Can sleeping on two pillows cause neck pain?

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your overall well-being, and the quality of your sleep can greatly impact your physical health. One of the factors that can influence your sleep quality is your sleeping posture, particularly the arrangement of pillows you use.

While pillows are designed to provide support and comfort, using too many pillows or adopting an incorrect posture can lead to various discomforts, including neck pain. In this guide, we will explore the potential reasons why sleeping on two pillows might cause neck pain and provide recommendations on how to maintain a proper sleeping posture to prevent such discomfort.

Guide: Can sleeping on two pillows cause neck pain?

  1. Understanding Neck Pain:

Neck pain is a common issue that many people experience at some point in their lives. It can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and can be caused by various factors, including poor sleeping posture. When you sleep, your neck should be properly aligned with your spine to avoid strain on the muscles and ligaments in the neck area. Using too many pillows, such as sleeping on two pillows, can disrupt this alignment and lead to neck pain.

  1. Potential Reasons for Neck Pain When Using Two Pillows:
  • Over-Elevation: Using two pillows can lead to excessive elevation of your head and neck. This can cause your neck to bend at an unnatural angle, straining the muscles and causing discomfort.
  • Misalignment: Placing two pillows under your head can misalign your spine, leading to stress on the neck vertebrae and the soft tissues surrounding the neck.
  • Lack of Support: The top pillow might not provide adequate support, causing your head to sink too deeply into the pillows. This can create an awkward angle for your neck, leading to pain.
  1. Maintaining a Healthy Sleeping Posture:

To prevent neck pain and other discomforts associated with using multiple pillows, consider the following tips for maintaining a healthy sleeping posture:

  • Use a Single Pillow: In most cases, using a single pillow that adequately supports your head and neck is sufficient. Choose a pillow that is the right height to keep your neck aligned with your spine.
  • Choose the Right Pillow: Opt for a pillow that suits your preferred sleeping position. Back sleepers might benefit from thinner pillows, while side sleepers might need slightly thicker pillows to maintain proper alignment.
  • Consider Pillow Materials: The type of pillow material can affect your comfort. Memory foam and feather pillows, for instance, can contour to your neck’s shape and provide better support.
  • Avoid Propping Up Too Much: If you need to elevate your upper body for medical reasons, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for guidance on the proper angle and support methods.
  • Sleeping Position: Try to sleep on your back or side, as these positions generally promote better spinal alignment compared to sleeping on your stomach.
  • Stretch Before Bed: Gentle neck stretches before bed can help relax the neck muscles and reduce tension.
  1. When to Seek Medical Advice:

If you consistently experience neck pain regardless of your sleeping posture or pillow arrangement, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. Chronic neck pain could be indicative of underlying issues that require proper diagnosis and treatment.

Maintaining a proper sleeping posture is crucial for preventing neck pain and ensuring a restful night’s sleep. While using two pillows might seem comfortable initially, it can lead to discomfort and strain on the neck muscles and structures. Opt for a single, appropriately supportive pillow that helps keep your neck aligned with your spine. If neck pain persists, consult a healthcare provider to address any underlying concerns and receive personalized advice.

Why neck pain is common and how your pillow can aggravate it?

Neck pain is a prevalent issue that many people experience at some point in their lives. Several factors contribute to its common occurrence:

  1. Poor Posture: Modern lifestyles often involve prolonged periods of sitting, hunching over screens, and improper ergonomics, leading to poor posture. This can strain the neck muscles and ligaments, causing discomfort.
  2. Muscle Tension: Stress, anxiety, and physical strain can lead to muscle tension in the neck and shoulder area, resulting in pain.
  3. Repetitive Movements: Engaging in repetitive motions or staying in the same position for extended periods can stress the neck muscles and joints, contributing to pain.
  4. Injuries: Accidents, falls, and sports injuries can result in neck injuries that cause acute or chronic pain.
  5. Age and Degeneration: As people age, the natural wear and tear on the spine and cervical discs can lead to conditions like osteoarthritis or herniated discs, which are associated with neck pain.
  6. Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as cervical spondylosis or fibromyalgia, can cause chronic neck pain.

How your pillow can aggravate neck pain?

Your pillow plays a crucial role in supporting your neck and maintaining a healthy sleeping posture. Using the wrong pillow or using it incorrectly can exacerbate neck pain:

  1. Lack of Support: If your pillow doesn’t provide adequate support, your head and neck might not be properly aligned with your spine. This can strain neck muscles and lead to pain.
  2. Wrong Pillow Height: Using a pillow that is too high or too flat can disrupt the natural curvature of your neck, causing discomfort.
  3. Sleeping Position: Different sleeping positions require different pillow heights to keep the spine aligned. Using the wrong pillow for your preferred sleeping position can strain the neck.
  4. Multiple Pillows: Using too many pillows, such as sleeping on two pillows, can elevate your head too much and create an awkward angle for your neck, leading to pain.
  5. Pillow Material: The type of pillow material matters. A pillow that doesn’t contour to your neck’s shape or doesn’t provide sufficient support can contribute to discomfort.
  6. Ignoring Changes: Your pillow’s effectiveness can change over time due to wear and tear. If your pillow becomes lumpy or loses its shape, it might no longer provide the necessary support.
  7. Stomach Sleeping: Sleeping on your stomach can strain your neck as you might have to twist your head to breathe. This can result in neck pain.
  8. Pillow Allergens: Allergic reactions to pillow materials can cause inflammation and discomfort in the neck area.

To prevent your pillow from aggravating neck pain, choose a pillow that suits your sleeping position and provides proper support. Regularly assess your pillow’s condition and replace it when necessary. If neck pain persists despite using an appropriate pillow and maintaining good posture, consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and advice.

Can sleeping on two pillows cause neck pain?

Sleeping on two pillows can potentially cause or exacerbate neck pain, depending on several factors:

  1. Neck Alignment: One of the primary concerns with using two pillows is the potential misalignment of the neck. If the pillows prop your head up too much, your neck can be flexed forward or to the side for extended periods, which can strain muscles and ligaments. This misalignment can cause or exacerbate neck pain and stiffness.
  2. Pillow Material and Firmness: The material and firmness of the pillows can also play a role. If the pillows are too soft, your head might sink down too much. If they are too firm, they might elevate your head more than necessary. Both situations can cause a misalignment in the cervical spine.
  3. Sleeping Position: Your sleeping position matters. If you’re a back sleeper, using multiple pillows might elevate your head too much, putting stress on your neck. However, some side sleepers might use two pillows to fill the gap between their shoulder and head to maintain a neutral neck position. Stomach sleepers might find that two pillows cause even more neck rotation and strain, as this position already tends to force the neck to turn to one side.
  4. Individual Preferences and Body Proportions: Everyone’s body is different. Some people might find comfort and support using two pillows due to broader shoulders, or they might use one under the head and one between the knees. It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust your sleeping situation to ensure the most comfortable and supportive position.

If you’re experiencing neck pain and suspect it might be related to using two pillows, you might consider:

  • Assessing Your Pillow Situation: Are your pillows old and lumpy? Are they too soft or too hard? It might be time for a replacement or adjustment.
  • Trying One Pillow: Switch to a single pillow that’s designed to support your neck and head in a neutral position. There are pillows made explicitly for different sleeping positions.
  • Physical Assessment: If neck pain persists, see a physical therapist or chiropractor. They can assess your neck alignment and provide recommendations or treatments to help relieve pain.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Ensure you’re practicing good sleep hygiene, which includes maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, and ensuring your mattress and bedding are supportive.

If in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult with healthcare professionals about persistent or severe neck pain.


Can using multiple pillows help alleviate neck pain?

Using multiple pillows can actually exacerbate neck pain. Over-elevating your head and neck with extra pillows can cause unnatural angles and strain on the neck muscles and structures. It’s best to use a single, appropriately supportive pillow that maintains proper spinal alignment.

What type of pillow is best for preventing neck pain?

The best pillow for preventing neck pain depends on your sleeping position. Back sleepers usually benefit from thinner pillows that support the natural curvature of the neck. Side sleepers might need slightly thicker pillows to fill the space between the head and the mattress. Pillow materials like memory foam or feather can contour to your neck’s shape and provide better support.

Can stomach sleeping contribute to neck pain?

Yes, sleeping on your stomach can contribute to neck pain. This position often requires you to twist your head to the side to breathe, which can strain the neck’s muscles and ligaments. It’s advisable to sleep on your back or side to maintain better spinal alignment and reduce the risk of neck pain.


Neck pain is a common issue that can stem from various factors, including poor posture, muscle tension, injuries, and more. Your choice of pillow and sleeping posture can significantly impact the occurrence and severity of neck pain. Using the right pillow, maintaining proper spinal alignment, and adopting healthy sleeping positions are essential steps to preventing and managing neck pain. If persistent neck pain persists, seeking advice from a healthcare professional can help identify underlying causes and develop personalized solutions for relief.

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