Neck and Shoulder Pain? Check in on your Sleep Position.

I totally get it. Not a lot of us are sleeping that well these days. My neck and shoulders have been aching from weeks of looking into my computer while teaching my virtual Pilates sessions. While I’m loving the interaction and new platform for reaching across streets and states to old and new friends and clients, it has literally been a pain in the neck.

The positions we hold ourselves during the day make a huge difference in how our body feels, but how well we sleep can improve neck and shoulder pain … or can exacerbate it.

Could your pillow be the culprit? While big fluffy pillows look great on your bed, they may not be the best choice while you sleep. Harvard Health Publishing has some suggestions for your pillow choices while you sleep. They suggest:

1-Try using a feather pillow. These are often soft and more easily conform to the shape of the neck, keeping your neck from bending and twisting.

2-Avoid using too thick or stiff a pillow. Did you know your first vertebra is behind your nose? If you keep the neck bent forward (like you’re looking at your toes) overnight, it can result in morning pain and stiffness.  

Is one sleep position better than another? The short answer is no. The sleep position that gives you the best sleep is the best position for you. That said, try to keep your neck and back in a long neutral position however you sleep. So, if you sleep on your side, keep your spine long all the way up to your ear by using a pillow under your neck. Same goes for sleeping on your back. And if you sleep on your stomach and can somehow maintain a nice long spine in that position and still be comfortable, all the more power to you!

Ok, I’m in a position. Now what?  A lot has been written on the importance of sleep, especially in times of stress. Good nighttime habits are essential if you want to feel good during the day.  Here are two things that are easy to implement and have had the greatest impact on my own sleep:

1-Keep the temperature in your room down. We sleep with the window cracked every single night. Research from the US National Library of Medicine and Health shows that the hotter the room, the less REM sleep and more wakefulness people experience!

2-Keep the room dark and quiet. I wear an eye mask and ear plugs when I sleep and that has made a world of difference. In fact, I have researched ear plugs (I might sleep with a snorer?) and think the very best are Mighty Plugs which you can find on Amazon.   My sister says they have saved her marriage. While perhaps a little dramatic, it’s not far from the truth here either!

These are some of the most emotionally trying days some of us have ever experienced. Sleeping soundly and comfortably can help us live our best lives, even in times of uncertainly and stress.