Pillows and Proper Sleeping Position to Help Your Neck

December 19, 2017

By Heena Patel, PTA

We’ve all been told getting a good night’s sleep is the key to good health. Are you waking up not feeling your best?  Maybe it’s because of your sleeping position.  Here are some tips to help!

Do you ever wake up with neck pain?

Neck pain and stiffness is a very common problem, often secondary to bad habits and poor posture we carry with our daily living activities. To manage this issue, it’s very important to maintain proper seated posture at work or at home with normal activities as reviewed in a previous article (How to eliminate neck, back and shoulder pain when reading and typing). Proper spine alignment while sleeping is critical to prevent neck pain as we spend roughly 7-8 hours in a sleeping position daily.  

The right pillow and sleeping position is essential in keeping the neck in a supported position with neutral alignment during sleep. Without the right pillow support, the intricate structures in the neck will be stressed, which will worsen any existing neck condition and lead to daytime/morning time neck pain or stiffness.

One trick does not work for everyone as every person has a different body structure. The key is to find a pillow that is the right height and firmness for the person’s size, sleeping position, and personal preference. First, have someone assess your posture from a side view – if you are a back sleeper then your ears should align with your shoulders and hips. If you are a side sleeper, then have someone assess your posture from a bird’s eye view.  

Sleeping Positions and Better Posture for a Better Night’s Sleep 

Proper Back Sleeping position

Back Sleepers

Generally, if you are a back sleeper, then it is recommended to use a flat pillow rather than a higher pillow to fully relax your spine. Extra support can be used by adding a small rolled towel, positioned under the neck. The rolled towel can be also put in the pillowcase.



Side Sleepers

Side sleeping position

If you are a side sleeper,  then it is better to sleep with a higher pillow so that your neck and head are aligned straight over the shoulders as they would be when standing with good posture. A rolled towel or roll-shaped pillow should be put under the neck and supplemented with a pillow for the head. Also, resting one arm on a pillow and adding a pillow between the knees offers additional support for the spine.


Stomach Sleeper

If you are a stomach sleeper then use a pillow under your forehead, although sleeping on your stomach is not recommended, as it arches your back and creates extra stress on your back. I understand changing a sleeping position is difficult, so to minimize stress on your back, add a pillow along the hips and abdomen to maintain the natural inward curve in the lower spine.

If you want us to assess your posture, please feel free to stop by at Performance Physical Therapy and Fitness. You can call us anytime at (302) 234-2288!