Home / Blog October 18, 2023

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How to Sleep With a Stiff Neck : Tips for Relief

Waking up with a stiff neck can throw your whole day off balance, affecting your comfort, productivity, and mood. In this guide, we'll explore the reasons behind neck discomfort, the best sleeping positions, and practical strategies to alleviate pain and promote restorative sleep.

How to Sleep With a Stiff Neck


Common reasons for neck pain include poor sleep posture, muscle spasms, underlying health conditions, and sleep-related issues.

Sleeping on your back is the best sleeping position for neck pain, especially if you are aided by bolster pillows and body pillows.

Pre-sleep habits, such as regular exercise, maintaining a comfortable sleep environment, and practicing sleep hygiene, can also significantly improve your overall sleep quality and neck pain. 

Did you know?
Humans spend approximately one-third of their lives sleeping – that means if you live to be 90 years old, you'll have slept for about 30 years!

Waking up with a stiff neck can be an unwelcome surprise, leaving you wondering what you did to deserve this discomfort. Whether it's due to a muscle spasm, poor sleep posture, or other factors, understanding the root causes of neck pain when lying down is essential to finding relief. In this guide, we'll explore effective strategies on how to sleep with a stiff neck and find relief.

Understanding the Causes of Neck Pain

Before we dive into solutions, it's crucial to understand why you might experience neck pain when trying to get a good night's sleep. Regarding how long a stiff neck lasts, the answer is that it usually doesn’t last longer than a few hours. If you feel chronic pain you should consult a healthcare professional.

Here are some common causes:

Poor Sleep Posture

One primary culprit behind neck pain when lying down is poor sleep posture. Your neck and head should be properly aligned with your spine, but incorrect pillow height, sleeping positions, or mattress support can throw this alignment out of whack.

Neck Muscle Spasms

If you are suffering for neck muscle spasms, you are not the only one. Sleeping with muscle spasms in the neck area can lead to significant discomfort, especially when lying down. Muscle spasms often result from muscle strain or tension.

Underlying Health Conditions

In some cases, neck pain may be related to underlying health conditions, such as osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis. These conditions can become more pronounced when you're lying down, causing pain and stiffness.

Sleeping Problems

Research found sleeping itself may cause musculoskeletal pain. Some sleeping problems that may trigger musculoskeletal pain include difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, and non-restorative sleep. Lack of sleep quality interferes with healing and muscle relaxation processes that naturally occur during sleep.

What is the Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain?

What is the Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain?

If you’re experiencing neck pain and are wondering how to sleep with a stiff neck, the best position to sleep is on your back. This is because these positions exert less pressure on the spine compared to sleeping on your stomach. Sleeping on your stomach is tough on your spine, because it interferes with spine alignment; your back is arched, and your neck is turned to the side.

Your spine naturally arches in three places: it curves forward at your neck, curves in the other direction in your upper back, and curves forward at your lower back. Setting up your sleeping position and environment to best maintain these natural curves can help you minimize neck pain.

Sleeping on your back with neck pain

To guide you on how to sleep on a pillow for neck pain, we recommend you start sleeping on your back, and choose a bolster pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, with a flatter pillow cushioning the back of your head.

You should take care to avoid using too high or stiff a pillow, and choose a softer pillow to melt the pressure on your neck. While soft feather pillows are a good option, they tend to collapse over time and should be replaced often. They are also usually too flat to provide arch support for your cervical spine

As an alternative, we recommend our Cuddling, a bolster pillow that provides ergonomic support by molding into your body shape. This will provide you with incredible built-in neck support, as the pillow will cradle the back of your neck to create a comfortable resting spot for your head. This bolster pillow can also come in handy if you are a side sleeper, as it helps foster proper spinal alignment.

Pillows can be a great support, but they can also be detrimental. If you’ve wondered, how many pillows should you sleep with neck pain? The answer is that too many can over-flex the back of your neck, which compresses the spine and aggravates the muscles in that area; using the wrong pillow, on the other hand, can allow overextension in the opposite direction.

If you’ve questioned whether sleeping without a pillow helps a stiff neck, the answer is no. You need support in the back of your neck, so we recommend you use two pillows – one bolster pillow for under your neck, and a flat pillow for the back of your head. Remember this is all down to personal choice, so you should adjust as you see fit. Don’t be afraid to try different approaches to see what helps and what doesn’t: remember our bodies are unique, and what works for one may not work for others.

Sleeping on your side with neck pain

While sleeping on your back is the optimal position to minimize neck pain, sleeping on your side is also fine as long as the cervical spine is in a neutral position. When sleeping on your side, you should avoid overly high pillows because your neck can bend and you may develop pain over time; look for a pillow with the height that keeps your ears stacked vertically over each other.

If you are a side sleeper, you should also remember to try to avoid tucking in your chin, as that can position your head forward. You should also consider putting a pillow between your knees to help keep your lower spine in alignment. For this purpose, we recommend our Cuddler, our full-body pillow which supports your joints, neck, and back for proper alignment. If you tuck the upper part of the Cuddler beneath your chin and the lower part between your knees, we promise you will be cradled by the sensation of the tension melting away.


Ergonomically designed

Made from natural Melofoam™

Additional cover styles available

Cuddle up

While changing your sleeping position can be challenging, try gradually adjusting to the new position over a few days. We understand the struggle – this habit is often set early in life, and we often don’t wake up in the same position in which we fell asleep. Still, it’s worth trying to change your sleeping position for less shoulder and neck pain, aided by a supportive pillow, for you to get the rest you deserve.

How to Position the Neck for Sleep

Finding a comfortable position when you are sleeping with neck pain can be tricky. Or perhaps it’s not your sleeping position that needs to change, but your habits during the day that cause neck pain when lying down?

As it happens, one of the keys to avoid waking up with neck pain starts before the lights go out. The position of your neck while you’re awake can trigger the tossing and turning that can lead to poor positioning, and pain, while sleeping. If you have neck pain, you should make sure that the upper part of your spine is in a neutral position, not flexed forward or backward, or to the left or right. Having proper neck posture while sleeping is a crucial first step in your journey towards restorative sleep.

How to Position the Neck for Sleep

Exercising regularly during the day can help relax your muscles and alleviate muscle pain. Try starting with these light stretches before going to bed, and again when you wake up: you can start by rolling your shoulders back and down 10 times, and squeezing your shoulder blades together and relaxing them 10 times.

Sleep hygiene, such as following a consistent sleep schedule according to your optimal circadian rhythm, having a comfortable, relaxing sleep environment and exercising regularly during the day can greatly contribute to alleviating your neck pain. Practicing these habits can help prevent cervical spine disease in the future.


Waking up without neck pain is not just a dream; it's an achievable reality. By understanding the causes of neck discomfort, choosing the right sleeping position, and adopting healthy sleep habits, you can bid farewell to those unwelcome stiff neck mornings. Remember, consistency is key, and consulting with a healthcare professional can provide personalized insights to enhance your sleep quality and overall well-being. Embrace these changes, and say goodbye to sleepless, uncomfortable nights!