Neck pain after sleeping: causes & tips

Do you experience neck pain after sleeping? This article deals with the main causes and gives tips to remedy and prevent this neck pain.

Causes of neck problems after sleeping

Stiff neck muscles and neck pain after sleeping can have various causes such as stress or strain. Mostly, the direct cause of this will be incorrect ergonomic support of the neck and head. The neck consists of 7 vertebrae and 5 intervertebral discs. There are no intervertebral discs between C0-C1 and C1-C2.

An unsuitable pillow

When lying on your side, you are lying ergonomically correct if the neck and the head are in line with the back. When the height is incorrect, you may notice that you wake up regularly during the night. With a pillow that is either too high or too low, the load on one or more of the intervertebral discs is incorrect. This can cause muscle cramps, in the form of a stiff neck after sleeping.

In the back position, you are lying correctly if the natural curve of the neck is supported so that the vertebrae are in their natural intermediate position in respect of each other. If the head is lying too high or too low, this may cause tension in the neck. Muscular tension in the neck may cause tension headaches when you get up.

The height of a pillow can be good for your head and shoulders, but it is just as important that the hollow of the neck is fully supported. Position a pillow properly in the hollow of the neck.

neck pain after sleeping pillow

An incorrect sleeping position may cause neck pain when you wake up

When you lie in bed, an ergonomically correct posture is important. If you have been lying incorrectly for a couple of hours, this can result in neck pain, despite the use of a good pillow. A good sleeping position when you have neck problems is either on your side or on your back. More information about sleeping ergonomically.

When you have a distorted sleeping position or sleep on our stomach, it is almost impossible to support the back correctly without torsion of the neck vertebrae which can result in tensing of the neck muscles.

What are solutions for neck pain after sleeping?

  • If the neck muscles are very tense, it is recommended to consult a therapist (physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor) who can remove the tension of the neck muscles. Experience shows that it is often not sufficient to just use a better pillow.
  • By adjusting your pillow to the size of your body and sleeping position, tension should no longer occur in the future. Of course, a pillow is not for life. High quality ergonomic pillows will last easily 5 years.
  • If you feel slight tension in the neck, it can be relieved by (auto-)massage.
  • Do careful exercises to release the neck muscles, possibly under a hot shower.
  • Heat will help to make tensed neck muscles relax because it improves circulation. Use for instance a small cherry stone pillow.
  • Preferably sleep on your side or back and avoid sleeping on your stomach.