Can Soft Pillows Cause Neck Pain?

Can Soft Pillows Cause Neck Pain?

When it comes to getting good sleep, you may think that you’re already doing everything you can.

You’ve got the room temperature at a perfect 55 degrees.

You’ve got a top quality mattress that’s relaxing and comfortable and still in great shape, and you’ve got an excellent bedtime routine that is fine just how it is.

However, you find yourself still waking up with pains and aches, especially in your neck. What does this mean?
If you’re a side sleeper, then the issue could lie in your pillow.


Can a Soft Pillow Cause Neck Pain?

Can a Soft Pillow Cause Neck Pain?
Before we being, it’s important to realize that soft pillows by themselves don’t usually cause neck pain. In fact, if you prefer to sleep on your stomach, then a soft, thinner pillow may actually be recommended.

The problem arises when you pair a pillow that’s too soft with the wrong sleeping position. This is particularly relevant to those of you who sleep on your sides.

When you choose to sleep on your side without using a pillow, you haven’t got anything supporting your neck or holding your head up.

As a result, your neck ends up leaning forwards or tilting downwards. This can pull it out of alignment from the rest of your spine and cause pain that you’ll feel when you wake up again.

If you sleep with an incredibly soft pillow on your side, it’s almost as bad as not sleeping with a pillow at all. This is because the weight of your head causes it to sink down into the pillow, which causes the material that the pillow is made of to move to either side to accommodate.

While the main demographic we’re talking about here in relation to soft pillows is side sleepers, they aren’t the only ones at risk of using the wrong pillow when they sleep. Regardless of what position you prefer to sleep in, if you use the wrong type of pillow, you could end up starting the morning in a lot of neck pain.


What’s the Best Sleep Position and Pillow for Neck Pain?

Luckily, the solution to reducing the pain you experience while you’re sleeping is easy. All you have to do is make sure you’re pairing the right pillow with the correct sleeping position.


Side Sleepers

If you sleep on your side, then you’re going to need a side sleeper pillow that’s firm enough to support your head and hold it up. This is important because your neck needs to stay in alignment with the spine so that it’s not strained in any way. There are a number of great options out there when it comes to choosing a pillow.

These include extra firm pillows that are usually made of memory foam. You can also get them in natural latex foam. These two materials will provide you with sufficient sink in and respond to the pressure and weight of your head when you lie down.

Other options include a contour or orthopedic pillow that come with depression for your head and extra padding where your neck will be.

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Back Sleepers

Back sleepers also require a firm pillow that’s going to keep your neck in alignment with your spine. In this case, you can try a contour loft pillow that has divots, especially for the neck and head.


Combination Sleepers

If you’re someone who likes to sleep on their side and back, then a pillow with a dent in the middle is recommended to accommodate for both.


Stomach Sleepers

If you like to lie on your stomach when you sleep, then you need a soft, thin pillow. However, even if you have the perfect pillow for this position, you may still experience neck pain because even with the world’s thinnest pillow you’ve still got a high chance of moving your neck out of alignment with your spine.

Regardless of which pillow you decide to try, you’ll need to measure height beforehand to make sure that it’s going to suit your needs well. To do this, measure the distance from your neck to your shoulder, and then find a pillow that matches this length. Generally speaking, most people sleep well when they use a pillow that’s four to six inches thick.

If you do suffer from neck pain regularly, then it’s vital to avoid pillows that have down, feathers or buckwheat in them. Unless you have a pillow where you can adjust the amount of filler that’s in it, you’ll just end up with a pillow that has filler moving around all the time, making it tough to experience reliable support.


Does This Mean You Should Stop Sleeping on Your Side?

If you’re someone who likes to sleep on their side but suffers from neck pain, you may be thinking about switching things up. However, before you do so, consider this.

Side sleeping actually comes with many health benefits. Surprisingly, it’s considered to be one of the healthiest positions to sleep in. This is because sleeping on your side can reduce your chances of acid reflux, help to keep your spine correctly aligned, and also supports baby’s health for pregnant women. It’s also the sleep position you want to be in if you’re a snorer.

All this to say, if you’ve chosen to stay on your side and switched up your pillow for a better sleep but still experience neck pain, perhaps it’s time to start sleeping on your back instead. Sleeping on your back also comes with a number of health benefits, too.

These include a reduction in acid reflux and even preventing facial wrinkles, as well as helping to reduce neck pain and keeping your spine nice and aligned. However, if you’re a snorer, you don’t want to sleep in this position. The same can be said for those of you who experience lower back pain.


Consider Your Mattress

Now that we’ve discussed your pillow in detail let’s consider another factor: your mattress. If you have a bed that’s quite firm, you could be lying with your body positioned too high above the mattress surface. This may cause your neck to angle downward onto your pillow, a classic cause of neck pain.

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If you’re a side sleeper, consider going for a mattress that’s either soft or medium firmness. This means that your body’s pressure points, like your pelvic area and shoulders, can sink deep enough into the mattress, allowing your spine to lie nice and flat. For the best choice in a bed, try memory foam. For the second best choice when it comes to your mattress, a hybrid will do.


Other Factors to Consider

So, you’ve got yourself the best mattress for back & neck pain; what else can be done to help reduce your chances of neck pain?

When you’re awake during the day, minimize neck issues by drinking a lot of water, working out regularly and maintaining a healthy posture. Try investing in an ergonomic desk chair, and try not to hunch over when you’re on your computer or phone. Using a headset for phone calls can also minimize neck discomfort as well.


References and Further Reading

1. Sleeping Positions To Stay Healthy: The Best And Worst Ways To Sleep During The Night
2. Experts say lying on your back is the best sleeping position — here’s why
3. Say “good night” to neck pain

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