Neck pain is something that most people will eventually have to deal with. For some it will be a fleeting incident, perhaps caused by overwork or sleeping in the wrong position. For others it will be a chronic condition that creates constant discomfort, and even disability. Neck pain impacts so many aspects of our lives, and one whose impact is often underestimated is our ability to sleep.
Sleep plays an enormous role in our mood as well as in our health. Insufficient sleep and low-quality sleep have both been linked to depression, obesity, and even higher risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Crucially, a lack of sleep can exacerbate our experience of pain, creating a Catch-22 in which we can’t sleep because we hurt, and we hurt worse because we don’t get enough sleep.
To improve your sleep quality in the face of pain, try to avoid positions that put pressure on your neck. This means keeping your spine in a neutral position that is essentially a horizontal version of standing up straight. If you are propping your head up on a pillow, imagine your body in the position that the pillow is creating: If it would mean that you are walking around with your head tilted forward, then your pillow is too high.
As New Jersey neck pain specialists, we know that it is hard to adjust from a sleep position that you’ve habituated to, but it is worth the effort to eliminate discomfort. If you sleep on your back, minimize your pillow height to keep your spine neutral, and do the same if you sleep on your side. Those who sleep on their stomach face the biggest challenge, as the position is undoubtedly creating strain and making your pain worse. If you absolutely cannot break the habit of sleeping on your stomach, place a thin pillow under your forehead to keep your neck neutral, and placing another under your hips may also avoid lower back pain. If you believe that you move around at night and fear that you’ll end up in a position that will lead to morning pain, place pillows around your body to prevent yourself from rolling or shifting.
In addition to adjusting your position, it may be worth your time to investigate the various pillows that promise relief from neck pain. When choosing, your goal should be to find a pillow that fully supports the neck. Memory foam is a good choice as long as it isn’t too thick, as you do not want to lift your head to an unhealthy angle.
If you are waking up with neck pain, you may find that taking an over-the-counter pain reliever at bedtime helps. Other options include neck stretches and moderate exercises such as yoga or swimming. Avoiding movement will end up leading to stiffness, so try to get up and walk around regularly.
If the pain continues it may be time to seek medical help. Contact our New Jersey spine specialty practice to set up an appointment to come in for a consultation.