Ways to Treat Stiffness of Neck after Sleeping

There is no greater inconvenience than waking up with a stiff neck after sleep. The hindrance to activity caused by the condition can hamper our plans for the day. Some people often elevate the condition by going on with their regular activities despite reduced movements and intense pain. The pressure of going to class or work means that the chances of worsening the condition are pretty high.

There is a lot of confusion amongst people regarding the reasons for neck pain after sleep. Everyone has their own thinking behind the pain as all of us expect the pain to subside eventually.

The following explanation attempts to clear the air regarding neck pain after sleep and provides strategies that equip you to counter the condition immediately.

How Neck Stiffness Happens

Here are some ways that neck stiffness can occur when sleeping

  • Awkward Angle

Sometimes the neck or the head settles in an awkward position during sleep for extended time periods. This causes our joints, ligaments and muscles to stretch beyond the normal limits resulting in a strained upper body when we wake up.

  • Injury that exists before

Some injuries that occur while we are awake take a lot of time to subside. On the other hand in some cases pain often takes time to expose itself after an accident or a whiplash. It can usually take hours before stiffness develops during sleep.

  • Sudden Movement

Rolling over or reacting to a dream are also reasons for neck pain. The sudden neck movements that happen during sleep can either sprain or strain the neck.

The root cause of all strains and stiffness is usually neck pain. This is usually due to sprain in the ligament or the muscle strain. There are several other causes too, these include facet joint osteoarthritis or cervical degenerative disease.

Some Remedies for Stiffness of Neck

Fortunately for us there are a list of remedies available that will help us in getting rid of the pain when we wake up in the morning.

Over the Counter Medication

If the stiffness or pain is bad enough to limit your movements, it is imperative for you to try over the counter medications. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen are some medications that help us in getting rid of the pain. However, it is imperative to consult your doctor before taking these medications.

Activity Modification and Pain Assessment

You can assess the condition of the pain after being awake for a while; this allows you to choose the remedy that suits your condition the best. If the neck condition still exists and limits your movement in different directions while displaying a burning pain, you should avoid all types of strenuous activities. You should also limit your movements for the day; doctors are against complete bed rest in this condition as it can further elevate the stiffness.


Some stretching or massage may further help in improving the condition after you find some sort of initial pain relief. This helps in loosening the ligaments and the muscles which are relaxed to some extent by the medications you take. You might find it challenging to complete some stretches considering the pain and stiffness of the neck and shoulder.

The goal of the exercise is to enhance the flexibility without causing or experiencing more pain. You can also use your fingers and hands to massage the sore area of the neck as long as the exercise does not enhance the pain.

Heat or Ice Therapy

The application of ice shortly after a strain in the neck can help in reducing the swelling. These applications are fine for 10 or 20 minutes at a time. Heat therapy or taking a warm shower helps in relaxing the muscles. This also reduces the pain and enhances the range of the motion.

Sometimes treatment helps in improving the condition of a stiff neck immediately, however on other occasions it takes a day or two before relief occurs. A stiff neck is usually resolved within two weeks.

Steps that Help in Preventing Stiffness of Neck during Sleep

While it is impossible to prevent all forms of neck stiffness, you can take measures to ensure a reduction in the chances of having one.

Get the Right Sized Pillow

When choosing a pillow it is imperative to determine the position you usually sleep in. Medical experts believe that no one type of pillow is good for everyone. A rolled towel or cervical pillow below the spine is perfect for those who like to sleep on the black. Keeping a pillow between the knees works well for side sleepers as it aligns the spine perfectly and supports the body. Carrying out trial and error helps in finding the perfect pillow.

Consider the Position you sleep in

Sleeping on the stomach exerts more pressure on the cervical spine as the head is either pushed to one side or the other. Health experts encourage sleeping on the back as it reduces the amount of stress on the cervical spine. Sleeping sideways is another option that you can consider, however it increases the chances of shoulder pain. Some people prefer sleeping in a reclining position as it offers more comfort. A reclining chair or mattress gives them the comfort they are looking for.

Manage the Temperature

The next important thing is ensuring the temperature is managed at all times. Many people often complain of waking up with a sore neck or other part of the body after a cool air blows at them during the night. While medical literature is not sure about the topic, it certainly helps if you arrange your sleep environment to avoid the cool air that blows directly at the neck.

There are various other factors that help in reducing neck stiffness or other body ache types after sleeping. You should also remember that falling asleep in an area that is not conducive enough for sleeping can also hurt the body. Falling asleep on the chair, couch or on the floor increase the chances of you waking up with a stiff neck.