When the weather turns cooler like it has this week I have more patients mentioning how their neck felt fine when they went to bed yet hurts so much when they woke up in the morning. There are a couple of reasons for that, and the first of these reasons relates to sleep posture. Your posture while you are asleep is just as important as your posture when you are awake. Just like when we’re awake, the best sleep posture places the head and neck in a neutral position – you sleep in a position that would have your head looking straight ahead and balanced over your both your shoulders and hips if you were upright. This position reduces the stresses placed on the upper back and the back of the neck, allowing these tissues to heal while you sleep. These tissues are typically stressed during the day due to the amount of time we spend looking down at things like the computers on our desks, smartphones and tablets etc…, and sleeping with a pillow that pushes your head up too high or lets your head sink down too low aggravate these tissues instead of helping them to heal during the night.
The second reason people have more neck pain this time of year is the weather. People will open the windows before they go to bed when we have “good sleeping weather” and fall soundly asleep. We sleep better with the cooler temperatures we have this time of year. As the temperature cools both outside and inside we have a tendency to curl up to conserve body heat, and this puts more stress on the tissues that were stressed earlier in the day. The problem isn’t bad enough to wake most people up, but it is bad enough for people to notice the difference when they wake up and wonder what happened to my neck during the night.