When you get up in the morning, you want to feel fresh and energetic to be able to get through the rest of the day. But waking up with neck pain can be a real dampener. A stiff and aching neck after sleeping is quite common and may repeat one time too many. But you can try simple ways to avoid it or at least minimise the pain.
Reasons Why Your Neck Hurts after Sleeping
It isn’t easy to believe that sleeping could cause pain of any kind. One would expect to wake up feeling rejuvenated, not nursing a pain; especially in the neck. There are a number of reasons for why this happens. Here are the causes of neck pain after sleeping:
1. Stiff Body = Stiff Neck
When you sleep, the body tends to become stiff because of long hours of inactivity. Sleeping in uncomfortable positions can affect your ligaments and tendons. The muscles in the neck become inflexible, especially if the body remains rigid in the neck pain sleeping position, in other words, a funny or awkward sleeping position.
2. Poor Sleeping Posture is the Culprit
The most common reason for neck pain from sleeping wrong is your sleeping position. If you like sleeping on your stomach, then you may have to ditch it right away. When you sleep facing the bed, the neck is turned in an extreme angle. This is sure to give you a nasty pain when you get up.
3. Your Pillow May Not be Your Pal
People spend a lot of time and energy trying to pick the right pillow. Not a small feat. A good pillow is that which maintains your nose, the head and the spine in a line. The neck and head bend awkwardly if the pillow is either too plump or too thin. Choosing a pillow that helps you retain a healthy head and neck position is important.
4. Your Mattress Adds to Your Misery
The mattress you sleep on can also add to your woes. If you use a very soft mattress, then chances are you aren’t maintaining a healthy position while sleeping. It may cause your body to sink in the bed, which, in turn, would bend your spine and shoulders uneasily. In all this, the neck would have to bear the brunt.
5. Pregnancy and Neck Woes
If you are pregnant, then an aching body isn’t new to you. You may experience neck pains due to hormonal changes in the body. These pains may settle down a bit. But the third trimester comes with its share of lower back ache which obviously affects the neck too. Added to that, a pregnant woman struggles to find a comfortable position to sleep in. That’s more bad news for the neck.
Besides these, if you suffer from arthritis or other chronic cervical pains or have had some sort of neck injury like whiplash, etc, then it is best to ask your doctor for advice.
Ways to Relieve Neck Pain from Sleeping
To relieve you of this neck pain, how to sleep must be seriously considered. With that and a few other healthy habits mentioned below, you can kiss the pain and sore neck goodbye.
1. Sleep on Your Back
Shavasana or the corpse pose of Yoga with both hands placed on the side is the best position to avoid any neck pain. This ensures that the back and neck are supported on the bed when you are sleeping.
When lying down, you should keep your legs and hands relaxed. The neck must be in line with the back and mustn’t fall to either side.
2. Sleeping on Your Side
This is another suitable sleeping position. This position ensures that the neck and back are in a healthy position and that there isn’t any unnecessary strain on the cervical spine, in other words, your neck.
3. Avoid Keeping Your Hand on Your Forehead
When you sleep with one hand on your forehead, the scalene muscles of the neck and the upper trapezoid muscles are unevenly activated. This results in misalignment as the neck gets rotated. Remember not to do so if you want to avoid a stiff neck in the morning.
4. Hands-on-Chest Position Should be Avoided
In this case, although the muscles on both sides are equally activated, the upper trapezoid and neck muscles tend to tighten up and cause numbness. It is likely that if you sleep in this position, you would wake up with a sore and aching neck.
5. Choose an Appropriate Pillow
The pillow you use can make all the difference. A pillow that supports the neck well is the best. It should be such that when you place your head, moreover, with every change in position, the pillow too must change shape. Also, ensure that you change the pillow if it starts to sags because of prolonged use.
6. Use Specific Pillows
For those who sleep on their side, it is advised to use a pillow that is higher below the neck than the head. Use a good neck pillow when travelling in planes, etc to support your neck and back.
7. Pay Attention to the Mattress
Turn your mattress from time to time so that it doesn’t start to collapse in just one place. Also, exchange your old mattress for a new one regularly so that it continues to support your back and neck in a healthy position.
8. Sleeping on Your Stomach is a NO
It may be hard to suddenly change your habit of sleeping on your tummy. But you will have to make an effort to correct your sleeping position for the sake of your neck.
9. For Pregnant Women
If you sleep on your back, then prop a pillow or two under your knees. Or if you prefer sleeping on your side, then place the pillows in between your knees.
10. Morning Stretches
Simple stretches or yoga can really make a difference. It will help relax the muscles and joints in your body and make them more flexible.
The nature of the pain and intensity may differ from person to person, however, these are simple ways to a peaceful sleep and a happy morning.
Morning Exercises to Ease a Stiff Neck
Unless it is chronic pain or some other serious ailment, there is little that exercise can’t take care of. A simple sore neck can be eased with the following exercises:
1. Head Drops
Stand straight and slowly drop your head to the right. Keep looking in front of you as you do this. Wait for 10 counts and then repeat on the left. Repeat the entire sequence thrice. You can stretch more by dropping the opposite shoulder for each side.
2. Up-Down Motion
Stand straight. Slowly lower your head and touch your chin to the chest. Wait for 10 counts. Next, tilt your head up. Wait for 10 counts. Repeat thrice.
A slightly more intense version is to lay chest-down on your bed such that only your head is over the edge of the bed. Repeat the up-down motion thrice.
3. Over the Shoulder
Stand straight and look ahead. Slowly move your head to look over your right shoulder. Wait for 10 counts. Repeat on the left. Repeat the sequence thrice.
4. Head Juts
Sit straight with your back erect. Push your head out and hold for 10 counts. Then push it all the way back and hold. Remember to keep your body upright. Repeat it 5 times.
5. Head Lifts
Lay down flat on a mat. Touch your palate or the roof of your mouth with the tongue. Now, as you count to 10, ease your chin towards your chest. Next, very slowly lift the head from the mat. Picture the base of your skull and imagine that your head is bending between the ears. This helps to stretch the muscles in the nape. Hold for 10 counts and relax. Repeat this for about two minutes. Be Slow.
1. How Does Sleeping Position Affect Neck?
The sleeping position is a major factor that has a direct impact on the neck. Bad posture while sleeping can result in stiffness and pain. Your sleeping position determines the amount of strain the neck undergoes. It is best to always keep the neck and back in line with each other. This position is maintained while sleeping straight on the back or on the side. However, sleeping on the chest bends the neck in an unnatural position. This is the first step to a painful morning.
It is definitely not easy to break old habits of sleeping in unhealthy positions. It is also a fact that no matter what position you take when you go to bed, you will keep moving in your sleep. But the key is to put in some effort and make small changes.
2. Why Is It Important to Choose the Right Pillow and Mattress?
The only way you can maintain a good posture even while sleeping depends purely on where and what you sleep on. Your bed and your pillow will speak of that. It is very important to use the right pillow and the right mattress to get the correct and healthy sleeping position. A pillow too hard or a pillow too soft can strain your neck and back muscles. A sinking mattress will add to your suffering.
There are several cervical pillows and mattresses with ergonomic design. Depending on your requirement, you must choose the right pillow and mattress for maximum comfort.
So you see, a sore neck after sleeping is totally avoidable. It only takes a bit of care and some healthy lifestyle decisions. So ditch that sagging bed, buy yourself a good pillow and adopt a balanced sleeping position. Give your neck some much-needed attention. However, in the case of acute pain or if the pain refuses to subside, then it is best to consult the doctor.