Neck Pain and Sleep…
If you’re like most people with neck pain, you probably have trouble falling asleep… or staying asleep. So, how do you get good sleep when your neck hurts?
With neck pain, it’s very challenging to find a comfortable position in bed and how difficult it can be to fall asleep and stay asleep! In fact, sometimes neck pain can get so bad, that lying down is not even an option… because your neck hurts in the lying down position.
Sleep, especially deep sleep, is a VERY important part of healing. In fact, a Harvard based report states 75% of us get less than 6 hours of sleep at least a few nights per week, which over the short haul, is not a problem, but NOT so in the long haul. They go on to list “Six reasons not to skimp on sleep:”
1. Learning and memory – “memory consolidation” occurs better after we sleep when learning new tasks as proven by test scores
2. Weight and metabolism – chronic sleep problems can cause you to gain weight by altering the way our body processes and stores
carbohydrates and by altering the hormones that affect your appetite
3. Safety due to increased fatigue – you’ll experience a greater tendency to fall asleep during the day, which can be catastrophic such as
in car accidents, industrial accidents, etc.
4. Mood – the lack of sleep can increase irritability, impatience, concentration loss and moodiness
5. Heart health – serious sleep loss has been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat
6. Disease – lack of sleep can alter your immune function and may affect your ability to fight cancer.
Now that you know just how important it is to get good quality sleep,
how EXACTLY can you do that when you have neck pain?
As a start, avoid caffeine at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. For some, exercising too close to bedtime is NOT helpful.
Regarding neck posture while sleeping, the proper pillow is VERY IMPORTANT! Try lying on your back and both sides. DON’T lie down on your stomach… because in this position, you’ll need to rotate your neck… and keep it rotated for a long time. The “ideal pillow” is one that allows your neck to remain “neutral” or, maintain its normal curve that’s present when you’re standing. The pillow should not be too thick or too thin.
Since the neck is generally skinnier than our head, a “neck-friendly” pillow should be thicker on the edge so that it fills in the space between the neck and bed and thinner under the head. This is true whether we lay on our sides or back but the amount of space varies with age, gender, and phenotype – that is, thin, medium or heavy-set body types.
There are many contoured or “shaped” pillows available that are thicker on the outside edges and thinner in the middle. Some of these include foam pillows of different densities, air pillows, water pillows, memory foam pillows, feather pillows, and others.
Some companies make a pillow based on the measurement between the neck and the point of the shoulder. This allows the person to pick the pillow size best suited for their neck size. It’s important to note that it can take about a week to get used to the “new shaped” pillow, so “BE PATIENT.”
Since we spend 6-8 hours of time in bed sleeping (that’s 25-30% of your life spent sleeping!), it’s easier to get used to a new pillow when you don’t hurt. So it’s best to get your new pillow when you are feeling good.
If you need help picking a pillow, just let us know. We can also measure you for your very own custom-made pillow.
Don’t let your neck pain get out of control. If your sleep is interrupted… or if you’re already having trouble falling asleep due to your neck pain, get your neck checked right away. The damage in your neck may still be reversible and not yet permanent. After treating hundreds of patients with neck pain, we’ve noticed that the sooner you get proper treatment for your neck pain, the better your prognosis. If you have neck pain, call us right away at (831) 475-8600.