The Best and Worst Sleeping Positions For Your Neck

Which position(s) do you sleep in

A. side or fetal position

B. on back with no pillow

C. Half side-half stomach

D. Side sleeping with too thick of a pillow

E. stomach with head rotated to one side




Falling asleep in an awkward position can cause neck strain and lead to cervicogenic headaches. We sleep a third or fourth of our day, every day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Over time this postural stress can lead to serious spinal health conditions.


The worst sleeping position is on your stomach with your head turned to one side. There usually tends to be a “favorite” side to turn the head to. This causes a twisting to the spine and creates muscular imbalance by causing a shortening of the neck muscles on one side while lengthening the muscles on the opposite side.


The best sleeping position to avoid neck strain is on your back with an orthopedic pillow that conforms to the curve in your neck. By using a pillow with a curved edge or rolling a blanket underneath your neck, the curve is supported and maintained. However, turning the head to one side should be avoided, as this will further produce muscular imbalance. Avoid using a pillow that is too flat, as this will cause your natural curve to be flattened. Furthermore, a pillow that is too fluffy can push your neck into hyperflexion and create shortening in the already shortened neck flexors. When laying on your back the ear and shoulder should line up horizontally.


Side sleeping is often suggested, but can be tricky, as symmetry of structure is hard to achieve. Many side sleepers curl up into a fetal position which pulls on the neck and shoulder muscles and can lead to neck strain. In order to reduce this stress, the ears, shoulders and hips should be in a straight line, and a pillow placed between the knees to keep the pelvis from rolling toward the bed. Also, many side sleepers like to sleep with their arm stretched out under the head, which can lead to shoulder problems as well as neck problems.


At our clinic we can fit you for a pillow that will better support your neck structures and can have a significant effect in deterring chronic neck conditions and headaches. Changing your pillow can lead to soreness and discomfort initially as with beginning any new exercise program. It is often advised to have a “break in” period to ease this discomfort.


Follow us on Instagram @drashleighchiro or on Facebook at Chiropractic Wellness Clinic for headache relief tips all month long.


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