The Best Sleeping Positions For Injuries And Pain

The Best Sleeping Positions For Injuries And Pain

Nothing will interrupt a good night’s sleep like experiencing pain. Jump ahead to view our infographic on the best sleeping positions for injuries, or click on the type of pain that you’re experiencing in the menu below:

What type of pain are you experiencing?

  1. Head pain
  2. Neck pain
  3. Back pain
  4. Shoulder pain
  5. Rib pain
  6. Hip pain
  7. Ankle pain
Or skip forward to learn:

Head Pain

If you are experiencing a headache or toothache, it can feel like falling asleep is impossible. Speak with your local pharmacy about an over-the-counter pain medication with a sleep aid to help you through the night, or until your dentist or doctor’s office reopens.

How To Sleep With A Toothache Or Headache

best sleeping position for a toothache
  1. Elevate your head with an extra pillow to decrease blood flow to the head, which can intensify tooth pain or headaches.
  2. Sleep on your back, with your arms relaxed at your side.

Neck pain

If you wake up with neck pain from sleeping, your sleeping position may be putting stress on your neck. Research the best mattress for neck pain, and make sure that your sleeping area isn’t secretly the culprit behind your stiff mornings. Are you guilty of sleeping with two or more pillows? Sleeping on more than one pillow can cause neck pain in the morning. Try sleeping without them for a few days and see how you feel!

Best Sleeping Position For Neck Pain

best sleeping position for neck pain
  1. Use no more than one pillow, ideally a memory foam one. Alternatively, sleep with no pillow.
  2. Place a pillow under your knees.
  3. Sleep on your back.

Neck Pain From Sleeping

Stomach sleeping, with your head twisted to one side, is one of the ways you can injure your neck while sleeping. You may also be using too many pillows. If you’re waking up with neck pain, try reducing how many pillows you use, and always sleep on your back.

Best Pillow For Neck Pain

A memory foam pillow is the best option if you suffer from neck pain. Harvard University found that traditional pillows can be too stiff, causing tension on the neck. They also found that memory foam contours with the shape of the head, relieving any unnecessary pressure.

Back pain

37% of adults suffering with back pain said that it negatively affected their sleep patterns. Finding the healthiest sleep position will help alleviate the symptoms of back pain, but don’t forget to re-evaluate your mattress. If your mattress can be folded in half, it’s time to get a new one. Check out our guide to finding the best mattress for back pain sufferers to learn more.

Sleeping Position For Lower Back Pain

sleeping position for lower back pain
  1. Use one or no pillows under your head.
  2. Lie on your back.
  3. Place a pillow under your knees.

Sleeping Position For Upper Back Pain

sleeping position for upper back pain
  1. Use one memory foam pillow or no pillows under your head.
  2. Lie on your side.
  3. Place a pillow between your knees.

Shoulder pain

Shoulder pain can make almost any sleeping position awkward. If you have a more severe injury, like a dislocated shoulder, it can be unbearable. Although it might feel odd, the best way to sleep with a shoulder injury is in an armchair or recliner. If you have to sleep in your bed, here’s the best way to do so:

Sleeping Positions For Shoulder Pain

sleeping position for shoulder pain
  1. Place one pillow under your head.
  2. Lie on your side, with the injured shoulder facing the ceiling.
  3. Use one pillow between your knees.
  4. Place a large pillow under the injured arm and sleep with your arm resting at chest height.

Rib Pain

Just like with a shoulder injury, it may be more comfortable to sleep in a recliner if you have a broken rib. Otherwise, try this method, and flank yourself with pillows to avoid moving while asleep:

How To Sleep With Broken Ribs

sleeping position for broken ribs
  1. Use one or no pillows under your head.
  2. Lie on your back.
  3. Place a pillow under your knees.

Arm pain

Just moving from the pillow to the mattress can be immensely painful if you’re experiencing a recent broken bone. To facilitate healing, broken bones should always be higher than the heart to ease swelling. Use an extra pillow to keep your broken arm or wrist elevated above the body.

Best Sleeping Position For A Broken Arm Or Wrist

sleeping position for broken arm or wrist
  1. Use one or no pillows under your head.
  2. Lie on your back.
  3. Place a pillow under your knees.
  4. Rest a pillow on your chest, and sleep with arm resting on top of the pillow.

Hip pain

One of the most common injuries in active people is a pulled groin. Ouch! A groin or hip injury can make sleeping painful. For groin and hip injuries, it’s best to sleep on your side, always keeping the injured side facing the ceiling.

Best Sleeping Position For Hip Pain

best sleeping position for hip pain
  1. Use one memory foam pillow or no pillows under your head.
  2. Lie on your side.
  3. Place a pillow between your knees.

Hip Pain At Night

If hip pain is waking you up in the night, it might be because you’re moving into an awkward position while asleep. Use a body pillow, or flank your body with pillows to prevent you from moving around while you’re visiting the land of nod.

Knee pain

If you have osteoarthritis, you might find that you wake up with stiff knees in the middle of the night. Kids and teenagers often experience knee pain at night, that have been dubbed ‘growing pains.’ They feel like a painful throbbing in the knee or leg region, but there’s no evidence it’s related to growing. Doctors think that because kids are more likely to be running, jumping and playing all day, that it’s a side effect of these activities.

Sleeping Positions For Knee Pain

If you suffer from knee pain, try the same sleeping position as hip pain.
  1. Use a pillow under your head.
  2. Lie on your side.
  3. Place a pillow between your knees.

Best Way To Sleep After ACL Surgery

When recovering from an ACL surgery, you can sleep in the position above for knee pain, but make sure to wear your brace while you sleep. You should also flank yourself with pillows to prevent yourself from rolling over in the night.


Ankle pain

If you have a sprained or broken ankle, the trick is to sleep with it elevated. If you have a recliner chair, it may be more comfortable to sleep on that. Otherwise follow these directions:

How to Sleep with a Sprained or Broken Ankle

  1. Stack several pillows under the impacted ankle. Broken bones should be higher than your chest.
  2. Sleep on your back.

Is It Bad To Sleep On Your Stomach?

Here's why sleeping on your stomach is bad for you:

It’s bad for your spine.

Sleeping on your stomach is bad for your back because it creates an unnatural pressure on the middle of your body, putting stress on your back.

You could injure your neck.

Stomach sleeping means twisting your head in an unnatural position for an extended period of time. If you’ve ever woken up with a neck pain, it’s could be because you slept in a position that put extra stress on that area.

Say hello to acne and aging.

Sleeping with your face pressed directly against a pillow causes friction on the skin, causing wrinkles. Breathing into a pillow can cause moisture to become trapped on the surface of your skin. Combined with bacteria that accumulates on pillowcases, this can also cause breakouts. Stuck on your stomach? Here’s how to break that bad sleeping habit:

  • Wear a t-shirt with a pocket, and put a tennis ball in it
  • Prop yourself up with pillows so you can’t easily roll over
  • Reinvent a classic fairytale by taping a frozen pea to your stomach, some sleep scientists think just a small amount of pressure will be enough to wake you up or roll over!

How Your Body Repairs Itself While You Sleep

Energy consumption is lowered.

When we’re not using our energy on daily activities, it can be redirected to other areas of the body that need energy for healing or repair. It also means that we “refuel” for the next day.

Detoxification begins.

According to Chinese medicine, the liver is most effective between 1a.m. and 3 a.m.

Muscle and bone tissue starts to regenerate.

Sleep is a superpower! And like a superhero, your body starts to repair muscle and bone tissue while asleep. Levels of adrenaline and corticosteroids decline while we sleep, and instead our bodies produce HGH — the human growth hormone. This protein promotes growth while repairing muscles and bones.

Our body fights infections.

While we’re asleep, our immune system is hard at work. Our body pumps tumour necrosis factor (TNF) through our blood while we sleep, a cancer-killing cell signalling protein. Studies have found that sleep deprived adults were more prone to infections.

Hormones regulate.

While we sleep, our body regulates hormone production which can improve your mood, and leave you waking up refreshed.

Skin cell production increases.

Studies have found that sleep deprivation causes wounds to heal more slowly. Conversely, deep sleep speeds up the skin’s metabolic rate, and cell production is increased.

Our heart relaxes.

While we sleep, our heart rate drops to between 10 and 30 beats per minute. This lowers blood pressure and lessens strain on the heart and circulatory system.

We lose weight.

When you get less than seven hours of sleep, your ghrelin and leptin hormones are impacted. These hormones control your feelings of hunger and fullness. This is why you’re likely to skip the gym and rely on high-carb-high-sugar foods to get you through the day when you’re tired.

The Best Sleeping Positions For Pain And Injuries

sleeping positions for injuries infographic

Edited: 09/13/2019