You're supposed to wake up refreshed after a good night's sleep, but a poor sleeping position can literally be a pain in the neck. If you wake up with a sore, achy neck, your sleeping position and pillow could be to blame. By adjusting a few things before you go to bed, you'll get better rest and wake up without those telltale aches and pains.
If you're more likely to curl up on your side when it's time for bed, your neck probably hurts because it's not in alignment with the rest of your body. Your neck, hips and knees should create a straight line when you're sleeping on your side, so grab a few pillows and put one between your knees and another under your head to create that straight line. If your pillow is too low or too high, you could wake up with a kinked neck. Pay attention to your body and make sure whatever pillow you choose keeps your neck level.
If you sleep on your back, your morning neck pain might be the result of a pillow that's too flat. Overextending your neck can definitely cause you pain, especially night after night. Try choosing a firmer, memory-foam pillow for under your neck to keep it straight. UCLA Ergonomics also suggests placing a pillow under your knees to further improve alignment if you're a back sleeper.
Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for your neck. When you sleep on your stomach, your neck has to extend upward to make up for the angle between your chest and your head. If you must sleep on your tummy, consider using a very flat pillow or none at all to give your neck a better chance at flat alignment. Another option is to use a pillow under both your neck and your abdomen to raise your chest up and lessen the stress on your neck.
Sleeping in a bed is always best posture-wise, but sometimes you can't make it home in time. Sleeping on airplanes, trains or in a cars can do a number on your neck, which is why Harvard Health Publications suggests investing in a u-shaped travel pillow. It conforms to your neck to help support the weight of your head when dozing from a seated position. Just make sure the pillow isn't too puffy, as that can force your head to flop forward.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.