How to stop sleeping with arm under pillow?

Sleeping habits, formed over years, can often be as unique to individuals as fingerprints. One such habit is sleeping with an arm under the pillow, a position many find comfort in. However, while this might seem harmless or even cozy, it can lead to various issues such as arm numbness, shoulder pain, or even neck strain over time.

For those looking to break this habit, the journey can be challenging yet rewarding. This guide is designed to provide actionable steps to help transition out of this sleeping position and promote better sleep ergonomics.

Guide: How to Stop Sleeping with Arm Under Pillow

  1. Awareness is Key: The first step in changing any habit is recognizing it. Before going to bed, remind yourself of the decision to change your sleeping position.
  2. Optimal Pillow Selection:
    • Use a thicker, more supportive pillow for your head. This will reduce the perceived need for arm support beneath.
    • Consider body or contour pillows that can provide the necessary support, making the arm under the pillow redundant.
  3. Change Sleeping Position:
    • If you’re a side sleeper, try transitioning to sleeping on your back, which naturally discourages placing an arm under the pillow.
    • If you prefer sleeping on your side, hug a body pillow. This can provide a similar sensation without placing undue strain on your arm and shoulder.
  4. Bedtime Alarm: Set periodic alarms (e.g., every 30 minutes) for the first hour or two after you go to bed. Each time it rings, check your sleeping position and adjust if necessary. Over time, this can condition your body to avoid the position.
  5. Nightly Rituals: Engage in a relaxation routine before bed, such as deep breathing or meditation. Often, habits form out of stress or discomfort. By relaxing, you might naturally find a more comfortable position to sleep in.
  6. Physical Barriers:
    • Wear a light wristband or bracelet. The sensation of it can serve as a reminder not to slide your arm under your pillow.
    • Create a physical barrier using a rolled-up towel or small pillow. Place it in the space where you’d typically put your arm. Over time, this can train your body to sleep without needing the arm for support.
  7. Seek Expert Guidance: If you believe the habit stems from pain or discomfort, consider consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist. They can provide guidance on optimal sleeping positions and offer exercises or treatments to alleviate any underlying issues.
  8. Stay Patient and Consistent: Habits, especially those ingrained over years, take time to change. There might be nights where you revert to your old position. Instead of feeling discouraged, see each night as an opportunity to practice and reinforce the new habit.

Transitioning away from sleeping with an arm under the pillow can be a step towards better sleep quality and overall physical well-being. While the journey might require patience and consistent effort, the rewards—ranging from pain-free mornings to improved sleep quality—are well worth the effort. Remember, every night offers a new chance to practice and reinforce healthier sleep habits.

Can sleeping with arm under pillow cause pain?

Yes, sleeping with your arm under a pillow can potentially cause pain or discomfort for some individuals, especially if the pillow doesn’t provide adequate support or if the arm is positioned in an awkward angle. Here are a few reasons why sleeping with your arm under a pillow might lead to pain:

  1. Pressure on Joints: Placing your arm under a pillow might lead to increased pressure on your shoulder joint, especially if your arm is positioned at an awkward angle. This pressure can cause strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the shoulder, potentially leading to discomfort or pain.
  2. Restricted Blood Flow: If your arm is positioned under a pillow in a way that restricts blood flow, you might experience numbness, tingling, or discomfort. This can occur if the pillow is pressing on blood vessels or nerves in your arm.
  3. Awkward Angle: Depending on how you position your arm under the pillow, you might end up putting your wrist, elbow, or shoulder in an uncomfortable angle. This can lead to strain on these joints and the surrounding muscles.
  4. Misalignment: If the pillow doesn’t provide enough support to keep your arm in a neutral position, you might experience misalignment of your shoulder, neck, and spine. This misalignment can lead to pain and discomfort over time.
  5. Pillow Height: The height and firmness of the pillow can play a role in how comfortable or uncomfortable it is to sleep with your arm under it. If the pillow is too high or too soft, it might not provide proper support and can contribute to pain.

If you find that sleeping with your arm under a pillow is causing you pain or discomfort, consider adjusting your sleeping position. You might try placing the arm on top of the pillow, hugging a separate pillow to support your upper arm, or experimenting with other sleeping positions that alleviate the pressure on your arm and shoulder. It’s important to prioritize comfort and proper alignment while sleeping to ensure a restful night’s sleep and minimize the risk of pain or discomfort.

What is the best arm position for side sleepers?

The best arm position for side sleepers can vary from person to person based on individual comfort and body characteristics. However, there are a few general guidelines that can help you find a comfortable arm position while sleeping on your side:

  1. Neutral Spine Alignment: It’s important to maintain a neutral spine alignment while sleeping on your side. This means that your head, neck, and spine should be in a straight line. To achieve this, use a pillow that adequately supports your head and neck, keeping them aligned with your body.
  2. Pillow Support: Place a pillow between your knees to help align your hips and reduce strain on your lower back. This can also prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment.
  3. Arm Placement: You have a few options for placing your arms:
    • Down by Your Side: Letting your bottom arm rest comfortably down by your side can be a good option. You can bend your elbow slightly or rest your hand on a pillow.
    • Hug a Pillow: You can hug a pillow to provide support to your upper arm and keep it from dangling or causing discomfort.
    • Under the Pillow: You can tuck your upper arm underneath the pillow you’re resting your head on. This can help reduce pressure on your shoulder and keep your arm in a more natural position.
    • Straight Out: Some people find it comfortable to extend their bottom arm straight out in front of them, with their hand under the pillow. This can help with shoulder comfort.
  4. Avoid Pressure on Shoulders: Make sure your shoulder joint is not taking too much pressure. Placing a pillow under your top arm can help reduce pressure on your shoulder.
  5. Experiment and Adjust: The best arm position can vary based on your body size, shape, and any specific comfort issues you might have. Feel free to experiment with different arm positions and pillow configurations to find what works best for you.

Ultimately, the goal is to maintain a comfortable and supported sleeping position that doesn’t strain your neck, shoulders, or back. If you consistently wake up with discomfort or pain, consider adjusting your pillow placement and arm positioning until you find a setup that provides the best sleep quality for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can sleeping with my arm under a pillow cause pain?

Yes, sleeping with your arm under a pillow can potentially cause pain, especially if the pillow doesn’t provide proper support or if your arm is positioned at an awkward angle. This can lead to pressure on joints, restricted blood flow, and misalignment, resulting in discomfort over time.

What should I do if I experience discomfort from sleeping with my arm under a pillow?

If you’re experiencing discomfort or pain, consider adjusting your sleeping position. You can try placing your arm on top of the pillow, using a separate pillow to support your upper arm, or experimenting with different sleeping positions. Prioritize finding a comfortable and supported sleep posture to prevent ongoing pain.

Can pillow choice affect the comfort of sleeping with my arm under it?

Absolutely. The height and firmness of the pillow can impact your comfort. A pillow that’s too high or too soft might not provide adequate support, potentially leading to pain. It’s important to choose a pillow that supports your head, neck, and arm while maintaining proper spinal alignment.


Finding the right sleeping position is crucial for a restful night’s sleep and overall well-being. While sleeping with your arm under a pillow might work for some people, it can lead to discomfort and pain for others. It’s essential to prioritize comfort and support while sleeping. Experiment with different arm positions, pillow configurations, and sleeping postures to identify what works best for your body.

If you’re experiencing persistent discomfort, consider consulting a healthcare professional for personalized advice on maintaining a healthy sleep posture. Remember, a comfortable sleep position contributes to better sleep quality and helps reduce the risk of waking up with pain or discomfort.

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