There's nothing worse than waking up in the morning with neck pain after sleeping. It's a terrible way to get your day started. The crick in your neck rarely goes away, either. This is a pain you're left to deal with throughout the rest of the day, and if you don't fix it during the next night of sleep, you'll continue to have this problem. The pain will also compound, leading to additional problems and pains in your body. Everything in the body is connected, which means when you have a compression in one side of the neck, the opposite side tries to make up for it.

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This can pull muscles in undesirable ways, which may push bones into areas the bones are not meant to be in. Everything is one problem after another until you can't handle the kind the neck pain. Substantial neck pain may eventually require you to seek out professional medical help. However, there are ways to take care of neck pain after sleeping. Often it doesn't take all that much to identify the culprit of this neck pain and make an adjustment. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

What Cause Neck Pain after Sleeping?

If you're waking up with a painfully sore neck, there are usually some specific culprits behind this. Thankfully, these obvious culprits are often easy to correct and just take some minor tweaks to how you're sleeping and what you're using to sleep.

crick in neck

Neck pain typically comes from your neck not being properly aligned with your spine and your head for an extended period. Ideally, your neck, spine, and head are all on equal levels. This is why sleeping on your back is usually the best option for any kind of back or neck pain. It is the best option for keeping everything straight. However, when the alignment isn't correct, it usually means the muscles in your neck are pulling down on the neck.

If the pain is right where your neck connects with your head, it is because your head is weighing down off of a pillow and is pulling the muscles here. Or, if the neck pain comes from the base of the neck where it connects to the spine (right around the shoulders) it is likely because there is a bend in this area of the spine while you sleep (such as if you sleep on your side and you have a pillow under your head, but it pushes your neck down).

There are a few different problems that occur with either of these issues. First, the muscles on one side of the neck will pull down. This causes a reaction on the opposite side of the neck as these muscles to make up for the pull or push down. Additionally, as the muscles are connected to your spine through a series of ligaments and tendons, this may force the bones within the neck to shift along with the muscles.

As the bones shift in the neck, it can compress the space between the vertebrae, and this squished area might pinch down on nerves and cause other problems. You can see, everything is connected together, with one issue leading to several problems all in your neck.

Tips to Prevent Neck Pain

The best way to correct neck pain is to sleep correctly. There are preventative measures that will help reduce neck pain after sleeping. The neck pain occurs when your neck is tilted at an undesirable angle for at least a portion of the time you sleep. To correct this, you need to alter how you sleep.

Change How You Sleep

baby girl sleeping

First, you want to avoid stacking too many pillows. Placing too many pillows up will force your neck to bend, which puts undesirable pressure on the neck. Additionally, don't use an overly stiff pillow. You want a pillow that will conform to the shape of your neck and head, allowing the cushion to cradle your head. A hard pillow that doesn't do this increases the chance of experiencing a sore neck.

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You would be better off if you did not sleep on your side. Side sleeping does not allow your spine to lay flat. It can cause not just neck pain after sleeping but a pain in your back, as well. However, if you are a side sleeper and are not ready to give this up, change the position of the pillow. Place the pillow under your neck and not your head. If you have a pillow under your head, it forces your spine and neck to tilt where it connects with your head. By placing the pillow under your neck, it helps align your spine and reduces the chance of suffering from these kinds of pain problems.

If you sleep on your stomach, you need to change this practice right away. This is the worst sleeping position for your neck and spine and causes the most neck pain after sleeping. While changing the way you sleep can be a challenge, especially if you've been doing it all your life, you'll need to make the change if you want to cut out the neck pain after sleeping.

Seek Professional Help

patient talking to doctor

Sometimes the problems causing neck pain after sleeping isn't from how you sleep or the position of your neck. It's the quality of your sleep. If you're only sleeping a few hours a night and you wake up several times throughout the course of the night, or if you have trouble falling asleep, then you are more likely to suffer neck pain the next morning. Your body needs rest to rebuild areas damaged during the day. This is everything from the general wear and tear your body experiences all the way to muscle tissue tears you suffer when working out.

If you suffer from one of these problems, it is time to seek the help of a professional. Talk to your doctor. They can point you in the right direction for determining what is causing the lack of sleep. It might just be stress, in which case your doctor might help you with some medication to help you sleep for the time being. They might also help you with all natural sleep aids to help improve the quality of your sleep.

Products to Help Neck Pain during Sleep

sleeping posture

Your posture plays a big role in whether you suffer from neck pain after sleeping. So changing your posture while sleeping can help. However, there is a handful of products you can purchase that will help avoid the problems of neck pain after sleeping.

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First, your neck pain may be from something other than when you sleep in the bed. It might be when you're reclining on the chair after work, watching television. It might also come from sitting on the train getting back home or, if you travel a considerable amount, from riding on an airplane. This is because when you try to sleep in a slightly reclined chair, you don't have any support for your head. It's resting back on the chair, pulling your neck, and all the weight is going on the base of your neck in an unnatural way. In order to correct this, you want to pick up a horseshoe pillow.

u-shaped pillow

These are the common U-shaped travel pillows you'll find in most airports. It is important to test these pillows out ahead of time, though. See if it fits snug around your neck or if it is too big. A pillow that is too big will force your head forward, which still places too much pressure onto your neck.

When sleeping at home, some of the best purchases you can make are the pillows you use to sleep with. Ditch the hard, stuffy pillow for a soft, feather pillow. A feather pillow will form around your neck. To reduce neck pain after sleeping, you need your head to rest in a form-fitted position. Additionally, you might want to consider memory foam. The only downside with some memory foam pillows is if you sweat at night. Memory foam is not all that breathable, which might lead you to sweat onto the pillow. If you sweat at night, sometimes look for a memory foam pillow that allows for air circulation.


Waking up with neck pain has a way of getting your entire day off on the wrong food. You'll feel the neck pain and, as it lingers, it will lead to larger problems including more serious neck and back pain. The rest of your health might struggle because of this issue, causing you to miss sleep and experience a reduced level of productivity at work. All of this from an issue that's usually just not sleeping correctly. By dealing with the issue, you'll take care of the problems that cause neck pain after sleeping and the sooner you take care of this situation, the better off you'll be long term.

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