Life is stressful enough during the day that it seems truly heartbreaking that many us cannot get the restorative sleep we need each night. Insomnia is an epidemic in the United States and many people wake up with actual pain and stiffness each morning. What a way to start the day!
Sleep posture is critical to spinal health. The neck has a forward arch and this has to be preserved for there to be maximal relaxation of the spinal cord and nerves. Also, the head needs to be supported while side sleeping. The pillow needs to be thick enough so that the head does not fall towards the shoulder, stretching the muscles and delicate nerves on the side of the neck.
You need to rest your spine each night so that the tissues can repair and heal. It is important that muscles are able to relax and the bones of the neck are not placed into abnormal postures. Ever fall asleep on an armrest of a sofa or in a car or plane? Most of us have experienced the stiffness that comes with this, but some of us have spinal bones that are already sprained and displaced from old injuries, which means good sleeping posture is even more critical. Simply a minor change from our usual bed or pillow is enough to make for a stiff neck in the morning. Or perhaps you thought a stiff neck in the morning was normal because it has gone on for years?
One of the more common causes of morning stiffness is neck and body position. Stomach sleeping is a definite no. In this position, the neck is twisted excessively. The best positions are side lying with adequate head support or flat on the back with a proper neck-support pillow. These types of pillows allow the cushion to push upwards into the curve of the neck, while the head is cradled. Usually pillows are simply too thick and these can cause the neck to rest in a forward stressed position which stretches the nerves and spinal cord.
If you’re waking up with a stiff neck on a regular basis, then it could be how you’re sleeping or whether your pillow is right for good neck sleeping posture. Discuss your sleep habits and which type of pillow is best for maximal rest with your doctor of chiropractic.