You probably don’t think of sleep as active enough to strain your neck, but if you are sleeping at an awkward angle for long periods of time, which tends to happen over the eight hours you’re (supposed to be) sleeping every night , it can do just that. The position in which we sleep affects the curve of our spine, which can cause – or prevent – pain.
Ideally, our spines remain in as straight a position as possible as we sleep. This is the key to waking up well-rested and free of neck pain. The best and most natural way to achieve this is by sleeping on your back: it allows the spine to stay as neutrally aligned as possible, and the neck is usually turned more or less forward, as it is when standing upright. This is a natural, comfortable position for the spine, which is why it’s so good for preventing pain. One way to make it even better is to tuck a rounder or more firm pillow into the curve of your neck to provide support to it; you may also use a flatter pillow under your head. Together, these provide cushioning and comfort while supporting the natural curve of the spine.
Not everyone likes to sleep on their back. For those of you who prefer your side, you’re in luck: this is the second-best choice for promoting neck comfort. It also aligns the spine and neck in a fairly natural position and allows them to stay elongated. Like back-sleepers, you’ll need the right support from your pillows: don’t pile them too high under your head, as this forces the head up and the neck into a strained angle. You could also tuck a pillow under your neck, or get a memory foam pillow that follows the contours of your neck and head.
Unfortunately for the stomach-sleepers, it’s not a good idea if you want to avoid an aching neck. It forces your neck to remain turned for long periods, which can make it stiff and sore. It also arches the back out of its neutral position and puts pressure on joints and muscles. If you must sleep on your stomach, try using as flat a pillow as possible.