How sleeping position can increase or decrease your pain

Do you twist and turn constantly in bed to get comfortable?

Are you waking up with pain in your neck/back?

It MAY be due to something as simple as your sleep positioning/posture!

The purpose of this blog is to inform you about how the position you sleep in can contribute to an increase or decrease in pain.

Firstly, there is no “correct” way to sleep, but different positions can place extra strain on certain areas of the body and lead to pain/discomfort.

Pillow Height/Type:

pillows of various shapes and sizes

Let's start with your pillow…

There are a lot of different shapes, sizes and materials out there.

Firstly, recent research has shown that foam pillows have seen better results for reducing neck pain. So choosing a foam pillow may help you; it is important to know that it can take time to adjust to these pillows.

Next, the height of your pillow:

In theory, this should be based on your favoured sleeping position. If you sleep on your back mainly, a low-medium height pillow will suffice. If you are a side sleeper, a medium-high pillow is generally needed (the foam ones work well for side sleepers as the height can adjust. However, if you sleep on your front, it is best not to use a high pillow as this may place excessive strain on your neck by forcing it into an extended position (leaning back).

The challenge is when one likes to move between their front and their side. Again, this is where an adaptable foam pillow can help.

Body/Pillow Position

Woman sleeping in a bed

Let’s talk about sleeping position a little more. Generally sleeping on one’s back doesn’t cause too many issues as there isn’t too much strain anywhere. However, most people can’t stay solely in this position. This brings us to lying on your side, which is the most common position.

Necks and shoulders can sometimes be irritated during side sleeping. Shoulders may be irritated if one sleeps with their arm under their head/pillow and compresses it; most people are aware of when this happens. However, not using your pillow to support your neck is a more common issue. 

Some people have their pillow up too high toward the top of the bed or down too low toward the foot. You essentially want the bottom of the pillow touching the top of your shoulder to fully support your head/neck. Obviously most people move in their sleep but if you’re not starting in this position, you may be setting yourself up for failure.

Lastly, sleeping on your front. If you are experiencing neck pain sleeping on your front may be aggravating this. If you are a front sleeper, as mentioned using a thinner pillow may help. However, you may need to sleep more on your side (with a thicker pillow as mentioned). Sleeping on one’s front can also sometimes be irritating with some lower/mid back issues.

There is some element of trial and error involved in finding the best position/pillow that works for you depending on what issues you currently have.

If you have any questions, don’t be afraid to get in touch.