How to Sleep with Neck Pain

How to sleep with neck pain. JOIImage of a woman with neck pain

Sleep is Important

To answer the popular question of how to sleep with neck pain, we must address sleep first. Proper sleep is very important to your physical wellbeing. Nothing can take the place of waking up after a restful nights sleep. Research has demonstrated that for optimum brain and body function seven to nine hours of sleep is required each night. When we fall short of this amount than both the body and brain behave as a much less effective machine. Also, with lack of sleep, the bodies response to pain or negative stimuli can actually be heightened.

During the day we put an exceptional amount of strain on our necks for extended periods of time without really realizing that it occurs. Most individuals either use a cell phone or computer frequently which places the neck in a position that stresses the ligaments and muscles that provide support. Basically every day you are setting up the conditions that will make your neck keep you from getting a good night sleep. Also, as we age start to develop arthritic changes in the neck region that lead to issues with pain.

How to Sleep with Neck Pain

So how to sleep with neck pain is a good question. The primary way to make a positive impact on your neck pain is position. The neck has a certain spinal curve called lordosis. When this curve is maintained than your neck is in its best biomechanical position and reduced the negative effect of the daily physical stress of activity. This ability to maintain this lordosis keeps all the muscles, bones and ligaments of the neck in their best position. Check out this video for a better understanding of anatomy of the spine. So by achieving this cervical lordosis you alleviate the negative stress to the area.

When answering how to sleep with neck or shoulder pain, the best weapon to maintain the proper neck position is a cervical pillow. A cervical pillow is designed to hold your neck/head in the natural lordotic curve. If you are able to maintain this biomechanical position with sleep than the issues that tend to cause a pain response with be greatly reduced. The benefit of this occurrence is that you would not be awakened by pain. Cervical pillows function to keep the neck in line with the head and back. This cervical alignment is one of the best ways to help prevent injury, stiffness and pain in the morning.

Position also plays a role in your ability to maintain the alignment of your spine while you sleep. Research has demonstrated that lying on your back is the best position for sleep. Obviously, sleep positions are habits that are developed over years. Sleep positions may not cause you an issue when you are young since aging and negative stresses have not had a chance to develop a cumulative effect. As we age and develop degenerative changes to the neck, the back position becomes better suited to help maintain our alignment.

How We Can Help

At JOI Rehab, we get the question of how to sleep with neck pain very often. Our spine Specialists can help you in the choosing the correct cervical pillow that is best for your needs. There are many different choices of pillows and you must be sure to select the one that is right for your body. Just like in any sport the right equipment helps you win, so in this case the right pillow can help you win the game of sleep.

Neck Pain Physical Therapy

If you are interested in receiving physical therapy, visit us at one of our 12 rehab physical therapy centers or three spine centers. 


By: Ehren Allen, PT, Certified Manual Therapist

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