How to Sleep With Upper Back and Neck Pain

Masthead Image
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Thursday November 17, 2022

Body + Mind is reader-supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through some of the links on our site. 

Having a good night’s sleep is important for your health and productivity, so if something is getting in the way of your rest, it’s time to make a change. A stiff neck or back can leave you tossing and turning all night, and you’ll wake up still feeling tired. 

If you’re looking to take control of your sleep schedule by reducing your discomfort, we can help. Read on to learn a few tips for managing upper back and neck pain while you sleep. 

Try Sleeping Positions That Reduce Back and Neck Pain 

Many adults suffer from back and neck pain that interferes with their everyday lives — 60% to 80% will experience inhibiting back pain and 20% to 70% will have nagging neck pain. 

Your back and neck are two parts of the same winding pathway that is your spine. Keeping your spine in its natural position is vital for managing pain in these areas. 

Your spine curves forward at your neck and lower back, then backward in the middle and end. There are two ways you can sleep to maintain your back’s comfortable curvature and reduce your neck and back pain, including:

1. Sleeping On Your Back 

Sleeping on your back is the best way to reduce back and neck pain at night, because it’s the easiest way to align your spine naturally. Your head, neck and back are all in a straight line.

For the best results, use a thin pillow when sleeping on your back. This way, you’ll have some head support, but your neck will still be as close as possible to its straight position. Try a cervical pillow with a recession in the middle to support your neck without lifting your head. 

2. Sleeping On Your Side

If you find sleeping on your back doesn’t work for you, you can also try a sideways position. You can still keep your spine in a natural position when sleeping on your side. Propping your head up with a medium-sized pillow or a couple of thin ones will help your neck remain straight. 

For additional comfort, place a pillow between your knees while you sleep on your side. This way, your hips will have some support and assist with retaining your natural spinal alignment.

Help Your Spine Before and After You Sleep

You can further alleviate your upper back and neck pain by doing a few stretches before bed and in the morning. Here are several helpful neck and back stretches that the Cleveland Clinic recommends

  • Shoulder rolls: Drop your arms to your sides and roll your shoulders forward and backward 10 times using a slow, controlled motion. 
  • Shoulder squeezes: Elevate your arms to shoulder level and press your shoulder blades toward each other 10 times.
  • Levator scapulae stretch: While sitting or standing, use your hand to push the back of your head down for 30 seconds. The same works at a slight angle to stretch the sides of your neck, too.
  • Upper trapezius stretch: From a seated or standing position, tilt your right ear toward your right shoulder and vice versa with the left side 10 times.

Enjoy Better Sleep With Less Back and Neck Pain

Sleeping on your back and — with sufficient head support — on your side will keep your spine in its natural position through the night, helping alleviate your back and neck pain. Various stretches can also enable you to sleep more comfortably. Try these tips so that you wake up feeling ready to tackle the day. 

Previous ArticleBest Treadmills for Home Use: 8 Options Next Article4 Zoats Recipes for Breakfast or Anytime
Subscribe CTA Image

Subscribers get even more tailored tips & deets delivered directly to their inboxes!