The City Mattress Blog

sleep tips

Do I Get Shoulder Pain from Sleeping on my Side?


Man in white t-shirt manages shoulder pain while sleeping on his side in bed with white linens and pillows

If you’re experiencing any type of pain or injury, sleeping well can feel out of reach. This is particularly true if your sore body part is where you are resting your weight as you lie in bed, like your shoulder. The question is- is falling asleep difficult because your shoulder hurts or does your shoulder hurt because you’re falling asleep on it?

Your body needs to heal, and this healing is made possible when your body gets the deep sleep it needs. It’s a cycle you cannot afford to break. This is why learning whether or not you’re getting shoulder pain from sleeping on the side is so important.

Why side sleeping can lead to shoulder pain

Research tells us that side sleeping is more common among older adults, as well as those with a higher body mass index (BMI). Both of these groups are more likely to experience joint pain, meaning it’s not simple to decide if the pain is causation or correlation. Sleeping on your side can offer many benefits, especially if you have recurring back pain or sleep apnea. It is also a poor sleep position for those dealing with rotator cuff injuries as sleeping on your side is that can increase your risk of shoulder pain from sleeping. Whether you’re on your left or right side, the corresponding shoulder can collapse into the mattress as well as up toward your neck, creating misalignment and pain the next morning. You’re at a particular risk of this happening if your mattress is too soft. You should be sleeping on a Firm mattress, or at the very least a high-quality, supportive Medium one.

How to get rid of shoulder pain from sleeping

There are many benefits to sleeping on your side, but these will be outweighed by shoulder pain if you’re not careful. Plus, you may simply sleep this way because you find it to be the most comfortable. A few simple tips for side-sleepers include: 

Adjust your sleeping position

Sleeping on your side means lying on your shoulders all night long. Switching positions while you sleep can start to alleviate shoulder pain. This is particularly true if the original reason for your discomfort is shoulder pain from sleeping on the side. If you need help lying on your back for the foreseeable future, piling up pillows or raising the torso on your adjustable bed base can help.

Sleep on a pillow made for side sleepers

We carry well over one hundred new pillow choices, meaning we are sure to have the best pillow for you. Did you know that they make side sleeper pillows? These pillows were designed with people like you in mind! We have several that we recommend to side sleepers, including the Malouf L Shape Gel Dough Pillow, Sleep and Beyond’s myDual Natural Wool Side Sleeper Pillow, Borden Textile Cooling U-shaped Pillow, and Avana Uno Memory Foam Snuggle Pillow for Side Sleepers

Set up your bed for success

As briefly stated above, you should be sleeping on either a Medium or Firm mattress. You’re going to also want to buy some extra pillows. Put a firm pillow between your knees when you’re on your side. This helps to prevent the collapse of your hip and knee joints, thereby creating better alignment in your spine. A spine in the neutral position means you’re not putting too much pressure on your shoulder.

Visit your doctor

If the other two suggestions don’t help, you need to make an appointment to see your primary care physician. He or she can look closely at your shoulder and tell you whether you’re experiencing shoulder pain from sleeping or not. The underlying problem may be something else, like a torn rotator cuff. 

Is your shoulder pain from sleeping or is sleeping on your side simply making the pain worse? Hopefully, this information helps you better understand both the root cause of your shoulder pain as well as how to alleviate it. A good night of sleep is absolutely necessary for your health and happiness, so any type of pain that makes it more difficult to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep all night long needs to be dealt with right away!