How to sleep on pillow to avoid neck pain

How to sleep on pillow to avoid neck pain?

Neck pain upon waking is a common ailment that many individuals experience. Often, the culprit behind this discomfort is the way we sleep or the type of pillow we use. Just as we take care in selecting shoes for our feet to prevent discomfort, we need to pay attention to the support we provide our necks and heads at night. The relationship between the alignment of your neck and the type of support your pillow provides can make all the difference in ensuring a pain-free morning. Below is a guide on how to properly position your pillow to avoid neck pain:

Sleeping Right: How to Position Your Pillow to Prevent Neck Pain

  1. Choose the Right Pillow
  • Firmness and Thickness: Your pillow should support the natural curve of your neck. Depending on your sleeping position, the thickness and firmness can vary. Side sleepers generally require a thicker pillow, while back sleepers benefit from a thinner one.
  • Material: Memory foam and feather pillows can contour to the shape of your neck, providing ample support. However, make sure they’re not too high or too stiff.
  • Pillow Lifespan: No matter the type, pillows don’t last forever. Their support can diminish over time, so consider replacing them every 18-24 months.
  1. Understand Your Sleeping Position
  • Back Sleepers: Position the pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, not under your shoulders. An additional smaller pillow under your knees can alleviate lower back pressure.
  • Side Sleepers: The pillow should be positioned to keep the neck aligned with the spine. Your nose should align with the center of your body. A pillow between the knees can also help keep the spine straight.
  • Stomach Sleepers: This position can be tough on your neck. If you’re a stomach sleeper, use a very thin pillow or none at all. You might also consider placing a pillow under your pelvis to reduce lower back strain.
  1. Adjusting for Comfort

If you find discomfort despite following the general rules, make small adjustments. Maybe you need a little extra height or cushioning in one part of the pillow. There are also specialty pillows available, like cervical pillows, that offer unique shapes to fit specific needs.

  1. Maintain Consistency

Once you find a pillow and sleeping position that feels comfortable, try to maintain consistency. Your muscles and ligaments adapt and will thank you for regularity.

  1. Re-evaluate Periodically

Our bodies change over time. What worked once might not be suitable a year later. Pay attention to how you feel in the morning and adjust as necessary.

In conclusion, understanding the relationship between your pillow, neck position, and sleeping posture is paramount in ensuring restful, pain-free sleep. It might take some time to find the perfect setup, but with patience and attention to detail, you can wake up refreshed and free of discomfort.

What is the best sleeping position for neck pain?

The best sleeping position for neck pain largely depends on individual preferences, but some positions are more recommended by health professionals for those with neck discomfort:

  1. Sleeping on Your Back with a Cervical Pillow: This position is often considered the best for pain prevention. When you lie on your back, the weight of your head is naturally balanced on the spine, and there is less strain placed on the neck. Using a cervical pillow, which is designed with a curve to support the natural arch of the neck, can provide added support.
  2. Sleeping on Your Side with a Contoured Pillow: Side sleeping is also a good position, provided you have the right pillow. The pillow should be high enough to keep your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. A contoured pillow can support the natural curve of the neck while ensuring your nose aligns with the center of your body.
  3. Sleeping on Your Stomach: This is generally the least recommended position for those with neck pain. Turning your head to one side for prolonged periods can strain the neck muscles. However, if you find it hard to change this habit, try using a very thin pillow or no pillow at all to minimize the angle at which your neck is twisted.

Additional Tips:

  • Always ensure that your pillow isn’t too high or too low. Your head shouldn’t be tilted upwards or downwards, but instead, should be in a neutral alignment with your body.
  • Memory foam pillows can contour to the shape of your head and neck, providing a mold that supports you without causing additional pressure.
  • If you’re switching to a new sleep position, it might take some time to adjust. Consider using body pillows or other support pillows to make the transition easier.
  • While sleeping position plays a significant role, other factors such as mattress firmness, pillow type, and daily habits (like posture and screen time) can also influence neck pain.
  • Always consult with a medical professional if you have persistent or severe neck pain. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific condition and needs.

In summary, while back sleeping is often recommended for neck pain, the most important thing is to ensure your neck maintains its natural curve and alignment throughout the night, no matter which position you choose

Frequently Asked Questions Top of Form

I’ve always been a stomach sleeper. How can I transition to a more neck-friendly sleeping position?

Transitioning to a new sleep position can take time. Start by placing body pillows or bolster pillows around you to prevent you from rolling onto your stomach. Over time, your body will adjust to the new position. Remember, if you occasionally find yourself on your stomach, it’s okay. Just gradually guide yourself back to the recommended position.

How often should I replace my pillow to ensure proper neck support?

Typically, it’s recommended to replace pillows every 18-24 months, or when you notice they’re losing their shape and support. If you’re waking up with neck discomfort despite positioning yourself correctly, it might be time to assess if your pillow is still providing the necessary support.

Are specialty pillows, like cervical or orthopedic pillows, worth the investment?

Specialty pillows are designed with particular needs in mind. Cervical pillows, for example, support the natural curve of the neck, making them a good option for those with chronic neck pain. However, the best pillow varies from person to person. It might be beneficial to try one out, ensuring there’s a return policy if it doesn’t suit your needs.


Navigating neck pain during sleep involves a combination of understanding your body, choosing the right tools, and cultivating beneficial habits. The ideal sleeping position and the perfect pillow can significantly alleviate neck pain, but it’s essential to listen to your body’s feedback. Periodic reassessment and being open to making adjustments will ensure you maintain good neck health and achieve restful sleep. Remember, everyone’s needs are different, and what works for one person may not work for another, so personalized solutions are key.

Leave a Comment