Stay Sleeping | Choosing a Pillow That Keeps Pain Away.

Getting a good night’s rest can often be as simple as choosing the right pillow. With so many options available now, it can be confusing what the right pillow for you is. Pillows that don’t quite fit the sleeper’s needs can affect the neck, shoulder, and back. The right pillow should conform to the sleeper’s shape, not the other way around.

woman in bed with sore neck
woman sleeping comfortably on her pillow

A Good Pillow: How to Know When You've Found a Keeper

Sleep Position and Ideal Pillow Choices

The type of sleeper you are will also determine the right pillow for you.

If you are a side sleeper, a pillow that is too soft or too thin will end up twisting your neck and head out of an ideal position and will lead to restless sleep. Subsequently, if the pillow is too hard and thick, it will strain your posture. Ultimately, the head and neck need to align with the rest of the spine; it will exert the least stress on the ligament’s joints, discs, and muscles. When these structures are stressed, the result is stiffness, pain, and often headaches.

If you sleep on your back, the pillow you choose should support the natural curve of your neck and cradle your head in a neutral alignment. Adequate support under your head, neck, and shoulders is essential. The pillow’s height needs to be lower than those who sleep in the sideways position.

Stomach sleepers have different needs from those who sleep on their sides or back. The pillow needed for stomach sleepers should be relatively flat or no pillow. Placing your head directly on the mattress could be the answer to a restful night’s sleep. Your head and neck should not be turned unnaturally to either side, which will cause discomfort. Instead, try a flat pillow under the stomach to help keep the spine in neutral alignment.

Reducing Your Pain at Night: Sleeping Position & Pillow Choice

Neck Pain

Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as you tend to rotate your neck. Instead, try sleeping on your side. Choosing a pillow just thick enough to fill the space between the neck and the mattress is important. Remember, your head should be parallel to the mattress for the best sleep quality. Your nose should be aligned with the middle of your chest when lying on your back. If it’s higher, a thinner pillow is needed. If it’s lower, choose a thicker pillow.

Back Pain

If you are used to sleeping on your back, put a pillow under the knees to support the lower back by decreasing the arch in the small of your back which can lead to reduced muscle spasms. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which also increases the lower back arch. If you are a side sleeper – place a pillow between your knees to discourage the top leg from falling forward and increase the strain on the lower back.

Shoulder Pain

Side sleepers tend to roll the top shoulder forward if the pillow is too thin, causing the shoulder to round forward due to a lack of support. Try a thicker pillow. Avoid sleeping with the bottom arm tucked under the head. Instead, try hugging another pillow.

I'm Still Having Pain When Sleeping. What Now?

Here at Innovation Physical Therapy, we’re here to help. And that means helping you get a good night’s sleep. Our highly skilled physiotherapists have the training to help uncover what’s holding you back from good sleep. Feel free to give our clinic a call. Your body will thank you!