At one stage or another, we’ve all woken up with a stiff neck from sleeping, sore and questioning our life choices. When trying to figure out what caused it, the first culprit instinct points to is the humble pillow. And you’d be right for doing so, there’s a significant relationship between your pillow and neck pain. But first, lets take a look at the full picture.
WHY DOES YOUR NECK HURT AFFTER SLEEPING?
So many aspects of our lives, are filled with bending, twisting and contorting our bodies into positions that are far from ideal. Sitting in a computer chair all day, slouching, looking down at your phone – these are all things which contribute to neck pain. Sleeping is a good opportunity to try and make up for some of these habits, however, sleeping with your head bent and overstretching your neck is only going to make matters worse. Certain positions combined with bad pillows are major contributors to neck pain from sleeping.
WHAT IS THE BEST PILLOW FOR NECK PAIN?
Well, it depends. The golden rule on how to prevent a stiff neck while sleeping is to opt for a pillow that will keep your neck parallel to your mattress, instead of forcing it to bend or twist. Part of addressing how to not get a stiff neck while sleeping means considering your sleeping position and overall setup to help mitigate any pain in your neck and beck that could result from using the wrong pillow. For instance, if you sleep on your side you’ll generally want a higher pillow to support your elevated head, and the opposite for back sleepers. Here’s some options and things to consider if you do suffer from a sore neck after sleeping.
1. PILLOWS THAT ADAPT TO YOUR SLEEPING POSITION
Everyone sleeps differently, and sometimes we change what position we’re sleeping in, so it’s hard to simply outline a single beneficial sleeping position for stiff neck, and that’s why pillows that can adapt to you stand out. Contoured pillows & foam pillows that are going to depress depending on the weight applied are beneficial as they’ll either be less elevated or more elevated depending on if you’re lying on your back or your side, therefore helping to align your spine and neck.
2. MEMORY FOAM PILLOWS
A great option is a traditionally shaped or contoured memory foam pillow. The features of memory foam means that it will mould and contour to your head and neck, adapting to you and your sleeping position even as it changes. Because of the way they adapt, pillows like our memory foam pillow for neck pain are generally the safest best, although it is worth considering the quality, as cheaper options may not actually provide you with the support you need.
3. LATEX PILLOWS
Latex pillows are right up there, too. Arguably the most durable type of pillow, they offer a suitable amount of responsiveness, airflow & comfort to help your overall sleep. Where they can lack, however, is the ability to conform to your head and adapt to different sleeping positions throughout the night. This means that they are less equipped for aligning your neck, and you may have to do a bit of digging to find one that works right for you.
4. STOMACH SLEEPERS & SIDE PILLOWS
Unfortunately, stomach sleepers are worse off when it comes to a sore neck from sleeping. Interestingly, one of the best remedies here is not a pillow for your head, but for your body or side. They can encourage side sleeping while still providing a base for your stomach, so you can have the same feeling without the detrimental effects.
5. FLY THE COOP ON FEATHER PILLOWS
Feather pillows are a classic, but sometimes it’s best to leave the past in the past. Sure, they can be comfortable and easy on the wallet, but they can seriously lack in support. After some time or if you move, the pillow does nothing to work with you or support you, becoming the very definition of bad pillow neck pain. Down pillows are better, but you’ll want to keep fluffing them and you’re still using animal products.
6. CONSIDER YOUR MATTRESS AND PILLOW SYNERGY
Whether you like a firm or a soft mattress, the combination of your mattress & pillow will play a pivotal role in helping work out what to do if your neck hurts after sleeping. So how do you know if your pillow is too high? Generally, a firmer mattress needs a thicker pillow, as your shoulders won’t ‘sink’ into the bed as much, so your head and neck will be more elevated. Conversely, a medium or soft mattress works better with a softer or smaller pillow, as you’ll sink into both and line up better. Of course there are personal factors to consider; side sleepers with broad shoulders, for instance, are generally going to be better off with a nice thick pillow either way.
YOUR OVERALL SLEEP QUALITY PLAYS A ROLE TOO
Research suggests that musculoskeletal pain (like neck & back pain) are affected by the overall quality of your sleep itself. People with sleeping problems, like difficulty staying asleep or falling asleep, are much more likely to develop pain. Harvard sleep expert Dr. Lawrence Epstein insists that “anything that will make you more comfortable will improve the likelihood of getting a good night's sleep” – so whether it’s a better pillow, comfortable soft sheets, or investing in a full bedroom package, improving your sleep space is going to help reduce and prevent pain.
Ultimately, some pillows are more than likely going to contribute to a sore neck after sleeping and in turn make it harder to sleep, and keep the cycle going. While there is no one-size-fits-all, there are obvious standouts that are going to help improve your sleep and soreness, like memory foam or contoured pillows that work to align your neck and spine. Sometimes it might take a bit of trial and error, so products with sleep trials are ideal. When picking a pillow, you should consider your sleeping position, size and your whole bedroom setup. If you do experience chronic pain that doesn’t improve, you should consult a medical or chiropractic professional.