We spend about a third of our life sleeping. That’s a lot of time and certain positions can worsen neck pain. The most important thing to remember is to sleep with a pillow supporting the neck in an anatomically correct position. When sleeping on the back a cervical traction pillow can help people who have a neck and arm pain. This pillow provides support just above the shoulders and below the base of the skull giving a mild traction effect. The right size pillow can make a difference but too large a traction pillow can make sleep difficult.
For side sleepers it’s important to think about maintaining alignment of the neck with an imaginary line drawn right down the center of the face and shoulders. Some people have osteoarthritis or stenosis and don’t allow a lot of room for the nerves to exit the spine. When they lay on their sides with the head elevated above or below this imaginary line they can get symptoms. Usually a right size mildly firm pillow can fix this problem. Buy several and give them a try.
People with neck pain often cannot tolerate sleeping on their stomachs. This is because the neck is forced to be extended in a non-anatomically correct position throughout the sleep cycle. Certain cervical disease states become more symptomatic in these positions.