How to Get Rid of Neck Pain from Sleeping Wrong

Research shows that sleeping problems may be at the root of up to five percent of new cases of chronic pain. Many of these factors are controllable, which means that by making some changes you may be able to alleviate your neck pain, and other types of pain, too.

We’ve all experienced waking up with a sore or stiff neck from time to time. Usually, we attribute it to a bad night’s sleep, but there are things we may have done the previous day that affect how we feel when we wake up.

Common causes are:

  • poor posture during the day
  • working too long at a computer or watching television for too long without changing positions
  • reading books or magazines not held at eye level
  • driving for long periods

Regardless of how we got there, the pain and stiffness are real, and you need to know how to alleviate it.

The experts at North Texas Medical Center, a leading Gainesville TX hospital, have put together a list of home remedies that can help.

Home Remedies for a Stiff Neck


The key to relief for a stiff neck is proper stretching and manipulation. Here are some stretches you can try at your desk, at home, or in the car that may help you avoid or relieve a stiff neck:

  • Roll your shoulders back, down and around 10 times.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times.
  • Inhale your shoulders up to your ears, then exhale as you press them back down.
  • Press your head back into your car headrest or simply tuck your chin in and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Gently bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side.
  • Slowly lift your head up and down and side to side, gently exploring range-of-motion.
  • Get into the Child’s Pose yoga position, which will gently stretch your entire spinal column.
  • Do some gentle exercises, such as walking, tai chi, or yoga. You want to keep the blood flowing to your neck, and exercise will help.
  • Technically not a stretch but still important. Your neck is already tight; holding your breath from the pain will only create more tension.

Take an Anti-Inflammatory

Taking an over-the-counter medication can help reduce the inflammation in your muscles as well as dealing with neck pain. Try ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), or naproxen (Aleve) for temporary relief.

Use Hot and Cold Treatment

For the first day, you can apply ice or a cold pack to the painful area for 20 minutes at a time to help reduce inflammation as well as reduce muscle spasm and pain. If the pain persists more than a day, try applying a heating pad or a heat pack using the same protocol. The heat increases circulation and relaxes the muscles and tissues.

Get a Massage

Sometimes a gentle massage of the tight or painful area can help relax those tight muscles. This can be done by a partner or a professional. A good massage will increase blood flow and oxygen to the affected area, as well as gently stretch and lengthen the muscles. If your neck is sore, you can be sure the attaching muscles are also affected.

During your massage, remember to breathe deeply to help calm and relax your entire body, including those tight neck muscles.

Change Your Sleeping Position

We spend about a third of our lives in bed sleeping, which is why it is important that you invest in the right type of pillow and mattress to help you prevent or at least manage any neck and shoulder pain.

Your sleep position is important when it comes to preventing and relieving neck pain, and we all have our favorite positions. However, anatomically speaking, the best way to sleep is on your back or your side. Why would this be so?

If you sleep on your stomach, your neck will likely be twisted to one side or the other for hours at a time. This will certainly strain those neck muscles and have you waking up with a sore or stiff neck. Stomach sleeping can also put a strain on your back, depending on the natural curvature of your spine as well as the condition of your mattress. You want your spine to remain in neutral and your mattress to have good support.

If you normally sleep on your stomach, try sleeping on your side, putting a pillow between your legs. This can help keep your neck aligned with your spine. It could also be the mattress you’re using, see the best mattresses for stomach sleepers on

When sleeping on your side, make sure the pillow isn’t higher under your head than it is under your neck. Straining your muscles even a little during the night can cause soreness by morning.

Consider your pillow, also, and whether it may be time to invest in a new one. Try sleeping without one, or with a special neck pillow until your neck muscles stop hurting. A pillow that doesn’t support your head and neck properly can create tension in your neck muscles, and cause neck pain.

Feather, buckwheat, or memory-foam pillows may allow your head to be “cradled” at night, allowing for a neutral spine and neck.

Final Thoughts

Neck pain can often heal on its own. If your sore neck doesn’t get better after a few days of self-care, or if the pain gets worse, consider seeing your doctor to find out what’s causing your pain.

Prevention is always better than having to find a cure, so here are a few things to keep in mind that may help you avoid getting that pain again:

  • Make good posture a habit, standing tall but relaxed with your shoulders aligned over your hips.
  • Take frequent breaks from computer work, at least once every 30 minutes.
  • Reduce overall stress.
  • Practice deep breathing or meditation.
  • Try using a standing desk with the monitor at eye level.
  • Avoid tilting and twisting your head down or to the side while you’re on the computer.
  • Limit your phone usage.
  • Hold your phone and reading materials at eye level.
  • Take frequent breaks while driving.
  • Avoid sudden movements or tossing and turning while you’re sleeping, or trying to sleep.

If you experience no improvement in your condition after trying these remedies, or if the pain persists or interferes with your daily activities and especially if you have additional symptoms, call your doctor.