Sleep Guide is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. In addition, we occasionally receive free product in exchange for our honest opinion. Learn more Waking up with a stiff neck can ruin your entire day. You wake up with a pain in the neck and it’s a terrible feeling all day. If you suffer from chronic neck pain, it’s important to figure out the cause and how to fix it.
From the way you’re sleeping to what you’re sleeping on, there are a few main causes of neck pain that can be easily remedied. There are also a few natural ways to relieve the pain and get your neck feeling better.
Causes Of A Stiff Neck
The way you’re sleeping and what you’re sleeping on is usually the first place to start when it comes to neck pain. Check out the main causes of neck pain below to see if any of these are what is causing you stiffness.
A pillow is the most important piece of bedding you own. Not only is it a place to rest your head, but it’s also the piece of bedding that aligns your whole body while you sleep. A pillow is there to support your neck, head, and shoulders and make sure your spine is aligned properly. The proper alignment of your spine and neck will lead to a morning free of pain.
The firmness and support of your pillow can directly affect your neck pain. If your pillow is too high, your neck will be angled too high causing your muscle pain and stiffness. The same goes if your pillow is too low.
A pillow with a loft that is too stiff won’t give enough to allow your head to properly sink into a comfortable level. When your pillow has lost all of its stiffness, your head and neck aren’t properly supported, and it will cause you a morning of neck pain and stiff muscles.
The way you sleep is a key consideration when pillow shopping. How you sleep and where you sleep matters. Whether you sleep on your stomach, on your side, or your back, there are key pressure points on your neck that need to be supported.
Unfortunately for stomach sleepers, this is the least recommended sleep position for neck pain. When you sleep on your stomach your neck is turned on its side and your back is arched.
Read more about the proper sleep position and the different ways to sleep to find the sleeping style the works best for you to prevent stiffness and all-day irritation.
There is also research that suggests that sleep problems and lack of sleep, in general, can cause neck pain and stiffness. If you’re not getting enough restorative sleep, you’re more likely to have chronic muscle pain. If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or getting enough hours of sleep, your body doesn’t get the benefits of the natural healing that takes place while you slumber.
Chronic pain often disrupts sleep causing a cycle of repeatedly not getting enough sleep and waking up in pain.
How To Get Rid Of Neck Pain From Sleeping On Your Neck Wrong
Sleeping on your neck wrong can cause a painful morning. There are a few things you can do to avoid neck pain and wake up pain-free.
How To Sleep To Avoid Neck Pain
There are a couple of recommended sleep positions to avoid neck pain. The first position is on your back. Use a pillow that supports your head and neck and allows for the natural curve of your spine to lay comfortably. You can also add a pillow under your knees to help with the curve.
Sleeping on your side is also a recommended position to reduce neck pain and some ailments. Side sleeping can also alleviate snoring and sleep apnea. When sleeping on your side, you can also use a pillow between your knees to help your spine and neck stay in their natural curve. When sleeping on your side, it is also important to use a pillow that is higher than your head.
Use A Travel Pillow
When traveling, your neck is often put into compromising positions. Sleeping in a car or airplane or even an airport will force your body to sleep in unnatural positions. Using a travel pillow may help reduce pain in your neck.
A memory foam travel pillow can help relieve pain and pressure points in your neck and shoulders. These are sensitive areas that tend to become more aggregated while traveling. Some travel pillows also come with a drawstring that makes them adjustable. You can tighten or loosen the pillow depending on the support you need.
It may also be a good idea to bring your own pillow while staying at hotels if you’re worried about getting a stiff neck from using an unknown pillow.
Apply Heat Or Ice
Applying heat or ice to your neck and shoulders can help reduce neck pain. It’s recommended to use ice for the first 48-72 hours. This will reduce the swelling of your muscles. Next, apply heat with a heating pad or hot compress. A warm shower or bath can also do the trick.
To make a warm compress, use a washcloth or small towel. Run the towel under hot water or place it in a bowl of hot water. You’ll need to rewarm the compress every 5 to 10 minutes.
Remember always to use ice first. Reducing the swelling is key to relieving the pain.
Exercises To Help With Pain
There are some exercises that can help with neck pain. A forward stretch is one where you gently pull your head forward with your chin pointed towards your neck. Think of a nodding motion. For 10 to 15 seconds, hold this position.
A side stretch should also be used. To do a side stretch pull your head from side to side gently. Your ear should move toward the opposite shoulder and you repeat from side to side.
Staying hunched over a computer during the day may also be contributing to your neck pain. It might be helpful to practice these neck stretches at various points during the workday.
Yoga is another way to help with chronic pain. Yoga is a moderate exercise that has been proven to reduce pain. Yoga increases the flow of oxygen to your brain and muscle tissues. The combination of breath awareness and physical movement also helps relieve muscle tension. Yoga also increases your range of motion.
Regular yoga practice also helps to relieve stress. Stress has been linked to causing back and neck pain as well.
Invest In New Bedding
It might be time to upgrade your bedding. Your mattress and pillows can all affect your neck. If you’ve had the same mattress for the past 30 years, it’s probably time for a new one. If your mattress doesn’t have enough support, your body and neck won’t get the proper support they need either.
When pillow shopping, consider one with a blend of memory foam shreds. These tend to be a medium stiffness that won’t be too high or too low. A removable filling is another thing to look for. A pillow with adjustable filling will help ensure you have the right amount of filling for you. You can easily remove or add filling to the height that is right for you.
Although it’s at the opposite end of your body, a knee pillow between your legs may also reduce neck pain. A knee pillow can help align your spine nicely while you sleep. This can reduce the pain that finds its way into your neck.
Get More Sleep And Relieve Stress
Getting more sleep is one of the best things you can do for neck pain. Chronic pain is often caused by a lack of restorative sleep. The less time you spend sleeping the less time your body has to heal overnight. Once you’ve established a better sleep position and upgraded some of your bedding, it’s time to hit the hay earlier and let your body heal.
When you’re constantly stressed and under sleeping, you tend to carry tension in your neck and back. When you don’t regularly relieve your stress or get the right amount of sleep, stress will keep you up at night and your tense muscles won’t have a chance to restore themselves while you sleep. Find ways to relieve stress before you head to bed for the night. Stay active, go for walks, read, and shut down earlier in the night.
Neck pain is, well, a pain in the neck. From the way you sleep to the amount of sleep you get and what you’re sleeping on, there are a number of reasons for why you’re waking up with a constant stiff neck.
When you do wake up in pain, there are a few ways you can help alleviate the stiffness. Through a combination of ice, heat, and exercises, you should have neck pain relief in just a few days.
Luckily, there are also a few ways you can fight back and prevent neck pain in the future. Changing your sleep position, your pillow and the amount of sleep you get can turn your neck pain around. Getting restful sleep on the proper pillow can really help you to wake up pain-free.