Yes, it's possible to feel rested and pain-free!
There are virtually hundreds of reasons why your neck may hurt. Perhaps you’re sitting in one position for too long. Maybe you have a disc issue. There could be inflammation in a joint capsule. The list goes on, and on…and on. If you’re unlucky enough to land one of these injuries, you know how dreadful sleeping can be. Even the slightest misalignments can cause great pain and discomfort over the course of a night. This can leave you groggy, cranky, and in more pain than when you closed your eyes.
Today we’ll look at 3 simple tips for surviving each night with neck discomfort. If you’re intentional about doing these steps, you should even notice a reduction in your overall pain over time. The truth is, you only get one neck in life, so it’s time to give it the attention it deserves!
Here's how to survive a full night's sleep with neck pain.
Please note that finding the perfect sleeping strategy is going to be subjective to some degree. This can range from the shape of your pillow to the material of your sheets for allergy prevention. While these tips will surely benefit you, please listen to your body and adjust as needed. If you’re experiencing chronic pain in this area, it will worthwhile to seek help from your doctor to discuss individualized strategies.
Additionally, if you have zero problems with neck pain, don't overthink your sleeping habits. The tips below are mainly focused on those who are going through day-to-day troubles with neck discomfort. Without further ado, let’s jump into it!
1) Get smart with your pillow choice.
If your neck is in pain, it won’t fancy being compressed or stretched. To avoid this, find a pillow (or pillows) that allow you to stay neutral. What do I mean by this? If you sleep on your back, ensure your chin isn’t dropping too far forward towards the sternum. If you sleep on your side/stomach, make sure you’re not stretching your ear too far away from the shoulder.
If you can handle a softer surface, feather or down pillows can come in handy as you can really shape them to support the neck (synthetic material is another option if you have allergies). You can also use 2 pillows and pull the top one into the crook of your neck for maximal support.
While this may seem obvious to keep your neck neutral, it does take some work to find the right fit for your anatomy. This is so worth it, however, as stretching your neck for 7–9 hours a night will be the last thing you need to help recovery. Just think, we’re not stretching any other muscle for that prolonged period of time, so why should we have to with the neck?
2) Avoid technology in bed.
If you’re using a phone or tablet in bed, you’re bound to hold an unnatural neck position for prolonged periods of time. On top of this, isometrically contracting your arm to hold the tech up will cause even more discomfort over time. This is why so many people report tingling pain in their upper body. While this discomfort typically goes away after moving, if you’re stubborn about doing this day after day, you can start to get chronic problems.
If you absolutely must have your technology in bed, utilize it in short bouts (less than 10 minutes), and prop yourself up in a way where your neck, shoulders, and arms aren’t having to do any more work than they need to. Taking this seriously has the power to seriously improve your neck pain symptoms! As a bonus, you’ll be avoiding excessive blue light exposure before bed which can greatly contribute to a better night’s sleep.
3) Move more throughout the day.
We humans were designed to move, it’s as simple as that. Our joints need movement and changes of pressure to get fluids/nutrients in and out of discs and joints. If you want to feel more comfortable sleeping, take frequent breaks from sitting or lying throughout the day. If you can minimize sedentary behavior to 30 minutes at a time, your neck will be much more willing to cooperate with you. Here are several practical tips:
- Stand up every 30 minutes — even for 30 seconds.
- Invest in a standing desk. Just know that movement breaks are still required every 30 minutes.
- Consider taking a brief walk on your lunch break.
- Stand up for every phone call (if it’s not too awkward of course).
- Set timers on your phone for sedentary leisure activities. If this doesn’t fly, consider being active in front of your screen!
On top of this, try implementing mobility and strength work a few times per week. This consistent training will help to boost your pain-free range of motion and capacity to live life comfortably and functionally.
“It is not good enough to exercise for 30 minutes a day and be sedentary for 23 and a half hours.” — Dr. David Alter
- Spinal health and stress levels are inherently connected. If you want to improve outcomes, try to take time for mindfulness each day and remove those unnecessary stressors from your life.
- Do some neck-specific strength exercises to boost your postural endurance. Not sure where to start? There are few easy movements for you here!
- Still struggling? Seek out a respected physiotherapist who can assist you in building a rehabilitation program for better sleep and pain reduction!
If you’ve got neck pain, sleeping is never an enjoyable experience. You don’t have to keep slogging through the night, however. If you get serious about your pillow choice, technology habits, and overall activity levels, your pain outcomes will rapidly improve. This will lead to a wonderful cycle of improved sleep, more energy, and less discomfort!
Why not start taking your sleep and spinal health more seriously today? Your future self will thank you!
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