Neck Pain And Pillows - What Is The Connection?

If waking up during the night or in the morning with a stiff neck, neck pain or a headache sounds familiar to you, then you might find this article helpful. You might have wondered at the headline (or not), what do pillows have to do with neck pain?

Quite a lot. There is a huge variety of pillows available on the market. And you will find, that they differ greatly when it comes to size, shape, color, material, and price.

Why are there so many different types of pillows you might ask?

The answer is quite simple. Each pillow fulfills a different function and depending on the type of mattress you have, or your sleeping position, not every pillow will be right for you. But you can read more about this in another article: Pillows – And All There Is To Know About Them.

Let’s focus on what this article is about though.

What are the causes of neck pain?

Neck pain can have different causes, and when in doubt, always ask your general practitioner or doctor. But here are some common culprits:

  • A previous injury
  • Sudden movements during the night
  • Your Pillow
  • Your Mattress
  • Bad posture
  • Staying in a position far too long
    - When working on a computer, looking at your phone, or watching TV, sometimes you might not notice that you have not moved in more than an hour. You might also find yourself slouched over, which could be the reason for why you have a stiff neck
  • Insomnia and sleep deprivation
    - By constantly not getting enough sleep, your body finds itself to be under a lot of stress, making it difficult for your muscles to relax.

What kind of pillow do I need?

To decide on what kind of pillow you need, you should first take a look at your mattress.

If you have a firm mattress you should look for a thick pillow, as your shoulder won’t sink as far into the bed. If you have a soft mattress, you should get a thinner pillow. Your shoulder will sink in further, and if your pillow is too thick, your neck will misalign.

Next, consider how you sleep.

Sleeping Types and their matching pillow

Side Sleepers

The best pillow for side sleepers is a firm pillow.

You need a pillow that can support your head and neck’s alignment with the spine.  

Stomach Sleepers

The best pillow for stomach sleepers is thin and soft.

By having a pillow that is too high, your back is arched while your neck is turned to the side, possibly causing back pain as well. 

Back Sleepers

The best pillow for back sleepers is also a firm pillow that keeps the neck straight with the spine.

The general idea behind getting the right pillow is making sure, your neck stays straight. 

It can be difficult to find just the right amount of stuffing inside a pillow as each person’s preference, body shape, and sleep type are different. It is generally advised that you get yourself an adjustable pillow (like this shredded memory foam pillow).

This will let YOU decide the height and firmness of your pillow.

If your pillow is too high: Your spine gets bent out of alignment which causes your muscles to stretch and tear. This is the reason why the neck pain often disappears during the day: the tissue repairs itself.

If your pillow is too low: Your neck muscles will sag into the pillow. This leads to a curved spine which in turn leads to neck pain and stiffness.

(So just make sure it’s the right height for you)

What can you do to prevent neck pain?

  • Do regular exercise
    Gentle exercises like walking or yoga can especially help with acute neck pain as it gets the blood flowing towards your neck again

  • Maintain proper posture
    To practice posture, you can try walking around the room while balancing a book or magazine on top of your head without dropping it

    Also, take note of how you use your phone. Hold it at eye level instead of bending your neck while you are looking at it and try not to tuck it between your ear and shoulder during a phone call.

  • Change your sleeping position
    This one is easier said than done. Since we are asleep, there is little to no way we can control how we sleep.

    However, you can try just going to sleep differently or place body pillows around you to help you get used to being in a different position.

    Body pillows can also be great during pregnancy, as they will give extra support as your body changes

  • Develop some clean sleep habits
    Not just the amount but also the quality of your sleep can affect your health. People experiencing rough nights might end up getting stuck in a vicious circle where sleep problems cause more sleep problems.

    If you are struggling, start with one thing at a time on this list to not feel overwhelmed while continuing on your missing to have a good night.

    - Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day

    - Exercise

    - Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening

    - Avoid alcohol (During alcohol-induced sleep you miss out on REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep
    - Don’t look at any screens for one hour before going to sleep

When should you see a doctor?

Usually, neck pain goes away by itself after some time. Should however it not go away, gets worse, or you experience anything unusual, you should talk to your doctor immediately about it as it might cause further health problems down the line.

From being sleep deprived you are more likely to experience headaches, anxiety, or depression. Tooth grinding can be a likely cause for headaches, and snoring is not only a disturbance to your partner, but can also be a symptom of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition where you shortly stop breathing during the night.

If you are tired of sleeping with a bad pillow, definitely check out this guide for the Best Pillows for Neck Pain.

If you already have a pillow, especially if it’s a memory foam pillow, you should know how to take care of it, so click here to continue reading.

Don’t forget that you can use the discount code SweetSleep15 on your next order to get a 15% discount.