How to Sleep on Your Side – Minus the Neck Pain!

Woman sleeping soundly on her side on a side sleeper pillow

Hey, side sleepers – this one’s for you! If you’re someone who prefers to sleep on their side, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that side sleeping is the most common sleep position, so you’re in good company.

However, while side sleeping comes with many benefits, it can sometimes result in uncomfortable shoulder and neck pain. Any who’s woken up stiff and achy knows that’s no way to start the day. And, if this happens to you often, you’re probably not getting the quality, restorative sleep you need, which can impact your:

Fortunately, there’s plenty you can do to avoid side sleeper neck pain and get the most from your sleep. Here, we’re breaking it all down.

First Things First: Is There a “Best” Sleep Position?

Couple sleeping on their sides facing one anotherCouple sleeping on their sides facing one another

Short answer: no. When it comes to sleep positions, “best” is subjective. That’s because everyone has different ideas of what’s comfortable for their own body. 

Sleep scientists have studied the health and comfort benefits of different sleep positions, but the reality is that there are pros and cons to all of them. For instance, back sleepers can be more prone to breathing difficulties, yet their body weight is also more evenly distributed for better alignment, which may be better for chronic pain. Those who sleep on their stomach may have a reduced risk of snoring, but they are much more prone to spine misalignment. This position also puts the most pressure on your organs. 

More than half of adults (about 54%) sleep on their sides, making side sleeping the most common sleep position – even though it can result in unwanted pain. While there may not be a clear “best” position, it IS clear that sleeping on your side can have its benefits. 

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Organic Pillows

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Benefits of Side Sleeping

Again, the benefits of any sleep position are dependent on YOU – your body, your mood, your sleep space and more. That said, side sleeping can come with perks like: 

  • Lessening chronic pain/fibromyalgia symptoms
  • Alleviating obstructive sleep apnea
  • Boosting brain and digestive health
  • Preventing acid reflux 
  • Reducing inflammation in the body 

Side sleeping often helps back sleepers stop snoring, too. People tend to snore more when sleeping on their backs due to the tongue falling into the throat and causing an obstruction. Oh, and side sleeping is the best sleeping position for preventing wrinkles! Sleeping on your side puts less pressure on your face and neck than back or stomach sleeping.

It's also worth noting that sleeping on your side is recommended during pregnancy – specifically the left side. Get more sleep tips for pregnancy here.

Right vs. Left: Is There a Correct Side?

So, sleeping on your left side is recommended during pregnancy. But why? This is because the left side specifically allows the heart to pump blood through the body better and takes pressure off the liver from the uterus. Does it matter outside of pregnancy?

Maybe – sleep positions vary a ton person by person. However, certain organs are impacted by long periods of compression, like lying on them for eight hours while you sleep. The left side tends to be more beneficial if you’re trying to relieve this pressure. For example, if you suffer from any gastrointestinal issues, like acid reflux or heartburn, you may want to avoid sleeping on your right side because it inhibits the natural flow of the right intestine, which will add to discomfort. On the other hand, sleeping on your left side actually aids in digestion, improves circulation and promotes lymphatic drainage. 

Still, if you find yourself gravitating towards wanting to sleep on your right side, don’t worry. This position is still perfectly normal!

Now, About That Side Sleeper Neck Pain

While side sleeping is gentler on your neck than sleeping on your stomach is, it can still result in neck pain if you lack the proper support and alignment – and sometimes hip and shoulder pain, too. Think about it … your shoulder sinks into the mattress, your neck bends at a sharp angle and you wake up in pain.

The right mattress firmness is critical for side sleeping comfortably. Like sleep position, mattress firmness is also very subjective. But, in general, a mattress that is too soft will allow heavier parts of your body, like shoulders and hips, to sink too deeply and cause misalignment while a mattress that is too firm will put pressure on these points and cause pain. Learn more about mattress firmness here.

Replacing your mattress is a big investment and, although it’s a worthy one, you may also get relief from side sleeper neck pain just by upping your pillow game. Flat, old pillows lack the support you need and pillows with too much loft may put unwanted strain on your neck muscles.

Man sleeping with a Naturepedic Organic Side Sleeper PillowMan sleeping with a Naturepedic Organic Side Sleeper Pillow

Side Sleeper Pillows to the Rescue!

Naturepedic has two exciting new pillow options that very well may be the answer you’ve been looking for. And, the best news is that both are made without polyurethane foam or chemical flame retardants. We’re talking about our newly released:

Organic Side Sleeper Pillow

The Naturepedic Organic Side Sleeper Pillow is filled with supportive GOTS-approved latex and contours to your body with its special curved shape. Our side sleeper pillow offers the optimal firmness for soothing pressure point relief and neck support. Covered in organic cotton stretch-knit fabric, the pillow is soft to the touch and naturally cooling, too!

Organic Cotton/PLA Body Pillow

Naturepedic side sleeper and body pillows on a clean organic mattressNaturepedic side sleeper and body pillows on a clean organic mattress

There are a lot of reasons to sleep with a body pillow, but many side sleepers find body pillows to be a great option for finding just the right spinal alignment and support. Our body pillow is covered in certified organic cotton sateen fabric and filled with PLA – a fiber-based material that Naturepedic sources from non-GMO sugarcane. Now that’s feel-good comfort!

More Tips for Comfier Side Sleeping

Not ready to shop for a new mattress or pillow? You still have options when it comes to getting your best night’s rest – on your side. Here are some additional tips for side sleepers that are worth a shot: 

  • Try some light stretching before bed to loosen your muscles – stretching in the morning helps, too!
  • Avoid tilting your head up or tucking your chin to your chest
  • Keep your arms at a lower level than your head
  • Align your shoulders and hips so your body isn’t twisting
  • Consider tucking your knees up if you normally sleep with straighter legs or vice versa 

Sleeping on your side is certainly beneficial, but it all comes down to proper alignment and support. With a good mattress and a supportive pillow from Naturepedic, you can achieve your best sleep yet. Learn more about how to get healthy, restorative sleep here.