How to Sleep With Neck Pain

woman with neck pain in bed

Whether your neck strain lingers from an awkward sleeping position or exists as a  persistent crick in your neck that just won’t leave you alone, neck discomfort can significantly disrupt a good night’s sleep.

Rather than tossing and turning in frustration all night — which can aggravate the ache — what are some steps you can take to sleep soundly despite your soreness?

There are several ways to support your tender muscles and find the best way to sleep with neck pain, from simply changing your sleeping position to massaging your muscles nightly with CBD oil

This guide explores tips for better sleep and how to sleep with neck pain. 

Knowing Your Sleeping Position

Trying to sneak in a quick catnap at your desk or in the seat of your car won’t do you any favors, but sometimes, even sleeping from the comfort of your own bed can’t stave off that neck stiffness — you’ve doubtlessly woken up with soreness in your neck at one point or another, making you wince every time you turn your head. 

Unsupportive sleeping positions may be the cause, or exacerbation, of your discomfort. Finding the most comfortable and supported sleeping position offers the best solution for how to sleep with neck pain.

Your neck supports the weight of your head all day. As such, you need to support your neck and spine in return. 

In your neck, seven vertebrae and twenty muscles hold up your 11-pound head and the (ideally) eight hours of sleep you get each night are their chance to recover from that continuous effort.

Sleep serves as an integral part of your muscle recovery, as your body releases hormones that help restore your tissue and blood vessels. When you sleep in a position that stresses your vertebrae and muscles throughout the night, you prevent them from recovering — which also impacts your own rest.

Switch Up Sleeping Positions

Thankfully, testing new ways to sleep is the easiest, quickest and cheapest way to address an aching neck. If one position doesn’t seem to help your neck, try another the next night. Finding the best sleeping position for neck pain and spinal discomfort can be subjective, but you should generally follow the guideline of aligning your ears, shoulders and hips.

Sleeping on Your Back

Laying flat on your back is typically considered the best method for how to sleep to avoid nighttime neck pain, as it creates spinal alignment. 

While sleeping on your back, use a supportive pillow to keep your ears, shoulders and hips straightened to minimize any stress your neck may experience throughout the night.

If sleeping on your back eases soreness but doesn’t eliminate your aches, add a thin pillow beneath your knees to help maintain your spine’s natural curvature.

Sleeping on Your Side

Some people believe sleeping on their back can be rigid and uncomfortable. If you’re one of those people, you may find sleeping on your side offers more comfort. While side-sleepers are not always predisposed to neck trouble, failing to alternate between your left and right side over a long period may create an imbalance in your neck muscles.

In addition to alternating sides, consider placing a taller pillow beneath your head and another pillow between your knees. The extra cushioning supports alignment from your ears, down through your back and to your hips and pelvis. If your spine seems to suffer more strain than your neck in the mornings, sleeping in the fetal position may also be beneficial.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Laying flat on your chest and on your stomach while sleeping provides your neck with the least amount of support. 

In this position, you twist your neck to rest your head on the pillow, which can create significant strain and soreness. Additionally, if you’re using a taller pillow, it will push your head back, which may cause you to improperly straighten your spine, keeping it in a state of stress that fights its natural curvature.

If you still like being a stomach sleeper, try sleeping with a thin pillow (or no pillow at all) beneath your head to maintain your neck’s natural angle. You might also try placing a pillow beneath your hips to better maintain your spine’s structure.

Don’t Dread Movement You Can’t Control

Movement and rolling over — not the tossing and turning kind — are regular sleeping habits many people experience throughout the night. If you’ve found a healthy sleeping position that supports your neck and you’re worried that you’ll ruin it while you sleep, place pillows around your body to discourage your sleeping self’s more aggressive movements.

Sleeping Upright or on an Incline

If you’re tried various horizontal positions and they’re not providing the fix you need, you can try sleeping upright in a recliner or with lumbar support pillows to help reduce the tension in your neck. 

If you intend to sleep upright, be sure to use a horseshoe or “U-shaped” neck pillow. Common among overnight fliers, these pillows keep your neck aligned and prevent your head from rolling or falling to the side too much while sleeping.

Picking the Proper Pillow

The best sleeping position in the world won’t help your neck if your pillow isn’t providing the support you need. To mitigate existing muscle soreness or prevent soreness from gradually occurring, pick a pillow that keeps your neck and spine aligned.

People’s pillow preferences vary: Do you prefer a big, fluffy pillow where you can sink into the feather filling? Do you like firm foam pillows that offer a lot of support? Or do you gravitate toward thin padding that you can hardly notice? 

When shopping for a pillow to support your neck, find one that meets your personal preferences by looking for options that will maintain an elevated height, even once some weight rests on them:

  • Neck rolls – These small and cylindrical pillows provide extra support and lift at the nape of the neck. They’re also long, meaning you can change positions while still giving your neck support.  
  • D-core pillows – These pillows reduce neck tension and provide proper alignment by cradling your head and cushioning your neck and shoulders. 
  • Contour pillows – The pillow contours evenly to your head and neck, providing optimal neck support and alignment.
  • Horseshoe-shaped pillows – As previously mentioned, horseshoe pillows are commonly seen with airline travelers. These pillows keep your neck in place while you’re sitting or sleeping upright.

If you’re worried about hygienic practices when shopping for a new pillow, use the back of your hand to test how the pillow sits when supporting some weight. Remember that the average person’s head weighs 11 pounds so feel free to put a significant amount of weight onto the pillow when testing it out. 

Massaging Your Neck Muscles

Before your head hits your pillow, massage the muscles in your neck to help minimize any neck stiffness you’re experiencing and to make it easier to take advantage of more supportive sleeping positions. This is also one method on how to sleep with back pain. 

When your muscles contract tightly, they can compress your nerves. Nerve compression can increase discomfort and may prevent your nerves from receiving the proper nutrients. A quick massage will help relax the muscle tissues, increase blood flow, aid recovery and soothe any soreness.

Short of over-enthusiasm that leaves your muscles feeling worn out, there’s no wrong way to receive a massage.  You can get help from a partner, self-administer or treat yourself to a professional massage:

  • Partner assistance – The best massages always come at the hands of someone else. Having a partner help with massaging your neck allows you to relax and enjoy the experience fully. Once finished, trade spots with your partner to help them relieve any of their nagging neck discomforts.
  • Professional massage therapists – For more of a full-body relaxation experience, treat yourself every so often to a professional massage. With a calming ambiance and the use of oils or lotions, paying for the occasional massage might be just what you need.
  • Self-massage – You can still administer muscle or neck pain relief to yourself and incorporate many of the oils or lotions in the comfort of your own home. To help massage your neck, consider using self-massage tools that let you access those hard-to-reach spots near your shoulder blades. 

Massage Technique

Whether giving yourself or a partner a neck massage, the technique doesn’t change:

  1. Lower your shoulders and keep your back straight to help make your neck muscles more available for your massage.
  2. Locate the spot giving you the most trouble.
  3. Press your fingertips into the muscles.
  4. Apply some pressure in small circles.
  5. Continue for a few minutes, switching between clockwise and counterclockwise directions following a few rotations.

Enhancing Your Massage

Massage therapists incorporate oils or lotions into their sessions. Many oils and lotions also have naturally warming or cooling effects to help you and your muscles relax further.

If you want to enhance your massage with essential oils, try some of the following:

  • Peppermint
  • Helichrysum
  • Marjoram
  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Chamomile
  • Yarrow
  • Cyprus
  • Sandalwood

Since many oils can provide similar muscle-soothing effects, you can experiment and find one that works best for you — and with an aroma, you find most pleasing. Scented candles, soft music and low light can help improve the ambiance for your relaxation as well.

CBD Oils and Rubs

In combination with other essential oils, you may want to try using a CBD product as part of your massage and sleep efforts. CBD products can help you relax, reduce stress, support healthy sleep and soothe discomfort. 

CBD oil also offers an easy addition for those who enjoy experimenting with their own blends, such as a smoothie or even a cookie recipe. For more ready-made options, topical CBD lotions and rubs may suit your needs better, as they’re easily absorbed into the pores of your skin.

Certain CBD products also blend natural sleep aids into their formula. For example, Zebra CBD’s Sleep Support Tablets include melatonin, L-theanine, chamomile and valerian root extracts as active, natural ingredients to support sleep

Sleep Soundly With Zebra CBD

When you’re struggling with an especially bothersome neck ache, the process toward recovery can be a difficult one. Luckily, by providing your neck with the right support, whether it’s a new sleeping position, pillow, or supplement, you’ll be on the road to recovery in no time.

Let Zebra CBD support you, and your neck.

Here, we have a collection of CBD products to support your overall health, wellness and vitality. 

From topical rubs that can enhance your massage to our Sleep Support Tablets, we offer various wellness products that let you choose how and when to take advantage of cannabidiol’s soothing effects. If you’re looking to soothe your sore neck or help bolster your sleep cycle, then you’re in the right place. 

Zebra CBD also partners with independent labs to provide the industry’s only Label Accuracy Guarantee.


Edison Spine Center. Sleeping Positions for Back and Neck Pain. 

GW Osteopathy. How much does your head weigh?

Healthline. Try This: 18 Essential Oils for Sore Muscles. 

University of Minnesota, Earl E. Bakken. Center for Spirituality and Healing. How Does Massage Work?

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