How to Avoid a Stiff Neck While Sleeping

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Waking up in the morning with a stiff neck is a common problem, but you can avoid this annoying pain by eliminating the potential causes before you go to bed tonight. Follow these steps to identify and correct problems that cause a stiff neck while sleeping.

Use the proper pillow. Be sure your pillow elevates your head about three inches higher than your body when lying on your back or side. A good pillow cradles your head comfortably and keeps your neck supported and relaxed. Sleeping with your neck at an unnatural angle is the most common cause of neck strain. Consider buying a specially designed neck pillow if you frequently wake up with a stiff neck.

Sleep on a firm mattress. Even if you have the right pillow, a soft, sagging mattress can defeat good posture while sleeping. While most people understand good posture is important while sitting or standing, few realize it's just as important when you are asleep.

Avoid sleeping in a draft. An open bedroom window and the fresh air it brings can be beneficial, but if the breeze blows in on your neck through the night, it can chill your muscles and lead to stiffness in the morning.

Don't sleep on your stomach. This posture elevates your head in the wrong direction and can force your head to turn too far to one side, straining your neck.

Relieve tension in your neck before going to bed at night with a few simple stretching exercises. Stress can build up during the day, and if you don't take steps to relax your neck before retiring for the night, the strain may linger and even intensify during the night.

Tips & Warnings

  • The right neck pillow is an individual choice based on your size, weight and any particular conditions you may have. See the resource section for information and sources of neck pillows.

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