Best Sleeping Positions for Severe Neck Pain: A Guide to Pain-Free Rest

Dr. Sean Hiller shares the best sleeping positions to help alleviate severe neck pain, including detailed adjustments and helpful tips. Learn how to sleep better and wake up pain-free with these expert recommendations.
Written by
Sean Hiller
Published on
Jul 2, 2024

Is your neck pain keeping you up at night? Do you wake up with a stiff neck or even pain radiating down your arm? Your sleeping position can make all the difference between a sleepless night and waking up well-rested and pain-free. This article is a companion to one of our recent YouTube videos. You can check it out here:

Tjos article covers the best sleeping positions to alleviate severe neck pain. Let's dive into how you can adjust your sleeping habits to get a good night's sleep.

The Importance of Sleeping Position

You might have a favorite sleeping position that has been comfortable in the past, but now it causes pain. Adjusting your sleeping position can help reduce discomfort and improve your sleep quality.You may be concerned about rolling over into a painful position during the night. This article will cover how to prevent this too.

Neck Exercises Before Bed

Before getting into bed, it's beneficial to perform some neck-focused exercises to decrease your symptoms and pain levels. The Vulcan Performance Youtube channel has a video with specific exercises for this type of neck pain, which you can find here. These exercises will help set you up for a better night's sleep.

Sleeping Positions to Avoid

1. On Your Stomach: Sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to the side puts your neck in a maximum rotation position, which can be very harmful if you have neck pain.

2. On Your Side with Neck Laterally Flexed: This position elongates one side of your neck and shortens the other, causing discomfort and pain.

3. On Your Back with Pillow Under Top of Your Head: This forces your head down, putting your neck in a flexed position, which might alleviate pain temporarily but will restrict your neck movement and increase pain in the long run. It can also cause snoring and breathing difficulties.

Best Sleeping Positions for Neck Pain

1. Assisted Extension Position: Take a pillow and place it on its edge under your cervical spine, focusing on the base of your skull.

Why it works: This position assists your neck into extension, which can be part of the rehabilitation process. It helps you wake up with less pain and fewer symptoms. Adjust the pillow height if this position is initially painful.

2: Neutral Position: Laying on your side, use one or two pillows to keep your neck as neutral as possible.

Why it works: While this position doesn't assist in rehabilitation like the first one, it keeps your neck in a neutral, non-painful position, allowing you to sleep without aggravating your symptoms.

Tips to Maintain These Positions

It can be challenging to stay in the same position all night as we tend to move while we sleep. Here are some tips to help maintain your position:

  • Use a Body Pillow: This can help keep you in place and prevent rolling over into a painful position.
  • Create a Pillow Barrier: Surround yourself with pillows to minimize movement.


Finding the right sleeping position can make a significant difference in managing neck pain and improving your sleep quality. If you found this content helpful, please subscribe to the Vulcan Performance YouTube channel, and turn on notifications so you never miss an opportunity to enhance your health and well-being. Your support helps our channel grow, and we appreciate it!

For more tips and exercises, check out our other videos and resources. Sleep well and wake up pain-free! And if you have ongoing neck pain, and live in the Birmingham, Alabama area, set up a free injury screen at this link with a doctor of physical therapy at one of our two Birmingham locations - Inverness or Mountain Brook.

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