pain?

Neck pain is common in most adults and can occur from time to time due to different reasons. It can affect any age group. Most of the time, neck pain occurs due to muscular tension or strain which when treated at the right time can improve in a few days. But if it worsens or becomes persistent, then it certainly needs a combination of medical examination, lifestyle changes, self-help, and much more based on the severity of the condition.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

Symptoms of Neck Pain from Sleeping

When the muscles surrounding your neck become irritated (just because you slept wrong), they can begin to rebel, making it difficult for you to even make a slight movement of your head.

Though the common symptoms include stiffness and pain in the neck, there are high chances for you to experience signs in other body parts (depending on how severe the pain is) too.

The symptoms of neck pain from sleeping mainly include:

  • Pain: This can be either on the single side of the neck or in the center. If it is severe, pain can even aggravate to your shoulder and upper chest.
  • Stiffness: Neck pain from sleeping usually includes stiffness while waking up in the morning. This is common. Your muscles tighten in a way that it becomes hard for you to move, especially after you have been sitting or resting in a fixed posture.
  • Headache: The main culprit for this is your neck’s tension, which can sometimes even be felt at the back of your head, behind your eyes, across your forehead, and even in your ears.
  • Muscle spasms: Muscle spasms can occur in your neck along with pain but occasionally, making the neck movement even more difficult. If the case is severe, spasms can cause torticollis.
  • Tingling or numbness: If your nerve root is a little pinched, then there are high chances for you to experience tingling or numbness, which can even be felt in your arms and fingers.

Causes of Neck Pain from Sleeping

Until now, if you haven’t thought much about the position you sleep in or the type of pillow and mattress you use, then it’s high time you pay attention to them. Both your pillow and sleeping position can trigger an unbearable sore, stiff neck and even cause back pain over time.

This study reveals that sleeping issues are the root cause for up to 5% chronic pain cases. Interestingly, most of these factors can be controlled by making a few lifestyle changes.

Sleep better

Having said that, let’s now understand the key causes of neck pain.

Sleeping position

You might have any preferred sleeping position to fall asleep and be comfortable in it. But if that preferred position is on the stomach, then you aren’t doing any favors to your neck. We will tell you why.

After a few minutes of sleeping on the stomach, the neck may be twisted to one side. Since you are in deep sleep, you might not realize this for hours and thus causing two things:

  • Straining your neck muscles
  • Making them stiff and sore the next morning

Besides this, sleeping on your stomach puts a lot of strain on the back too. This is true if you are sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t provide proper support.

Your pillow

It’s your neck and head that spend hours laying on the pillow all night and that’s why using the right pillow matters.

A pillow, which fails to support your neck and head correctly can create immense tension on the neck muscles, giving rise to pain in return. Memory-foam or feather pillows might allow the head to feel “cradled” during sleep, making your neck and spine feel neutral.

Sudden movement

Believe it or not, sudden movements such as flinging the limbs suddenly or sitting up rapidly can strain the neck muscles too. While tossing and turning is natural during sleep, doing it suddenly or quickly can create strain too.

neck pain from sleeping

Past injuries

Any injuries in the past (such as sports injuries or whiplash) might not hurt in the beginning but show up later. So if you had any injuries that would have hurt your neck in some way, then you are more likely to go to bed feeling all okay but end up waking up with a stiff neck.

Apart from the above, the other causes include:

  • Poor body posture (the way you sit and stand in the day time)
  • Working on the computer for too long
  • Watch TV without changing your position for too long
  • Nerve compression
  • Osteoarthritis in any of your upper spinal joints

If the neck pain isn’t too much, here are some tips to get rid of it without a doctor’s help:

Apply a cold or ice pack on the stiff, sore neck part for at least 15-20 minutes, as this helps in reducing inflammation on the muscles.
In case you experience pain for more than 1 day, try applying a heat pack on the sore region for 15 – 20 minutes, as this relaxes and soothes the muscles.

Try a few over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve).

Do gentle exercises such as walking or slight neck movements, as this ensures that there is proper blood flow to the neck. Yes the pain can be troublesome but never stop moving your neck altogether. In fact, not moving your neck at all will tighten the muscles even more.

neck pain from sleeping

How to Prevent Sore & Stiff Neck in the Mornings?

  • If you are a stomach sleeper, then sleep either on your back or on the side.
  • If you are a side sleeper, use a soft pillow in between your legs to ensure that your neck and spine are aligned correctly.
  • When you sleep on the side, ensure that your pillow is not too higher than your neck.
  • Use a high-quality feather pillow that can conform to your neck and head’s shape.
  • Usually, a feather pillow tends to lose its shape over time. Therefore, replace them once in 2 years.
  • Pillows that are made of “memory foam” conform to your head and neck’s contours, keeping it 100% supported.
  • Do not tuck your phone under the pillow.
  • Do not use a pillow that’s too deep or stiff, as this makes the neck muscles flex overnight.
  • Use a good quality mattress. Avoid using one that’s sagging in the middle. Replace it with a mattress that’s medium-firm so that it can support your neck and back.
  • In the daytime, maintain proper body posture, especially while walking, sitting before the computer, and standing.
  • Do not hunch your shoulders or bend your neck forward.

Was this article helpful?

Take a Sleep Quiz

Find out if a memory foam, hybrid, or latex mattress is the right mattress choice for you.
Sleep trainer working in New York City in a voluntary orthopaedic practise. Also an independent medical writer and designer.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

Take a Sleep Quiz

Find out if a memory foam, hybrid, or latex mattress is the right mattress choice for you.

Advertisement

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by healh experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians