Neck pain is a common complaint among young and older adults across the world.
15% of the US population suffers from chronic neck pain that contributes to great discomfort and restlessness in their lives.
Research shows that 50% of adults will continue to suffer from chronic neck pain in the coming years.
Neck pain not only makes it difficult to sleep at night but also makes it hard to perform everyday activities.
What elevates neck pain is a lack of awareness among people about the correct sleeping position and the ideal type of sleeping pillow that can help them deal with this pain.
Mainly due to these reasons, individuals suffer from a lot of pain and stress. And if the pain is not treated quickly, it can become a serious problem in no time.
Neck pain can numb your entire body, starting with a loss of strength in your hands and arms, and can then move on to cause life-altering problems.
This blog post is your ultimate guide to easing the pain, stiffness, and numbness caused by sleeping incorrectly or with the wrong kind of mattress and pillow.
If sleeping with neck pain is something you’re unfortunately used to, this blog post will help you out a great deal.
Here, you will learn some major causes of neck pain, the best pillows and mattresses to ease neck pain, and the best way to choose them from the lot.
- 1 Common Causes of Neck Pain
- 2 What Type of Pillow Is Best for Neck Pain
- 3 How to Choose the Best Pillow for Neck Pain
- 4 Is Sleeping Without a Pillow Good for Your Neck?
- 5 What Type of Mattress Is Best for Neck Pain
- 6 Conclusion
Common Causes of Neck Pain
The neck is one of the most important parts of the human body.
It is made up of muscles, tissues, and bones of the spine (vertebrae), all of which work together to help you move your head with ease.
Unfortunately, the neck is prone to strains and injuries, as it requires constant movement.
Here, we discuss some major causes of neck pain, so the next time your neck hurts, you’ll know what’s causing it and how you can fix it.
Sleeping in the Wrong Way
Sleeping incorrectly often causes neck pain and leads to problems such as sleep apnea – a sleep disorder in which the sleeper faces difficulty breathing.
Neck pain usually occurs when your neck is tilted too far in any direction for a long time. When this happens, you may wake up feeling stiff in and around the neck, back, and shoulders.
In addition to sleeping in the wrong way, it’s possible that your pillow doesn’t provide enough support to your head and neck, which causes neck pain as a result.
Some of the most prevalent diseases linked to neck pain are degenerative disc disease, spondylosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and congenital torticollis.
These conditions come with their own set of signs and symptoms, such as inflammation, compressed nerves, cervical fractures, etc.
If you fear that your neck pain is due to some serious health concern, then you should visit a doctor immediately.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety not only affect you emotionally but physically too.
When you are distressed, your nervous and musculoskeletal system tense up too. This naturally causes pain in the neck – literally.
Sitting In One Position for Too Long
Another common cause of neck pain is studying or working at your desk for too long without changing your position/posture. Sitting in a wrong posture can also give rise to neck pain.
Injury caused in the event of a fall, an accident, or one that is sports-related can make your neck stiff or vulnerable.
If the neck bones get fractured, there are chances that the spinal cord will be damaged as well.
In times like these, taking additional care of your neck is crucial, or else the pain may get worse.
There are a plethora of other factors that may cause neck pain. When a heart attack occurs, your neck may hurt.
Other symptoms of a heart attack are vomiting, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, etc.
A sudden jolt of the neck, also called whiplash, can cause a neck injury and excruciating pain.
Some rare causes of neck pain may also include cancer, infections, and bone disorders.
What Type of Pillow Is Best for Neck Pain
You may not know it, but your sleeping position can be the main contributing factor to your neck pain. Studies show that people that sleep on their stomach tend to face the most neck pain.
However, the best sleeping position is to either sleep straight or on either of your sides.
That being said, sleeping in the right position won’t solve your neck woes on its own.
Investing in the right kind of pillow that assists your sleeping position will ease your neck pain a lot more.
A Cervical Pillow for Back Sleepers
If you’re someone that sleeps on their back, you will need a thin pillow – also known as a cervical pillow. Make sure that the pillow you choose is fairly low in height.
However, for additional support, you can add a small roll-styled pillow or a rolled towel under your neck. For more comfort, you can also place the rolled pillow or towel in your pillowcase.
When sleeping on your back, your lower back can undergo a significant amount of stress. To avoid lower back pain, make sure to place a pillow under your knees as well.
This sleeping position is mostly preferred by people recovering from an injury – a back injury or neck injury, and therefore, can consider this option for pain relief.
A Slightly Thick Pillow for Side Sleepers
When sleeping on your side, it is highly advised to ensure that your neck and head are aligned over your shoulders.
The pillow you use should be made from dense fabric, and the suggested height of the pillow should be medium-height. For more assistance, a rolled pillow/towel should be placed under the neck.
While taking care of your neck, don’t forget your back. To support your spine, tuck a pillow in between your knees.
A Flat Pillow for Stomach Sleepers
This is a sleeping position that should be avoided at all costs. Sleeping on the stomach causes the most severe neck and back pain.
However, if you are trained to sleep in one position all your life, it can be challenging to change your sleeping style.
If you’re the type of person that sleeps on your stomach, you need to make sure that you sleep with no pillow under your stomach – in other words, keep your sleeping surface as flat as possible.
If comfort allows, place a pillow under your forehead so that you can breathe through your nose easily, and your neck and head remain in a normal position.
To maintain the natural curve of your spine, support your hips and abdomen with a pillow.
U-Shaped Pillows for Upright Sleepers
People that sleep in a sitting-up position should consider U-shaped pillows to ensure a good night’s sleep.
These types of pillows provide the necessary support to your neck throughout the night. U-shaped pillows can be used when traveling in a plane, when you’re a passenger in a car, or sitting in a recliner.
These pillows usually come in a small size so that they provide the necessary support to your neck, and so that your head doesn’t fall to one side.
How to Choose the Best Pillow for Neck Pain
Looking for an ideal pillow for your neck pain can be quite overwhelming.
Since there are so many options, it can be quite confusing to decide which one will ease your pain for good. The best way to pick the right type of pillow is by considering the following factors:
Keep in mind that pillows come in six standard sizes, including a small travel size (as mentioned above).
Flat pillows and memory foam pillows are usually small in size.
Other common sizes of pillows are – standard, super standard, queen size, king size, Euro, and body pillows – ideal for side sleepers and pregnant women.
Pillows come in many shapes, but the best pillows for people with neck pain are those that have an even or a curved surface.
Even-shaped pillows that are filled with feathers or memory foam are best as they provide support to the head and the neck of the sleeper.
Curved pillows are usually made from memory foam, and they help keep the neck and the head in the correct position when sleeping.
Generally, there are three types of pillow lofts – low-loft, medium-loft, and high-loft.
To choose an ideal pillow loft, you should consider a few important factors, such as the position of your pillow, the type of mattress you need, your body weight, and your head and shoulder size.
Last but not least, the material of your pillow plays a huge role in increasing or reducing neck tension.
Buckwheat, feathers, latex, memory foam, polyfoam, and polyester are some of the best pillow materials to consider.
These fabrics offer a good amount of support to your neck and head and keep the pain away.
Of all of them, the one material that won’t disappoint you at all is memory foam. It reduces neck pain more effectively than the other types.
Did you know that cervical pillows are made from memory foam?
Is Sleeping Without a Pillow Good for Your Neck?
The answer to this highly depends on your sleeping position.
Broadly speaking, your sleeping position is a deciding factor when it comes to the kind of pillow to use and whether or not to use a pillow at all.
In this section, we deal with the different types of sleepers and whether or not they can benefit from sleeping without a pillow.
Sleeping on either side is said to be the healthiest sleeping position – not if you sleep without a pillow.
That’s because side sleepers need a pillow to keep their spine straight from their head to their hips.
Without a pillow’s support, the alignment of the head, neck, and spine goes all wrong and may lead to more severe neck and back pain.
Some may choose to sleep on their shoulders, which is not considered ideal as this puts unnecessary pressure and cause a numbing sensation in your arms and shoulders.
Sleeping without a pillow creates an uncomfortable space between the neck and the surface of the mattress.
Staying in this position for long can cause tension in your back and neck. Consider a medium-loft pillow to offer the right amount of support to the neck, back, and spine.
Avoid sleeping on a high-loft pillow as it can cause your head and chin to awkwardly lean toward the chest, making it difficult to breathe.
While cervical pillows are the best option, you can also consider round pillows or pillows with built-in neck support.
According to experts, stomach sleepers can benefit the most from without sleeping a pillow.
Sleeping on your stomach is regarded as unhealthy, but sleeping with a lofty pillow can make things worse for the stomach sleeper.
Hence, it is highly suggested to either use a thin pillow or not sleep on a pillow if you can.
If you’ve chosen the thin pillow option, make sure to keep a pillow between your knees. This will help keep your spine aligned.
Whether or not you sleep with a pillow comes down to your personal preferences and sleep requirements.
Ultimately, you should find the perfect pillow-mattress combination that allows you to sleep peacefully and comfortably throughout the night.
This brings us to the next section of our blog, which is how you can decide on the best kind of mattress to alleviate neck pain.
Let’s look at it in detail.
What Type of Mattress Is Best for Neck Pain
Apart from the right pillows, sleeping with neck pain can be avoided if you choose the right mattress, too. Not sure which mattress to select?
Here are a few options to consider.
Memory Foam Mattress
This is a great mattress option for individuals that sleep on their sides. Memory foam mattresses are designed to help maintain a person’s body shape while they sleep.
This is a type of foam that was invented by NASA some 50 years ago to increase the comfort and safety of the astronauts during their launch.
It was liked so much that it started being used in the manufacturing of shoes, pillows, cushions, and mattresses.
The material – memory foam – has gone through many changes over the years.
For example, today, the material is often combined with viscoelastic memory foam that helps regulate the temperature of the human body.
Memory foam mattresses are usually thick, dense, and durable – all of which adds to the comfort level of the sleeper.
Latex is similar to memory foam, but instead of viscoelastic polyurethane foams, the product is made from the sap of a rubber tree.
As compared to memory foams, latex mattresses can be slightly expensive.
However, they offer comfort and softness that you will appreciate for years to come. People with chronic neck pain can find relief in the smooth, relaxed texture of a latex mattress.
This type of mattress is also great for people that sleep on their stomachs.
The direct contact of their head with the gentle mattress keeps them comfortable throughout the night.
As the name suggests, hybrid mattresses usually come in a combination of any two materials, the best one being memory foam or latex and innerspring.
If you like a particular type of mattress, but your partner has different sleeping preferences, a hybrid mattress can be a happy compromise.
Hybrid mattresses usually have the same coil size as an innerspring material. The coil system keeps the mattress bouncy and comfortable.
It doesn’t feel too hard and adjusts well according to your body shape.
The addition of memory foam or latex adds support and contouring. Hybrids tend to be less expensive than memory foam mattresses and offer increased comfort to the sleeper.
They are a great choice for back sleepers and side sleepers.
This is one of the most supportive mattresses, and hence, offers the best choice for stomach sleepers and back sleepers.
Innerspring mattresses accommodate no curves – this is perfect for people that sleep in a straight position.
Since it is made from a rigid material, it offers a much-needed flat surface to the sleeper.
Different innerspring mattresses offer different kinds of coils – Bonnell, offset, continuous, and pocketed.
If your budget permits, look for an innerspring mattress in either offset coils or pocketed coils.
Neck pain is not easy to live with, and if not treated immediately, it can cause a great deal of physical distress.
To avoid sleeping with neck pain, ensure that you sit and sleep in the right position.
Make sure that the pillow and mattress you sleep on help keep your spine in the proper alignment.
It is also important to invest in an excellent quality pillow and mattress so that they don’t disappoint you after only a couple of uses.
The durability of these products will ensure years of comfort and relief from body and neck pain.