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By Phil Breidenbaugh, PT
No one wants to start the day in pain. Making some adjustments to how you sleep just might help you wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free!
Does sleep position matter?
In most cases, you should avoid sleeping on your stomach because of the stress this position places on the neck. A side lying or supine (on your back) position is preferable. It is important that you maintain a neutral, or midline, position. When lying on your side, your neck should be in a straight line with the rest of your spine rather than bent to the left or right. The pillow should support your entire neck, not just your head. If you prefer sleeping on your back, you want to make sure that your neck is not flexed too far forward by a thick pillow or extended backward by lying on a pillow that is too thin. In both side and back positions, avoid placing the pillow under your shoulders.
What type of pillow is best?
A buckwheat pillow is ideal for keeping the neck in a neutral position because of its firmness and ability to keep its shape throughout the night. The pillow can be adjusted by spreading out or bunching up the buckwheat to get the ideal thickness for your neck. It can take a night or two to adapt to using a firmer pillow, but you will likely come to love the support this pillow provides. Buckwheat pillows can be hard to find in local stores, so you may have your best luck ordering one online. A small size is adequate for most people. Cervical pillows that are contoured to fit the neck can be comfortable, but don’t always keep the neck in a neutral position if your shoulders are too wide or too narrow for that particular pillow.
It’s also important to note that people often tend to keep a pillow past its useful life. If your pillow is very thin from long use and you have to place your arm under your neck for support, it is time to replace it.