Best Sleep Positions


1/3 of your life is spent sleeping, or at least it should be. But many struggle to find a comfortable positions. If you have pain or an injury, getting comfortable at night can be a challenge.  But with the right adjustments, you can catch the Zzz's you need to feel like yourself when you wake. 

Woman sleeping on her right side with head on a pillow Best Sleep Positions

Best Sleep Positions for Shoulder Pain

Pain at night is a common complaint of people with rotator cuff injuries. Lying down and being still for a extended period allows inflammation to set in after a day of activity. This can make it difficult to sleep.  

Sleeping on the back with a pillow propped under the elbow can take pressure off of the shoulder. This places the shoulder in a position that takes stress off of the soft tissue structure. This can ease pain. 

Side sleeping may also be helpful with relieving shoulder pain. Just don't lay on the painful side. 

If you are in a sling due to a recent shoulder surgery, sleeping in a recliner may be the best position for the shoulder. The rest of your body may not like it though.


Best Sleep Positions for Neck Pain

Sleeping with neck pain can be difficult. Choosing the right pillow is a large part of the equation. The best neck pain pillow is one that keeps your head and neck in a neutral position. This is different for everyone. 

The size and number of pillows depends on the distance from you shoulder to the side of your head. Try  different pillows and choose the combination that keeps your head and neck neutral. Softness or firmness is up to you and your personal preference. 

Side sleeping and back sleeping are typically best for neck pain. Those positions allow the neck and head to remain in a neutral position. 

Sleeping on your stomach is not recommended with neck pain. Stomach sleeping requires you to turn your head to breathe. Keeping the neck rotated for that long can lead to issues and increase pain. 

Man sleeping on his stomach with the head turned to the right.  Bad sleeping position for neck pain.  bad sleep positionsBad Sleep Position

Best Sleep Positions for Back Pain

Sleeping with back pain requires extra pillows. You'll need them to position your legs. 

Sleeping on your back with pillows under the knees can help to open the joints in your lower back. This decreases the stress on inflamed tissue in the lower spine.  

Side sleeping is another great option for relieving lower back pain at night. With side sleeping, place a pillow between the knees. This helps to keep the pelvis aligned and decreases excess stress on lumbar structures. 

If you wake up and the pillows are not in place, don't worry. Just reposition them and go back to sleep. It's common to kick them out of the way or move if you are not used to them.

To learn lower back stretches for a pinched nerve, Read this Article.


Best Sleep Position for Knee Pain

Sleeping with knee pain may require you to elevate the knee and leg. If so, sleeping on your back is the best option. Place pillow under both legs to elevate the knee above the level of the heart. If there is swelling in the knee, the elevation can help to reduce it.  

If you have knee stiffness, it is usually best to keep the knee straight while sleeping. This is especially important after knee surgery or an injury in most cases. Keeping the knee straight may help to maintain better range of motion with full knee extension.


Best Sleep Positions for Snoring

Snoring is usually worse with sleeping on the back. Back sleeping allows soft pallet and throat sag. This can partially close the airway. When that happens, the air passing through can cause the tissue to vibrate and make the snoring sound. This is more common with obesity.  Click HERE to learn more about snoring, 

Side sleeping is a better position to help with snoring. Though some people still snore with side sleeping.

If snoring is keeping you or your partner from sleeping, talk to your doctor. Snoring can be a sign of Sleep Apnea which can be a dangerous condition. But there are treatments available. 


Sleeping with Orthopedic Issues

Sleeping is tough when you're in pain.  But with a little effort, you can find a comfortable position for most injuries and issues. 

Pain that wakes you at night for no apparent reason can be a sign of a more severe medical issue.  If so, you should see your physician right away

Pain does not have to limit your sleep or your life. To make an appointment with the Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute, call 904-JOI-2000, schedule online, or click the link below.


Ehren Allen DPT COMT content writer JOI

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