Are you a back, stomach, or side sleeper? We might not often think about the answer because our go-to sleep position is typically based on comfort and routine. But if you’re experiencing shoulder or neck pain, maybe there’s more to be discovered about how the way we sleep impacts this.

As it turns out, the sleeping position we take has an impact on our bodies. And the wrong sleeping position could be responsible for a tremendous amount of pain.

Do you find yourself experiencing shoulder or neck pain when you wake up? If you’re nodding your head, it may be due to the way you are positioning yourself.

Think about it. We may fall asleep in one position as we get comfortable. But that doesn’t mean it’s fully supportive. And we could still be moving between various positions throughout the night.

While there could be a list of reasons for your shoulder pain, your current sleeping position is likely one of them:

Sleeping on your side can cause shoulder pain

Sleeping on your side can pose a number of benefits, including healthy digestion, sleep apnea prevention, and fetal support for pregnant women. Unfortunately, it is also linked to shoulder pain.

Sleeping on our sides forces gravity onto whichever shoulder we are putting our body weight on. You’re basically putting too much pressure on the rotator cuff of your shoulder, and inevitably, this can cause discomfort. One study found that 67 % of participants slept on the same side that they were experiencing shoulder pain.

It’s possible to still sleep in the position you like, but it’s important to consider how exactly you are supporting your body in that position (*cough* side sleepers). Luckily, there are several ways to alleviate shoulder or neck discomfort in the morning.

Read on below to learn more about how to sleep on your side without causing pain to your shoulders, in addition to alternative sleeping positions.

How to sleep on your side comfortably

Cat’s out of the bag – sleeping on one side is the popular thing to do! According to a study done by Anna’s Linens, 74% of participants were side sleepers. Below are the preferred styles of side sleeping.

8 tips for how to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder

If you’re a die-hard side sleeper, then we have some useful tips for you to continue your sleep without damaging your shoulder further.

  • 1. Sleep on the side opposite your shoulder in pain
  • 2. Unless you’re experiencing left shoulder pain, try to sleep on your left side. Research suggests that this side is better for your digestion and to prevent acid reflux and heartburn
  • 3. For positioning, keep your spine straight, avoid tucking your chin and put your arms and hands parallel to your side;
  • 4. Use pillows for head and neck support (they should support the natural curve of your neck). Your pillow should be firm or extra firm and high enough to line up the point between your head and shoulder
  • 5. Place pillows around your body in a way that prevents you from rolling over on your distressed shoulder
  • 6. Choose a mattress with the right level of firmness. You’ll want a happy medium between soft and firm so your body can mold to the mattress without sinking too much
  • 7. Do some gentle stretching before going to bed and once you wake up to relax the shoulder joints
  • 8. Place a firm pillow between your knees. This helps to create better spine alignment

Essentially, the secret to minimizing shoulder pain while sleeping on your side is having two essential components: a good quality mattress and tons of pillows!

What is the best mattress for a side sleeper?

When it comes to sleep, your mattress determines a lot. And in the instance of sleeping on your side, it could very well make the difference between bodily comfort or strain.

While there tons of high-quality mattresses on the market, ultimately it should serve your best interests. Even in this case, mattresses are not a one size fits all scenario.

If you’re convicted to buy a mattress that supports your shoulder while sleeping on your side, you have to still look at your body type. Generally, the heavier you are, the firmer your mattress should be. Regardless, you’ll want something that feels supportive but gentle on your pressure points (namely the shoulders and hips).

And then there are different types of mattresses. But the two types that seem to be best for side sleepers are latex and memory foam mattresses. Latex mattresses are recommended by chiropractors for their inbuilt springs and the ability to keep your spine in alignment. Then memory foam mattresses adjust to your body’s natural curvature with firm pressure.

When shopping for a mattress, it’s always best to try it out to ensure that it’s the right fit for your body and sleeping position.

The best alternative sleeping position for shoulder pain

Open to giving another sleeping position a try? Give sleeping on your back a chance – as long as you have a supportive pillow for your head. This will help your spine remain aligned, prevent neck pain, and keep your body weight off both shoulders.

Remember – always refer back to your physician for chronic pain and other medical conditions. This guide is simply meant to be a starting point for helping you sleep better with shoulder strains, but it’s not as effective as medical treatment should you be suffering persistently.