ATLAS Health Tips
July 27, 2023

Experiencing Neck Pain After Sleep? 4 Causes & Solutions

Dr. Ben Dyer
Dr. Ben Dyer

If you experience neck pain after sleeping, you're not alone. It’s an unpleasant way to start the day, but it is a common problem that several different things can cause. Research has shown that up to 5% of chronic neck pain cases relate to sleeping problems[1]

This blog discusses four possible causes of neck pain after sleeping and what you can do about them.

Why Are You Waking Up with Neck Pain?

There are many reasons why someone might wake up with neck pain. It could be from sleeping in an awkward position, or it could be the result of an injury. It is also possible that the neck pain is the result of a medical condition[2]. If the neck pain is severe, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to see a doctor to rule out any serious underlying causes.

Here are 4 reasons you might be experiencing neck pain after sleep:

1. Sleeping Position & Head Angle

If you experience neck pain, it could be due to the position you sleep in or the angle of your head. Poor sleeping posture can put strain on the neck and lead to pain[3]. The head should be aligned with the spine when sleeping, but often people end up sleeping with their head tilted at an awkward angle. This can cause the muscles and ligaments in the neck to become strained. If you frequently wake up with a sore neck, it might be worth trying to adjust your sleeping position or using a pillow to support your head.

2. Inadequate Pillow for Support

Neck pain is often caused by poor posture and sleeping in an awkward position, but a pillow that isn't supportive enough can also contribute to the problem. The best pillow for neck pain is one that supports the natural curve of your spine and keeps your head level with your shoulders. A pillow that is too high or too low can put strain on your neck and cause pain. 

If you often sleep on your side, a firm pillow is a good choice. It should be high enough to fill the space between your ear and shoulder, but not so high that your head is tilted up or down. A soft pillow is a good option for stomach sleepers, as it will provide some support without putting strain on the neck. A supportive pillow can make a big difference in relieving pain and helping you get a good night's sleep.

3. Sudden Movements During Sleep

Neck pain can also result from more sudden movements during sleep. This can happen if you sleep on your stomach and turn your head to the side, or if you roll over onto your back and your head falls to the side. In either case, your neck is forced into an unnatural position and can lead to pain. 

There are a few things you can do to avoid this type of neck pain. First, try to sleep on your back if possible. This will allow your head to rest in a neutral position and should minimize any discomfort. If you must sleep on your stomach, try to use a pillow that supports your head and neck so that they are not forced into an uncomfortable position. Finally, be aware of your movements during sleep and try to avoid any sudden turns or jolts.

4. Pre-Existing Conditions

If you have a pre-existing condition, you may be at risk for neck pain after sleeping. Pre-existing conditions that can lead to neck pain after sleeping include:

  • Arthritis - a condition that causes inflammation of the joints. This can lead to neck pain after sleeping because the joints in the neck are inflamed.
  • Degenerative Disc Disease - a condition that causes the discs in the spine to degenerate. This can lead to neck pain after sleeping because the discs are not able to support the weight of the head.
  • Osteoporosis - a condition that causes the bones to become weak and brittle. This can lead to neck pain after sleeping because the bones in the neck are weak and brittle.
  • Spinal Stenosis - a condition that causes the spinal canal to narrow. This can lead to neck pain after sleeping because the spinal cord is compressed.

Remedies for Neck Pain After Sleep

While neck pain can be annoying and make it difficult to get comfortable, there are a few things you can do to find relief.

Ice & Heat Therapy

Ice can help reduce inflammation and pain, while heat can help loosen up muscles and improve circulation. It is important to alternate between the two, using ice for 20-30 minutes followed by heat for 20-30 minutes.


Stretching is a great way to relieve neck pain. By gently stretching the neck muscles, you can help to ease tension and pain. Try to do a few stretches every day, and you should see a difference in your neck pain.

Over the Counter Medications

Over-the-counter pain medication can also help to relieve neck pain. If you're still in pain after a few days of taking medication, you should see a doctor.

Get Relief from Neck Pain with Chiropractic Care

If you’re struggling with neck pain, don’t wait to seek help. A chiropractor can provide relief and help you get back to your normal activities. At ATLAS we conduct thorough examinations and may use spinal manipulation and other state of the art techniques to restore mobility, improve function and relieve your pain.

ATLAS Chiropractic is dedicated to maximising your overall health. Find out how we can help by clicking the link below.


  1. Catarina Canivet, et al. (2008). ‘Sleeping problems as a risk factor for subsequent musculoskeletal pain and the role of job strain’ , PubMed. Available at: <> [Accessed 11 November 2022].
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2022). ‘Neck Pain’ Available at: <> [Accessed 11 November 2022].
  3. Healthline. (2020). ‘The Best Way to Sleep with a Sore Neck’ Available at: <> [Accessed 11 November 2022].

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