young woman sleeping in bed

Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain and Headaches

It can be very difficult to fall asleep when you’re experiencing neck pain or a headache. You know that sleep will help heal your head and neck, but at the same time, that pain is keeping you from going to sleep. It’s like your body doesn’t even know what it needs to get better.

It’s a frustrating position to be in, but your sleeping position can make a big difference. Finding the right sleeping position can help with headaches and neck pain, preventing them before they happen and allowing you to fall asleep easier when you’re suffering from these ailments.

There are some sleeping positions that work better than others at soothing neck pain and dealing with headaches, and I’m going to share those with you here.

I will talk about some tried and true methods for falling asleep and getting into the right position on your bed and pillow in order to get the rest you need to recover.

The Best Sleeping Position if you Have Neck Pain or Headaches

So, which kind of sleeping position should you be in normally for good posture and a good night sleep? We want to begin with the norm, and then any deviations necessary for treatment or health benefits can go from that starting point.

When you lie down in bed for a night sleep, you should be lying in a position that is good for your posture and that keeps your spine straight. Remember that your spine goes up your back and your neck as well.

So, those both need to be lined up straight in order for your posture to be correct and to avoid you waking up with back pain or neck pain in the morning.

If you’re already lying down with neck or back pain, it’s important that you get into a correct sleeping position so that these problems don’t become worse when you wake up.

The most recommended sleeping position for the average person is to lie on their side with enough support for their head so that the neck lines up with the spinal column.

If your neck is too high or too low, that’s going to put a little bend in the part of your spinal column where the neck and back connect just above the shoulders.

That can mean you will wake up with a crick in your neck or some sort of discomfort there.

So, the best sleeping position in general is this side position with your neck and the rest of your spinal column all lined up straight. You want to be careful about how high your pillow is or how low it is.

Of course, if you’re having breathing difficulties, you need to prop up your neck more to allow extra air passage between your mouth, nose, and lungs. But we’re not talking about sleeping positions for a stuffed nasal cavity.

Instead, we are focusing on the best sleeping position for neck pain and headaches.

How to Sleep with Neck Pain and Headaches

There are two different sleeping positions you can try that will be easy on your neck. The one that I recommended above for sleeping on your side is what’s optimal, but you can try sleeping on your back as well.

If you’re going to sleep on your back while suffering from neck pain, make sure you choose a pillow that’s kind of rounded. This will give you some support to the natural curve of your neck. You can then add a flat pillow to provide cushioning for your head.

There are pillows that come with built-in neck support and that include a headrest indentation.

You can use conforming pillows to help provide better support for your neck and comfort as you sleep.

Feather pillows and shaped pillows with memory foam may help. Just be careful about using pillows that are overly high. That can create stiffness and pain in your neck, and you’re going to feel it in the morning.

To help with neck pain when you sleep on your side, try to place a pillow under your head and neck that’s higher than it is under your head. This will ensure that your spine stays straight while you sleep.

Horseshoe pillows are also good idea, especially when you’re traveling. They help keep your neck straight to ensure that it doesn’t fall to one side or the other as you sleep.

Be careful about using overly large travel pillows, as they can push your head forward too much and put strain on your spine.

What Not to Do if you Have Neck Pain or a Headache

If you’re trying to avoid further neck pain and headaches, you need to be careful with your sleeping position. Propping your head up too high or not even using a pillow can cause further pain and discomfort.

An improper sleeping position, especially when you’re already in pain, can make a headache worse.

If you’re not providing proper support for your neck and spine, you may not get a restful night’s sleep. That’s going to leave you with a headache in the morning.

You want to avoid sleeping on your stomach if at all possible. This can place undue pressure on your neck because of the way your back is arched and how this position turns your neck to the side.

If you prefer to sleep on your stomach, it’s going to be tough to change that just to accommodate your headache and neck pain, but you should give a new position a try.

Attempt to sleep on your side or your back and follow the guidelines I’ve listed above. This may take you a little while to fall asleep to feel comfortable in this position, but it can make a big difference in how you feel in the morning and how soundly you sleep during the night.

Keep in mind that using the wrong sleeping position that’s not considered a healthy one can be damaging over time. You’re more likely to wake up with that back, neck, or head pain because of a poor sleeping position.

Even if you don’t have pain there right now, it’s a good idea to change over to sleeping on your side or your back and properly support your neck, head, and back while you sleep.

How to Help Yourself Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep with Neck or Headaches

If you’re having trouble falling asleep because of neck pain or headache, and you’re worried about waking up during the night, there are few things you can try.

  • take a pain reliever before you go sleep
  • drink a hot beverage like tea or warm milk before sleeping
  • avoid caffeine and excess sugar several hours before you go to sleep
  • don’t drink too much before you go to sleep, as you may need to wake up during the night to urinate
  • get plenty of exercise during the day so that you’re more likely to sleep soundly at night
  • get to bed at a regular time when your body is used to falling asleep
  • give yourself enough time to get adequate sleep during the night
  • relax yourself with calming music, a hot bath, or a self-massage before you fall asleep
  • try to avoid spending time on screens up to an hour before you fall asleep