How to Avoid Waking Up with a Stiff Neck

How to Avoid Sleep Related Neck Pain:

Ouch! It happened again. You’ve just opened your eyes and tried to move your neck only to find it stiff and painful when you attempt to tilt or turn your head toward one side.While there are many reasons a person may experience neck pain (some of which are quite serious and require immediate medical attention) what is being covered in this article is how to avoid neck pain specifically caused by improper sleep positions, or what’s more commonly known as “sleeping wrong.”

When you’re a sound sleeper, over-tired, or you’ve consumed one too many glasses of wine it’s easy to fall into bed and remain in one spot for several hours without changing positions. Sleeping in prolonged or awkward positions can tighten muscles, compress nerves and cause considerable neck pain upon waking.  Sleep position is not always something that can be controlled, however the best approach to avoiding waking up with this type of neck pain is to start out sleeping in a position that puts the least amount of stress on the neck area.

In most cases, back sleeping is most desirable  to help you avoid  pain as it allows for your head, neck and spine to maintain a neutral position. Typically, a pillow under your head and one under your knees will help you achieve this position. (From a vanity standpoint, back sleeping won’t promote wrinkles caused by side, stomach and fetal sleeping positions.)

Side sleeping is the second best to back sleeping, however it’s important to note that the space above your shoulder needs to be filled so that your head and neck are supported in a neutral position. Hugging a body pillow while side sleeping is helpful in keeping the entire spine safe. If you are pregnant, sleeping on your left side is recommend as it is best for blood flow.

Stomach sleeping, with the neck turned to one side for an extended period of time, leaves the neck most vulnerable to neck pain and injury.  While you may not feel the aches and pains associated with stomach sleeping right away, overtime waking up with a stiff neck may begin happening more frequently.

Cold drafts from air-conditioners or an open window can also make neck muscles tighten during sleep, resulting in the inability to turn your head in the morning. Sleep experts recommend maintaining a consistent room temperature somewhere between 65-72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Inadequate pillows and/or mattresses are also known culprits behind waking up with neck pain.

A great day begins with a good night of sleep!  If you are experiencing neck pain upon waking speak to your physical therapist about finding the correct type of pillow and proper sleep position for you.

©2012 Elite Health Services LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Elite Health Services, located in Old Greenwich, (and now Westport!) CT is a world-class provider of certified functional manual physical therapy, personal fitness, golf & triathlon performance training, massage therapy and wellness related services. Our team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals take a no-excuses approach to providing exceptional care and delivering exceptional results. To learn more visit www.EliteHealthServices.


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