Sleep is an essential part of our life. We rest and recover in sleep, both physically and emotionally. But it happens that you want to sleep, and there is time for this, but you can’t fall asleep. One of the most common causes of sleep disorders is pain in the cervical spine.
Moreover, often the neck does not particularly bother a person during the day, but when the time comes for a night’s rest, he does not manage to lie down comfortably, and in the morning it turns out that he did not manage to fully relax. MedAboutMe figured out how to learn to fall asleep even if your neck hurts.
Neck pain and sleep
According to doctors, from 10% to 20% of adults complain of neck pain periodically or regularly. In about half of the cases, it goes away on its own, but in every second it becomes chronic and becomes a constant companion. According to WHO experts, today back and neck pain is one of the most common disabling conditions, not inferior in incidence and consequences to arthritis and fractures.
Poor sleep in itself increases pain in the neck and slows down a person’s recovery. So, in 2017, Spanish scientists published a study on the quality of life of people with chronic neck pain, in which they proved that poor sleep worsens the condition of such patients.
In 2016, a team of scientists from the UK, the US and several countries in Latin America published a study that involved more than 12,000 workers from 47 occupational groups (office workers, nurses and manual workers) from 18 countries. It turned out that office workers sitting at computer keyboards most often suffer from neck pain. Chronic shoulder pain was more common in people who, due to their position, had to raise their hands often. Any manual labor, in which a person is forced to take an uncomfortable position, also leads to pain in the neck and shoulders.
Wrong posture for sleeping: consequences
In itself, the wrong position of the body in a dream, even in a healthy person, can lead to a variety of unpleasant sensations throughout the body. These can be pains in the neck, shoulder blades or arms with limited mobility, headaches, not to mention poor sleep, which leads to memory impairment, problems with coordination, quick thinking and the ability to solve various problems.
The human head weighs approximately 4.5–5 kg. Our neck muscles carry this weight all day long. If at night the load is not removed from them and this load is distributed in a position that is uncomfortable for the neck muscles, then poor sleep and the next morning a sore neck, or even a head, are provided.
Choosing the right sleeping position and pillow
For pain in the neck, sleeping on the stomach is contraindicated, since in this case the load on the neck, even in the absence of a pillow, will be significantly higher than when sleeping on the back or on the side. However, it happens that a person in childhood gets used to sleeping on his stomach, and then he will have to retrain himself.
Sleeping on your back is a posture of maximum relaxation for the spine. If you take a thin pillow, you can keep the same angle between the head and neck as during a standing position, that is, minimize the load.
Rules for healthy sleep on your back:
- The pillow should be fairly thin.
- Anatomical and orthopedic pillows, including those with a memory effect, give a good effect. The height of such a pillow should not exceed 6–10 cm.
- Orthopedic mattresses also provide additional rest for the back. Mattresses that are too soft lead to unphysiological body curves. But sleeping “on the door” is also unhealthy due to too hard contact of the body with the surface in the hips and shoulders.
Sleeping on your side allows you to position your head as neutrally as possible with a straight chin. If you sleep mainly on your side, then it is better to lift the pillow higher to comfortably position your shoulder and maintain a straight line “head-neck-spine”.
Rules for healthy sleep on your side
- Checking the height of the pillow (average 12 cm): if the pillow is the correct height, the ears are one above the other, on the same vertical. Too low or too high a pillow overloads the neck and shoulder, which increases pain.
- When sleeping on your side, the chin should be kept straight, without tilting the head to the chest.
- To align the lower spine, you can put another pillow between your knees.
If your shoulder or neck hurts, then you should sleep on your side on the opposite side. If you sleep on your back, then a pillow should be placed on the side of the sore shoulder or neck so as not to roll there.
If your back hurts, then you need to sleep in such a way that the position of the vertebrae is as physiological as possible, that is:
- on the back,
- on the back with pillows under the knees,
- in the fetal position
- on the side with a pillow between the knees.
Other ways to improve sleep for neck pain
During the period of exacerbation of pain at night, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the form of gels or muscle relaxants can be used. But it should be remembered that they should be taken only as directed by a doctor and no longer than a few days in order to reduce the risk of side effects.
Depending on the cause of chronic pain in the neck, before going to bed, you can use either a light 15–20-minute massage of the affected area with a piece of ice wrapped in a cloth, or warming up in a warm bath.
Light stretching works well, which should be done slowly, without leading to severe pain. Moreover, it should be done before going to bed and immediately after waking up.
An exemplary stretching complex for neck pain
- Slow circular movements of the shoulders back and down — 10 times.
- Slowly bring the shoulder blades behind your back — 10 times.
- Grab the back of your head with your hands and pull your head with your chin to your chest, hold at the lowest point for 30 seconds.
- Stretch your ear to your shoulder: right to right, left to left — 10 times in each direction.
People with a sore neck will help restore quality sleep:
- Correct posture for sleeping.
- Proper pillow and mattress.
- NSAIDs or muscle relaxants.
- Temperature massage.
- Stretching the muscles of the neck.