Sleeping Tips to Reduce Neck & Back Pain

Brian Hwang, MD - Sleeping Tips

Sleep is very important for our general health and well-being, but it can be hard to get a good night’s rest when we are dealing with pain. People with neck or back pain often have trouble getting enough restorative sleep. If you have neck or back problems, herniated discs, sciatica, or spine surgery, getting into the right position at night can help you sleep better and experience less pain. Here are some tips for sleeping and they may make a huge difference in your life!

Tip # 1: Best sleep position is what you find most comfortable but also holds your spine in its normal curvature or ‘neutral.’ Everyone’s spine is shaped differently. Also, the shape of the spine changes throughout life. So, the key is supporting your neck and back the way it is shaped throughout sleep. Continue reading to learn more about the perfect sleeping positions to reduce your neck, back, disc, and sciatica pain.

Tip # 2: Avoid Thick Pillows. While you want your pillow to support your head and neck, you don’t want it to be too thick. A thick pillow can cause your head to tilt forward, which can lead to neck pain. Neck pain or stiff neck is often caused by poor sleep posture.

Neck Alignment in Back Sleeping

Brian Hwang, MD - Neck Alignment in Back Sleeping

Neck Alignment in Side Sleeping

Brian Hwang, MD - Neck Alignment in Side Sleeping

Tip # 3: You need the right amount of pillow and mattress support. If you sleep on your side, you want to avoid using too many pillows under your head because this can put your neck in an uneasy position and cause pain. Studies say that side sleepers need a pillow that is between four and six inches thick. If you’re a back sleeper, you’ll want a thinner pillow, about three to four inches thick.

You can also use mattress support to help improve your posture while you sleep. Mattress support can significantly improve your quality of sleep, and it can also help reduce back pain and neck pain.

Neck-Alignment-in-Back-Sleeping - Sleep with Pillow

Tip # 4: Don’t Sleep on Your Stomach. Sleeping on your stomach can cause back pain and neck pain. This is because when you sleep on your stomach, your head is turned to the side, which can lead to muscle strain. Sleeping on your stomach also flattens the natural curve of your spine, which can cause back pain.  Need to sleep on your stomach? Try and put a pillow under your hips to help reduce the strain on your back.

Brian Hwang, D. on sleeping on stomach

Tip # 5: Sleep on Your Side as an Alternative to Stomach Sleeping. Sleeping on your side is a good alternative to stomach sleeping. This position can help reduce back pain and neck pain. When side sleeping, the shoulders and the hips should be in line and the back should be straight. Consider using a third pillow in front of the abdomen to rest the upper arm and prevent the shoulder from rotating down.

Brian Hwang, D. on sleeping on side

You can use a variety of pillows to achieve the perfect posture for side sleeping. One pillow that can help you with this is the Coop Home Goods Eden Pillow Queen Size Bed Pillow for Sleeping – Medium Soft Memory Foam Pillows Cooling Gel.   

It has a shredded memory foam fill that is adjustable, so you can make it as firm or soft as you need. You can use it as a head pillow or place it in between your knees when sleeping on your side for support.

You can also get 5 STARS UNITED Store’s Knee Pillow for Side Sleepers; it is a memory foam pillow that you place between your knees when sleeping on your side to help align your spine and reduce pain.

My personal favorite is a body pillow or a pregnancy pillow because it helps you keep your spine aligned throughout the night and it’s just one pillow you have to worry about.

Many other pillows can help you achieve the perfect posture for side sleeping, so find one that works for you and get a good night’s sleep!

Tip # 6: Back Sleeping is ideal for relieving neck, back, and sciatic pain. If you choose to sleep on your back, try to put a pillow or a leg wedge under your knees to reduce the strain and relieve pain in your lower back. You can also use a specialized lumbar pillow to support your lower back. When sleeping on your back, try to have the neck, the shoulders, and the hips in line.

Brian Hwang, MD on sleeping on back

One pillow that can help with this is the Gentle Living Store’s Lumbar Pillow for Sleeping with Adjustable Height Memory Foam Lumbar Support Pillow for back sleepers. This pillow is designed to support your neck, back, and hips. It is made of memory foam and has a contoured design.

Brian Hwang, D. on Lower Back Pain & Pain in Hips and Back

Tip # 7: To Avoid Tight Hip Flexors, place a pillow under the knees or use a leg wedge. Many of us have tight hip flexors (thigh muscles). Tight hip flexors can cause pain in the lower back, hips, and legs. To avoid this, place a pillow under your knees when sleeping on your back or use a leg wedge. A leg wedge is a pillow that is placed under the legs to raise them up. This will reduce pressure on the lower back, take the strain off the hips, and relieve tension in the legs.

Brian Hwang, MD- Leg Wedge
I hope you get the quality sleep you deserve by following the tips! Thank you and please share your feedback at [email protected].