Why Do I Have Neck Pain at Night?

Pain is a sleep-wrecker. When you hurt, falling asleep and staying asleep is tough, and the pain tends to linger into the next day. Researchers estimate that about 10% of Americans experience neck pain, and some 70% of them don’t sleep well because of it. 

What’s causing all this neck pain? It could be arthritis, spinal stenosis, disc degeneration, a traumatic injury, or even cancer. But one of the most common culprits is improper sleep posture. That’s right — your posture matters all the time, even when you’re asleep.

Chronic neck pain affects every move you make, and our Coastal Ortho team takes it very seriously. As one of Southern California’s premier orthopedic practices, we’ve earned a reputation for putting patients first and using the most advanced technology and cutting-edge research to deliver the highest quality care. 

We’ve also recently partnered with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, the top-ranked California hospital on the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” Honor Roll list eight years running. This affiliation means you get unsurpassed orthopedic care from our specialists, backed by Cedars-Sinai’s world-class facilities. There’s no better place to find answers and treatments for your ongoing neck pain.

Stop nighttime neck pain by avoiding these common problems

As we mentioned, neck pain can stem from various spinal conditions, and that’s the first thing we check for when you visit us. However, if we rule out disease and injury, the likely culprits causing your nighttime neck pain are the following.

Pick the right pillow 

Every head and neck are different and need different levels of support. You might need to experiment with a few types of pillows before you find the right one for your anatomy. Look for a pillow that supports your head’s weight and keeps your cervical spine (neck) in a neutral position. 

Overly stiff pillows don’t have enough give in them, so when you relax during sleep, your head stays elevated while your neck sinks downward. If you sleep on your back, consider a neck roll that supports your neck. If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow that’s higher under your neck than your head.

If you sleep on your stomach, read the next section.

Stop sleeping on your stomach

Studies show that sleeping on your stomach is tough on your neck. Back and side sleepers still have to pay attention to their pillow support, but if you’re a stomach sleeper, your neck is tweaked to the side under excess pressure all night, and no pillow can change or ease that. 

Sleeping on your stomach also causes your back to arch as your body relaxes into the mattress, creating a spinal misalignment that leads to neck and back pain.

Check your daytime posture

If a sore neck keeps you up at night, it may stem from bad postural habits during the day. Whether you sit at a computer all day, work in a bent position, hunch over a hobby, or lug a heavy backpack or purse that shifts your spinal position, your daytime posture affects your spinal health. Even spending too much time looking down at your phone — a phenomenon called “tech neck” — can exacerbate the problem.

Weakened muscles put your neck at a disadvantage when you hit the sack. At the time of day when your muscles, tendons, and ligaments need a break, they actually work overtime trying to support your head and body. However, proper daytime posture strengthens your neck’s support system and reduces nighttime pain.

Stop stressing

Mental and emotional stress affects you physically, especially your neck. Tight deadlines, relationship conflicts, financial challenges, and freeway gridlock trigger a flood of adrenaline and cortisol. If you live under those conditions constantly, those hormones can wreak havoc on your body, affecting everything from your cardiovascular health and mental well-being to basic nerve and muscle function.

Stress causes your neck muscles to contract and remain tense for long periods. This tension leads to cervical pain, which interferes with your sleep quality. Ironically, chronic stress not only causes pain but also makes it more difficult for your body to recover from pain.

Learning stress management techniques and reducing stressful situations can ease your neck pain and improve your sleep quality.

How we address persistent neck pain

Sometimes, changing your sleep posture, daytime posture, and other lifestyle habits is all it takes to resolve nighttime neck pain. Our physical therapists can also teach you strategic stretches and exercises to strengthen your neck muscles and reduce pain.

However, when your neck pain needs next-level care, we offer state-of-the-art therapies to target specific issues. Depending on the root cause of your neck pain, we may recommend:

If your neck pain keeps you up at night and down during the day, request an appointment online or call Coastal Ortho Torrance and El Segundo, California, today.