The Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain and Headaches

Are you struggling with neck pains and headaches? You may be sleeping wrong. Learn the best sleeping position to protect your neck.
Woman Sleeping on her back for a good sleeping position

Do you suffer from chronic neck pain and headaches? Unfortunately, both of these are common issues. There are a number of different reasons you may be dealing with this type of pain. It may be the amount of time you spend sitting hunched over at your computer every day. It could be the yoga class you took that pinched your neck in the wrong way. It could be that you’re dehydrated. While all of the above are reasons your head and neck may be hurting, there is one that really takes the cake. And it is one that not many people consider. It is how you sleep and, more specifically, your sleeping position. 

Your sleeping position says a lot about your neck and spine. If you aren’t sleeping correctly, your neck is likely paying the price. 

How to Sleep to Stop Headaches Before They Start

Sick woman with a headache or fever

So, let’s get into the details of how you should be sleeping to protect your neck and help with those headaches. We will be breaking down each sleep position, starting with the worst sleeping position. 

What NOT To Do

We apologize in advance for the frustration that this may cause you, but the worst possible position you could sleep in is on your stomach

Sleeping on your stomach leads to all sorts of issues, including:

Putting unnecessary strain on your neck.

Your spine is not in a neutral position when you sleep on your stomach, so you’re opening up the possibility of back and neck problems. This is because your spine can’t support you in this position. And, since you can’t sleep face-down when you sleep on your stomach, your head will always be turned one way or the other, which messes with your neck and spine. 

Difficulty breathing.

This sleeping position puts pressure on your diaphragm, which can cause you to have issues breathing while you’re asleep. 

Stomach sleepers will need to actively train themselves to stop this. You can try various types of pillows, like body pillows, to figure out a new way to at least get you sleeping on your side.  

What To Do: It’s All About Sleeping Positions

So now that you know how not to sleep, it’s time to fill you in on the best sleeping positions to protect your neck and your head. 

Back Sleeping

Coming in at number one is back sleeping, so that’s great news for all the back sleepers out there. This position puts minimal pressure on your spine and allows your neck to sit in a natural position. It also distributes weight evenly along your entire spine. 

The key to sleeping on your back comes in how you do it, and pillows matter. 

You’ll want a pillow that features elevated neck support and serves as a cradle for the back of your head. You may also want to add a pillow under your knees, which promotes the natural curve of your spine. 

ZAMAT Contour Memory Foam Pillow for Neck Pain Relief
ZAMAT Contour Memory Foam Pillow for Neck Pain Relief, $39.99

Side Sleeping

Another sleeping position that will help your stiff neck pain and headaches is on your side. Just because you are a side sleeper doesn’t mean it’s enough. To have this position be good for you, you need to side sleep the right way. You want to put a pillow between your knees to keep as much of the natural alignment of your hips, pelvis, and spine as possible.

Also, you want to try and alternate the side that you sleep on. This ensures that you don’t create muscle imbalance or put yourself at risk of potentially getting scoliosis. 

A tall pillow placed under your neck is good for side sleeping as well because it helps your neck align with your head and works to relieve any strain you may be putting on your neck.

Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow
Contour Legacy Leg & Knee Foam Support Pillow, $24.99
Zoey side-sleeper pillow helps relieve neck pain for side sleeping position
Zoey side-sleeper neck pillow, $79.99

Upright Sleeping

Though not as common, some people find that sleeping upright helps them with their neck pain. This position is a favorite for pregnant women who are suffering from an achy back as well as sinus sufferers looking for stuffy head relief

But, similar to the other positions, you need to do it correctly for it to alleviate your pain issues. 

Get yourself a horseshoe-shaped pillow similar to the ones you use to travel so that your neck is supported. A lower-back pillow may be a good addition as well. You might consider purchasing a sleeping wedge as well, so you can stay in your bed while still getting the benefits of an upright sleeping position.

Abco Tech Bed Wedge Pillow with Memory Foam Top
Abco Tech Bed Wedge Pillow, $38.99

Where the Headaches Come In

You may find yourself wondering why your neck pain is causing you headaches, and we have an explanation for that. 

The type of headache you’re likely experiencing is called a cervicogenic headache. The name of this headache is derived from your cervical spine, as this is where the pain of this type of headache comes from. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, cervicogenic headaches usually start at the base of the skull and go up one side. They also may limit your ability to move your neck, as doing so may make the headache much worse. 

In addition to changing the position that you sleep in, massages may help alleviate some of the pain associated with your cervicogenic headache.  

You also want to be sure to invest in the mattress and pillows that will be best for keeping your neck in the right position while sleeping (which is in line with your back). You don’t want a pillow that is too soft, and you don’t want one that is too hard. Look for something right in the middle. And be sure to replace your pillows every couple of years because they lose their support over time. 

Hopefully these tips will help you get back to having a good night’s rest soon, and you can start enjoying the benefits of no more neck strain or at least a less sore neck. 

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