What’s the Best Pillow Position for Neck Pain?

December 22, 2022 | Casper Editorial Team

Fact checked by Jonathan Eilenberg, CPE

Do You know what’s a real pain in the neck? Waking up with a pain in your neck. 

If you’ve been routinely waking up with morning neck pain and neck discomfort, you might wonder what can be done to help you feel like your best self at each sunrise. And though you may swear by the way you sleep—back, side, or stomach sleeper—it might be time to reassess your pillow position and sleeping position alike.

That’s right—your sleeping habits could add to your neck pain or even cause it altogether.1 Fortunately, a quick and simple change, like stacking your pillows or moving them around, could be all that’s standing between you and a pain-free morning.

Sleeping Position: Assess How You Catch Your ZZZ’s 

Before we jump into the best pillow position for neck pain relief, let’s start by taking a closer look at how you’re lying down to rest.

Fun fact: Side sleeping is the most popular sleep position, with 60% of people getting their beauty rest laying on one side or another, while the second most popular position is laying on your back.1 But which one is better for your neck? The best sleeping position is one that keeps your spine and hips aligned, but that’s easier said than done.1 Let’s lay out the facts:

  • Back sleeping – Sleeping on your back is a tough sleep position to compete with because it really does keep your whole body aligned and your weight evenly distributed.1 This makes it the ideal position to prevent chronic neck pain. It’s also a great position for anyone suffering from congestion or back pain.
  • Side sleeping – This position comes in second to back sleeping when it comes to aligning your neck. However, sleeping on your side is actually great for promoting spine health (when done right) and may also decrease heartburn and snoring.1 And if you’re someone who suffers from acid reflux or sleep apnea, this position could help cut back on some of those issues as well. 

But how shouldn’t you sleep if you’re hoping to reduce neck pain? Well, there’s one final contender:

  • Stomach sleeping – While it may feel extra comforting, this sleeping position is the least popular overall—and is generally worse for your neck and spine.1 You must twist your neck to the side in order to breathe, automatically pushing your spine out of alignment and straining neck muscles. Furthermore, your back will be less supported overall. If you’re hoping to kick neck pain to the curb and experience better sleep quality, it’s time to get comfy with a different sleeping position. Might we recommend one of the two above?

Next, Position Your Pillow to Banish Neck Pain

Now that you’ve figured out which sleeping position is best for your neck, it’s time to learn how to position your pillow. Because each sleeping position causes your body to align with your bed and pillow in a different way, the best small pillow positioning for neck pain relief will also be a bit different for each.

So, how to sleep with pillows? Here’s the proper pillow position for sleeping in different positions:

  • Sleeping on your side – If sleeping on your side is how you dream sweet dreams, but neck pain has you counting sheep, check that your pillow position is doing what it needs to be doing. When sleeping on your side, your pillow has the important job of keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your body.2 Otherwise, it’ll be taking on excess weight and creating some serious neck issues. A larger pillow or stack of pillows can help keep your neck muscles relaxed and your cervical spine in line with the rest of your torso, away from the mattress, and out of the stress zone.3 Be careful not to raise your head too high — this can also result in neck pain!
  • Sleeping on your back – If you’re sleeping on your back, you’re already one step ahead in reducing neck pain. But your pillow position can take you even further towards relief. Try smaller pillows tucked beneath your neck and back, which can help keep your spine and neck better aligned.
  • Stomach sleepers – For stomach sleepers, you should also place a pillow underneath your stomach or pelvis to help align your spine when you sleep and provide neck support (and may even prevent shoulder pain and chronic neck pain).

Another factor to check out is where your hands are falling. It’s recommended that back sleepers rest their hands along their sides or on their chest to help reduce neck pain.3 

Aside from being conscious of your sleep position, you should also use the right pillow. A thin pillow might not provide enough neck support, while a thick pillow might also cause stiff neck and even chronic pain.

So Long, Neck Pain: More Tips to Help You Find Sweet Dreams

If you’ve cleaned up your sleeping habits and polished up your pillow position—but you’re still waking up feeling like the Hunchback of Notre Dame—there are a few other things you can try to help reduce neck pain creeping in as you sleep, such as trying different types of pillows:

  • Try a down feather pillow – Swapping out your thin pillow for a taller feather pillow can help reduce neck pain, as it can mold to the shape of your neck to give it exactly the support it needs.2
  • Reduce stress – Stress can play a pretty big part in nightly neck pain, so try adding in some meditations or breathing techniques before you hit the hay.3 
  • Try a memory foam pillow – Similar to a feather pillow, a foam pillow that is the right height for your body will create even more support and help keep your neck and spine aligned.2 
  • Stretch it out – Before you go to bed and after you wake up, try giving your neck a proper stretch. Tilt your head side to side and take a few shoulder rolls. This small habit could make a big difference.

For Better Sleep, Casper Has Your Back—and Neck

It’s amazing how much the way you position your body at night can help you feel better during the day. Whether you’re a die-hard side sleeper or simply need a little extra support, the right pillow positions could give you a world of relief. 

At Casper, we’ve made it our mission to help you find your best sleep yet. From an entire range of pillows designed to support your head and neck to mattresses made to take your sleep game to a whole new level, we’re here to help you get some serious shut-eye.

Wake up feeling like a whole new you with Casper. 


  1. Sleep Foundation. Best Sleeping Positions. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleeping-positions
  2. Harvard Health Publishing. Say “good night” to neck pain. https://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/say-good-night-to-neck-pain
  3. Sleep Foundation. Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleeping-positions/best-sleeping-position-for-neck-pain