Sleeping Techniques

Sleeping Techniques

February 12, 2021


Sleeping can be a source of frustration for many of us who struggle to get comfortable.  Pain is often the source of this frustration and can affect our energy levels on a daily basis. Certain positions you may find yourself in may not only be contributing to existing pain but could be the root cause of your pain. Everyone finds a different sleeping position comfortable. There are positives and negatives for each position.

Back Sleepers


This position is great for shoulder and hip health. For those of us who find sleeping on our backs the most comfortable, the development of low back pain or neck pain can be common. Selecting the proper pillow is essential. A pillow that is too stiff or large can prop the head up too much leading to a forward head tilt and weak or tight muscles in the front of the neck. A smaller pillow, or even no pillow at all, allows for a natural curvature of the upper spine. This can help to alleviate any pain experienced in the neck, shoulders, or upper back. Placing a pillow under the knees while sleeping in this position can also take a lot of pressure off the lower back. It is also important to note that sleeping with your arms above your head is generally unhealthy and can cause or contribute to shoulder pain.

Side Sleepers

There are a few points of emphasis when sleeping on your side that should be taken into account to help improve joint health and limit pain. The pillow you choose should be firm enough to keep your neck in proper alignment. A pillow that is too soft could lead to neck and shoulder pain on the bottom shoulder.  A pillow that is too stiff can lead to pain on the top shoulder. You should be cognizant of your chin position. A forward head tilt can also be a root cause of chronic neck pain. It is recommended that a pillow, or another object, be placed between the legs. This also takes some pressure off of the lower back and keep proper alignment of the hips.

Stomach Sleepers

Generally speaking, sleeping on your stomach is unhealthy. This position could be causing chronic pain in your neck, back, hips or shoulders. Due to the fact most of your weight is in the middle of your body, keeping your spine in alignment is difficult. In order to breathe in this position, you will be forced to tilt your head to one side or the other. This can put your cervical spine out of alignment causing neck and shoulder pain. If you cannot sleep in another position, it is recommended that a small, or no pillow, be used at all to help preserve that alignment. Placing a pillow under the hips will alleviate excess pressure on the lower back.

SimpleTherapy is a great resource to help manage any chronic discomfort you might be having. If you feel as though sleep is contributing to any pain, it is recommended that you complete sessions regularly.

Your Journey to Pain Relief

App tracks progress. Step by step guide to pain relief and prevention.

Show results

Free Newsletter

Stay in the know. Our blogs are written by orthopaedic surgeons.