Neck pain can be a real, well, pain in the neck. While some causes—like the wear and tear of aging, arthritis, or even an injury like a slipped disk—may be out of your control, many common triggers are things that you can control, like the way you’re hitting the hay at night. Check out if something on the following list is causing that crick in your neck.
A pillow is supposed to position your head so that it’s in a healthy, neutral position. That means that your nose is in line with the center of your body, or your spine. If you use too fat of a pillow, your neck and head will be bent upwards. On the other hand, if you use too flat of a pillow, your head and neck will be bent downwards. When choosing what type of pillow to buy, consider a feather or memory foam one that molds comfortably to the shape of your neck.
Chances are, you figured out your preferred snoozing position years ago, and old habits die hard. But the truth is, if you’re a stomach sleeper, you’re not doing your neck any favors. When you sleep on your stomach, you have to twist your head and neck to the side, which can put pressure on nerves. Converting yourself to side or back sleeping may help you to wake up pain-free.
If, despite switching up your pillow and sleeping position, you still can’t nix neck pain, or if your neck pain is caused by an injury or chronic condition like arthritis, consider seeing a physical therapist. Learning exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the neck may help you feel like your old self again.
It’s an unfortunate reality that sleep problems can cause neck pain, which, in turn, can cause more sleep problems. This can leave you in a tough-to-beat cycle. If that sounds like you, consider giving your sleep habits a check-up. Good practices include going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (including weekends), getting regular exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and powering down screens well before you hit the sack. Still no improvement? Talk to your doctor about your sleep problems, since getting a good night’s rest may be the ticket to beating your neck pain, too.