Yes, you can experience neck pain even when doing something so gentle as sleeping. Considering you aren’t doing anything else at the time, and you have ensured that your bed is a good fit for you, it must be the position that you are sleeping in, a.k.a. POSTURE.  The good news is there is something that we can do about it.

The Supine Sleeperthe person who is lying on their back

 vernon_physoptherapist

A more ideal position for the head and neck

Pros

this is a great relaxing position for your body allowing gravity to help relax your spine down into the mattress

there is no compression on any particular body part

this is an easier position to maintain your neutral spine; in your neck

as your head is facing upwards, less facial wrinkles will appear

Cons

some people find this position uncomfortable when their legs are straight because of the pull that tight hip flexors exert on their back

if you are prone to snoring, this is a likely position for that to occur

Modifications

try placing a pillow beneath your knees which lessens the pull from the hip flexors on the back and makes it easier to maintain a neutral spine

What to watch out for…

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Neck and head are positiioned upwards too much

make sure you aren’t sleeping with your head and neck strained upwards too much

make sure your pillow is not so high that it is bringing your chin closer to your chest

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Head and neck are positioned downwards too much

make sure you aren’t sleeping with your head sitting too low so that your chin is lifting upwards.

The Side Sleeper

Head is supported

Head is supported

Pros

this is a very common sleeping position for most people

this position may lessen the chance of snoring

Cons

this is a more difficult position to maintain your lumbar neutral spine

for women with a greater hip:waist ratio (smaller waists), this position can cause too much curvature along the spine

as there is compression on one side of your face, more facial wrinkles may occur on this side

Modifications

try a pillow between your knees to help bring them up to hip height which lessens any possible aches and pains

try placing a pillow or a rolled up towel beneath your waist crease to help create a neutral spine. This is especially important for women with our waists tending to be smaller than our hips

The towel helps decrease any side bending through the lumbar spine

The towel helps decrease any side bending through the lumbar spine

try using a body pillow. These are longer pillows so your top knee can rest on top to even out your lower body and your top arm can rest over it so shoulders and wrists may not become compressed

make sure your pillow is not so high that it is bringing your top ear closer to your shoulder

Top ear is too close to top shoulder

Top ear is too close to top shoulder

nor too low that your bottom ear is closer to the shoulder you are lying on. You want just enough pillow to fill in the space between your chin and your shoulder

Head is too low

Head is too low

The Dreaded Stomach Sleeper

Increased tension as head is turned to one side

Increased tension as head is turned to one side

Pros

some people just love to sleep on their stomachs and are most comfortable in this position

Cons

this bends your neck to one side which compresses everything on that side and may elongate tissues on the opposing side

maintaining your neutral spine in this position will be difficult and most often will cause compression to your lower spine

facial wrinkles may appear more on one side

Modifications

try sewing or taping a tennis ball into the front of your t-shirt so when you want to roll onto your stomach the ball will wake you up

The Take Away Message

It is so important to get a good nights sleep, but waking up sore should make you wonder if there is something you can do. Most aches and pains in life can be traced back to our posture. This is good news because it gives us some power to make some changes.

Even though most of us do tend to toss and turn throughout the night, we aren’t really moving our entire bodies much.

Less movement = less blood flow to our muscles, bones and tissues = less input of nutritious substances and less removal of toxins = waking up stiff and sore

If our muscles are stronger and able to support us well and are flexible rather than knotted up with tension, we will wake up less sore, more stretchy and probably less grumpy, even before we have our first cup of coffee.

Try and work on the following:

Modify your sleep position the best you can

Remember to stretch the muscles that you know are tight and strengthen your core

Find out what posture type you have when wandering through your day to day activities so you can get some help on how to make more changes

Remember that making positive postural changes in your body can only lead to experiencing less aches and pains!