Best Sleep Positions For Pinched Nerve In Neck
If you have a pinched nerve in your neck, your doctor will likely recommend you avoid lifting weights and exercising as much as possible. This is because these activities can aggravate the condition by making it worse. The same holds true with sleep – although not quite so strongly. Sleeping is an activity where we lie down and relax but sometimes our sleeping position can make it worse. If you have a pinched nerve in your neck, you may find yourself waking up throughout the night due to discomfort from lying down on your back (sleeping on your back) or sleeping on your side (sleeping on your stomach).
In this article, I’m going to discuss how to improve your sleeping posture so that you get better sleep without any further worsening of your pinched nerve problem.
Sleep Position #1: Back Sleeping
Back sleeping is the easiest sleeping position for people who suffer from pinched nerves in their necks. It’s very comfortable and has no risk of causing you to roll over onto your face during the night. However, it does put pressure on your vertebrae. Your spine should ideally be straight when you’re sleeping on your back. To achieve this, you need to use a good quality mattress that provides enough support.
Most mattresses nowadays come with memory foam layers which provide some comfort but don’t offer the amount of support required to keep your spine aligned. Instead, go with a high-density foam layer. A top layer made of latex would work well. This type of material offers both comfort and firmness while providing the support needed to prevent your spine from bending backwards.
When sleeping on your back, you should never lay horizontally across your bed. Doing so can lead to excessive movement of your cervical spine (the part of your neck above the base of your skull), which could worsen your pinched nerve.
A normal sleeping position is to place pillows under each arm to rest against your forearms. Keep them at a height where they can just barely touch your shoulders. Don’t worry about using extra padding between the underside of your arms and the surface of your pillow since it won’t affect its ability to properly align your spine.
For most people, back sleeping works pretty well for relieving their pinched nerve problems. You’ll still wake up during the night due to discomfort but the frequency probably wouldn’t be as frequent as those suffering from sleeping on their sides.
Sleep Position #2: Side Sleeping
Sleeping on your side puts less weight on your upper back region than sleeping on your back. However, it also means that your spinal column must rotate 90 degrees clockwise to line up with your body’s natural curvature. When your spinal column tilts too far in this direction, it causes compression of certain discs in your spine. These discs do a job similar to shock absorbers in a car suspension system. They absorb bumps and shocks that occur naturally when you move around while you sleep. Without these discs, there’d be more jarring and impact whenever you moved.
As mentioned earlier, sleeping on your back can exacerbate the symptoms of having a pinched nerve. So sleeping on your side is recommended for sufferers of pinched nerves. However, you should take care not to sleep on your side too long. Ideally, only allow yourself to sleep on your side for 20 minutes at a time. After resting for this short period, try rotating to your other side and repeating the process again after another 20 minutes. Repeat this cycle until you’ve completed all four sleeps on your side before moving onto sleeping on your back once again.
Here are several tips to help you sleep comfortably on your side:
Use a thicker pillow instead of a thin one. Thicker pillows are generally softer and more supportive.
Place the pillow higher up near the middle of your chest area. Then pull the bottom edge slightly upward toward your chin. This will lift the lower half of your body up off the ground.
Keep your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Allow your legs to swing freely.
Try to sleep on your left side first then switch a few nights later to sleeping on your right side. Switching your sleeping position every few days helps to strengthen the muscles used to hold your body upright.
Don’t sleep fully extended like a starfish. There’s nothing wrong with doing this if you feel completely relaxed, however it isn’t healthy for anyone who suffers from pinched nerves in their neck.
Sleep position #3: Stomach Sleeping
This is the worst sleeping position for people who have pinched nerves in their neck. Unlike sleep positions 1 & 2, sleeping on your stomach requires your spine to tilt 180 degrees counterclockwise towards the ceiling. This severely compresses your cervical disks and puts unnecessary stress on your entire spine. Even though it seems like it would be the best sleeping position for relief from pinching nerves, it’s actually dangerous for people with pinched nerves.
If you sleep on your stomach, you’ll have increased chances of rolling into a bad position and injuring your back. Also, if you wake up during the night, you might roll out of bed and injure your hip or shoulder.
Instead of attempting to sleep on your stomach, make sure you always sleep on your side. Lying on your stomach makes your spine unstable and shifts the burden of supporting the weight of your torso away from your neck and back muscles.
To ensure that you sleep on your side properly, you can use two pillows like we discussed previously. One pillow should be placed underneath your elbow to prop it up. Another larger pillow should be placed directly under your abdomen. Make sure that the smaller pillow is located below your elbow and the bigger pillow is located directly under your belly button. By keeping your elbows firmly planted against these pillows, you shouldn’t accidentally roll onto your back or fall out of bed.
Tips for Sleeping Comfortably on Your Side
You’ll need the following items to ensure that you sleep comfortably on your side:
A thick, medium-firm pillow
An inflatable air mattress
A futon frame
A yoga mat
These items aren’t essential but they certainly increase your comfort level during sleep.
Some Final Thoughts About Sleeping With Painful Pinched Nerves
People who suffer from pinched nerves in their neck often experience severe discomfort when sleeping. As we’ve seen, there are three different sleeping positions that relieve this pain. The best sleeping positions for pinched nerves are sleeping on your back (which doesn’t require any twisting of your spine), sleeping on your side (which reduces the degree of rotation needed to stay comfortable), and sleeping on your stomach (which puts undue strain on your spine).
With these three sleeping positions explained, you can now choose which one best suits your needs. Once you’ve determined what sleeping style is best for your situation, you should implement the proper techniques and strategies necessary to ensure that you receive maximum comfort and relief from your pinched nerves.
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