Neck Pain: Should You Sleep With Or Without a Pillow?

Neck pain and pillow use

Experiencing neck pain in the morning is common. It often occurs because your neck was in an uncomfortable position while you sleep. This can also be due to situations such as your natural sleeping position, pillows, mattress or being pregnant.

We all know that sleeping position can cause back pain. But what about neck pain? Could your neck pain also be related to how you’re sleeping or maybe not sleeping? There are several types of pillows and mattresses available nowadays. With all of these types available to choose from, how do you know what kind of pillow will allow you to have the best night’s sleep?

Neck pain to sleep with or without pillow

Advice on pillows is mixed. Some say use a feather pillow or any soft filler, others promote foam memory pillows and there are also pillows shaped for those who sleep on their back, on their side. Check out our tips below for choosing a pillow to support your sleep needs and prevent neck pain.

What Type of Pillow Should I Use for My Neck Pain?

When shopping for a pillow that provides the support you need, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead you should look for a cushion that can help support your personal sleeping patterns.

If You Sleep On Your Side

Side sleepers need a pillow to work in conjunction with their mattress. This helps to keep their spine straight while they sleep, from their hips all the way to their head.

Firm or extra firm pillows that support the head, neck, and shoulders are often best for side sleepers. These pillows can provide an even sleeping surface. This keeps your spine aligned horizontally with the bed to reduce pressure and increase comfort.

Beyond the head pillow, side sleepers may benefit from a thin pillow between the knees that relieves strain and keep the spine straight all the way down to your hips.

If You Sleep On Your Back

When a back sleeper lies down on an innerspring or firm mattress, small gaps naturally develop between the lower back and the mattress, as well as the between the neck and the mattress. For back sleepers to keep the neck level with rest of their spine, a thin, contouring pillow rises to the occasion.

Back sleepers should choose a round pillow to cushion the neck and a flatter pillow for under the head. Medium support can help contour the natural curve of your neck. If you don’t have a pillow with built-in, rounded neck support, you can put a round pillow into the pillowcase with your flat pillow to provide support to both areas.

If You Sleep On Your Stomach

When you sleep on your stomach, your back arches and your neck turned to the side. Sleeping in this position can prevent neck pain in the morning. If you can only fall asleep on your belly, try a soft, plump pillow. This can cushions both your head and neck. The fullness of the pillow can help prevent your neck from turning to an unnatural position while you’re sleeping. But if you can sleep without one, keeps your head level with the mattress surface and the rest of your spine.

Can I Sleep at One Position Throughout the Night?

It’s very rare for some people to wake up in a different position than the one they fell asleep in. If you fall into this category, use medium support pillows. If you spend more time on your stomach, though, it is suggested that you try a soft pillow.

Take Away

If you think your neck pain is caused by your pillow or sleeping position, your doctor likely won’t recommend an aggressive treatment like surgery. He or she will often make recommendations to modify your sleep habits to see if it makes a difference in your pain.

About felclinic 593 Articles
Felix Ntifo is a Registered General Nurse who has so much passion to improve health care delivery. He founded FelClinic with the hope of making health information accessible to everyone who may not come in contact with him personally. "At we are very passionate about health and well-being of everyone. Our team is made up of professional doctors, nurses, midwives and lab technicians."

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