If most morning you wake up with a stiff and sore neck, you need to check your sleeping position.
Chances are your neck is not getting the right support, causing it to get misaligned and exerting stress on the neck muscles and nerves.
Thankfully, neck pain from sleeping wrong is an easily fixable problem.
The issue is usually your sleeping position or the pillow you are currently using. But don’t discount other causes like lack of sleep and smartphone use in bed.
Change your sleeping position
On your side and on your back are the best sleeping positions to get rid of neck pain.
The risk of persistent neck pain is higher if you are a stomach sleeper. That’s because you have to turn your head to one side, creating pressure on the nerves and muscles on the neck.
Most pillows also don’t provide adequate neck support when you sleep on your stomach.
If possible, try sleeping on your side or back. It allows your neck to stay naturally aligned.
Change your pillow
If you sleep on your back or side and yet you wake up often with neck pain, the problem is probably your pillow.
It’s most likely worn out or it’s not the right one for you.
A good pillow should not only support your head but your neck as well. And by support I mean holding it up at the right position while also conforming to the neck’s natural curve.
If you sleep on your back, look for a pillow that contours around your neck. The pillow should also not be too high or too low as that could strain your neck and shoulders.
If you sleep on your side, get a pillow that keeps your neck in alignment with your spine. Your neck should be slightly higher than your head.
Memory foam pillows are some of the best for all kinds of sleepers. They conform easily to the shape of the head and neck.
Cervical pillows are also great. They are designed with a specific support section for the neck, usually a raised part at the front to keep the neck aligned.
If you are not sure how high your pillow should be, look for a height-adjustable pillow. You can raise or lower the pillow simply by removing or adding a layer.
Change your mattress or get a topper
If your pillow seems ok, check whether the mattress is the problem.
The first sign that your mattress has a problem is back pain. This can extend all the way to the neck, causing sore and stiff muscles.
If you’ve had your mattress for more than 7-10 years, it is probably worn out and you should get a new one. Check if it has sagged in the middle, which is causing your whole body to get misaligned.
You mattress might also be too firm, which means it doesn’t conform properly to the shape and curves of your neck and back.
Or it might be too soft and doesn’t provide adequate support.
You have two options here.
The best is to buy a new mattress that provides better support and contouring. Memory foam mattresses are great though they tend to get a bit too hot at night.
If you are sensitive to heat, get a hybrid mattress that combines pocket coils with memory foam.
If you don’t have the budget for a new mattress, consider buying a topper to make your mattress softer or firmer. A topper can also help with a sagging mattress though it’s only a temporary solution.
Don’t use your phone in bed
If you browse your phone for half an hour to an hour before you sleep, that could be causing neck pain.
That’s because you force your neck into an unnatural position that strains the nerves and muscles.
Experts recommend keeping your gadgets out of the bedroom where they cannot be a distraction. Simply put your sleep mask on and forget everything else.
Get enough sleep
Not surprisingly, sleeping for less than the recommended 7-8 hours puts all kinds of stresses on your body.
One study found that people with sleeping problems such as insomnia were more likely to report neck pain.
The pain makes it even more difficult to fall asleep and the lack of sleep exacerbates the pain, leading to a vicious cycle.