Which side should you sleep if your neck hurts?

Neck discomfort can disrupt your sleep and daily life, making it crucial to find the right sleep position to alleviate discomfort and promote healing. In this article by Pain Free Aussies, we'll explore which side you should sleep on if your neck hurts, offering insights into the various sleep positions and their impact on neck health.

Understanding Neck Discomfort

Before we delve into the ideal sleep position, it's essential to grasp the root causes of neck discomfort:

1. Poor Posture: Spending hours hunched over screens or sitting with improper posture can strain neck muscles and lead to discomfort.

2. Muscle Strain: Sudden movements or overexertion can result in neck muscle strain, causing discomfort and stiffness.

3. Underlying Conditions: Conditions like arthritis, herniated discs, or degenerative disc disease can contribute to chronic neck discomfort by consulting a healthcare professional 

The Role of Sleep Position

Your choice of sleep position significantly affects the alignment and support of your neck during the night. There are three primary sleep positions to consider, backed by medical guidelines: sleeping on your back, side, and stomach.

Each has its pros and cons in terms of neck health.

But a point of caution before moving forward is that, Whether you are in any discomfort or not, first, you should consult a healthcare professional regarding your sleeping pattern and neck discomfort.

1. Sleeping on Your Back:


  • Sleeping on your back is generally regarded as the best position for neck health. It allows for a neutral alignment of your head, neck, and spine, reducing the risk of strain.
  • It can help prevent wrinkles and breakouts as your face isn't pressed against a pillow.


  • Some individuals may experience snoring or sleep apnea when sleeping on their back.
  • It may not be suitable for those with acid reflux issues.


  • Use a cervical pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck.
  • Place a small pillow under your knees to maintain proper spinal alignment.

2. Sleeping on Your Side:


  • Sleeping on your side can be a good choice for alleviating neck discomfort, particularly for individuals with conditions like sleep apnea or acid reflux.
  • This position may reduce the risk of snoring.


  • If your pillow is too high, it can force your neck into an unnatural position, potentially leading to discomfort.


  • Opt for a medium-loft pillow that supports your neck's natural alignment.
  • Insert a pillow between your knees to relieve pressure on your lower back.

3. Sleeping on Your Stomach:


  • Sleeping on your stomach may temporarily alleviate snoring or sleep apnea.


  • This position can strain your neck as your head is turned to one side for an extended duration.
  • It can also lead to wrinkles and skin issues due to contact with the pillow.


  • If you must sleep on your stomach, use a skinny or no pillow to reduce neck strain.

Determining the Best Sleep Position for Neck Discomfort

The ideal sleep position for relieving neck discomfort varies from person to person. Factors such as the underlying cause of your discomfort, your personal comfort, and any existing health conditions are significant considerations. Here are some guidelines to help you determine the best sleep position if your neck hurts:

  1. Identify the Cause: Understanding the reason behind your neck discomfort is crucial in choosing the right sleep position. For instance, if muscle strain is the culprit, sleeping on your back may be the best option. If you have a herniated disc, sleeping on your side with proper pillow support might provide more relief.
  2. Experiment: Feel free to try different sleep positions to find what works best for you. Pay attention to how your neck feels in the morning after each position.
  3. Pillow Selection: The correct pillow is essential regardless of your sleep position. A pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck and maintains proper spinal alignment can significantly reduce neck discomfort.
  4. Seek Professional Advice: If your neck discomfort persists or worsens despite trying various sleep positions and using the right pillow, consider consulting a healthcare professional. They can provide personalized advice and recommend treatments tailored to your specific situation.

Additional Tips for Neck DiscomfortF Relief

In addition to adjusting your sleep position, there are several additional strategies to help alleviate neck discomfort:

  1. Neck Exercises: Engage in gentle neck stretches and exercises recommended by a physical therapist to strengthen neck muscles and improve flexibility.
  2. Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected area can relieve muscle tension and reduce inflammation.
  3. Posture Correction: Be mindful of your posture throughout the day, especially when using electronic devices or working at a desk.
  4. Stress Reduction: Stress can contribute to muscle tension and neck discomfort. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation may help alleviate stress-related neck discomfort.

Consult a physical therapist or chiropractor about above exercises or adjustments if you are under any ongoing medical treatment or facing any discomfort.

In Conclusion

Finding the right sleep position is crucial for alleviating neck discomfort and promoting a restful night's sleep. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, adjusting your sleep position can make a significant difference in how you feel in the morning. Whether you choose to sleep on your back, side, or stomach, prioritize proper neck support and spinal alignment to find relief without relying on medical terminology.


  1. What is the best sleep position for neck discomfort?
    The ideal sleep position for neck discomfort varies, but sleeping on your back or side with proper support is generally recommended.
  2. Can sleeping on the wrong side worsen neck discomfort?
    Yes, an improper sleep position can exacerbate neck discomfort, so it's crucial to find the right one.
  3. How do I choose the right pillow to relieve neck discomfort?
    Opt for a pillow that supports your neck's natural curve and maintains spinal alignment.
  4. Is it okay to sleep on my stomach if my neck hurts?
    While it's not ideal, if you must sleep on your stomach, use an extremely thin pillow or none at all to reduce neck strain.
When should I consult a healthcare professional for my neck discomfort?
If neck discomfort persists or worsens despite trying different sleep positions and using the right pillow, seeking professional advice is advisable.