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How to Sleep After Cervical Neck Surgery


Man in nightwear prepares to sleep while sitting at the edge of his bed and holding his neck in discomfort after cervical neck surgery

Surgery on your neck is really surgery on your spine, because your neck is the top seven bones of your spine. If this sounds a little scary to you, you’re not alone. If you have a cervical neck surgery scheduled soon, you no doubt have quite a few questions. You need to give your body time to heal after a surgery this serious. One of the most common questions asked by patients just like you is how to sleep after cervical neck surgery.

For most people, the first few days after spine surgery are going to be a little difficult. You may feel fatigued at times, have some level of pain, and trouble doing simple activities like walking, showering, and yes- sleeping. That doesn’t mean it isn’t important to do. In fact, it’s even more important to get great sleep after surgery than it is during a normal period of your life!

Sleeping Challenges After a Cervical Neck Surgery

The best way to reduce your pain as well as your risk of developing a post-procedural complication is to sleep on your back with a pillow placed under your knees. This provides the cervical and thoracic spine with much-needed support, easing your pain. It’s also important to keep your arms at your sides, if possible. Lifting your arms over your neck and head can put pressure on your shoulders and neck. As well, do not interlock your fingers at the back of your head to increase support. This may cause uneven alignment of the spine and the neck. 

Because an incision was made around the cervical spine, you may be required to use an orthopedic pillow to reduce excessive movement. Additionally, many people find getting out of bed is difficult if they lie all the way down. It may help to either sleep on a recliner or an adjustable bed base with the torso slightly raised.

Sleep Essentials to Make Healthy Sleep Possible

Most patients do not need a neck brace after this surgery. In rare instances, you may be given a neck brace. If you are, you will wear the brace for the majority of the day and when sleeping for the first two weeks after surgery. Most likely, all you will need to sleep well is a few important bedding essentials. This includes:

Supportive Mattress

Sleeping on a supportive mattress is important for everyone, but it’s even more important when you’re recovering from a surgery on your spine. You see, a lumpy, old, or poorly-made mattress doesn’t give your spine the support it needs to stay in alignment. Instead, you will slump down into it and your back will bow unnaturally. This is going to really, really hurt when you’re recovering.

It’s important to note that there is no one “right” kind of mattress to get support. As long as the mattress is well-made from a quality brand sold from a trusted retailer, your mattress can be Firm, Plush, Pillow Top, Latex, Innerspring, or anything else you prefer. The support deep inside has no effect on the comfortable feeling on top!


You’re going to need at least two pillows to sleep on right now, possibly more. You want one for under your head and one for below your knees. Just like your mattress, it’s very important for these pillows to be high-quality and supportive so you may need to buy new pillows. You may want to choose back sleeper pillows since you’ll be sleeping on your back. We also carry specialty pillows that are designed to help. One we recommend after surgery is the Soft-Tex Conforming Memory Foam Knee Support Pillow. This knee support pillow features a gel-infused memory foam construction for advanced pressure relief. With an ergonomic contour design, it delivers comfort for your knees and legs while improving proper spinal alignment. That’s exactly what you need!

Adjustable Bed Base

As briefly mentioned above, an adjustable bed base is great for helping you recover after neck surgery. This is true for two reasons. Number one, sleeping with your torso raised means you will stay on your bed instead of accidentally rolling over once you’re fully asleep. Ouch! As well, it makes it easier to get out of bed on your own if you’re already partially raised up.

What to Avoid When Sleeping After Cervical Neck Surgery

The neck is a sensitive and delicate part of the body with a complex internal structure. That’s why you need to be so careful for the first few weeks during normal activities, even sleeping. One thing to avoid, perhaps above all others, is stomach sleeping. After cervical neck surgery, this sleeping position is dangerous and can cause you to develop neck complications. One reason this position is forbidden is because it has a significant danger of making you dangerously twist your head when in a deep sleep. You want to recover as quickly as possible, so it’s best to avoid this position at all costs.

Sleep is a top priority post-surgery, as it allows your body to heal. Learning how to sleep after cervical neck surgery and actually doing it is key to your recovery. With the right bedding essentials and keeping yourself in the correct position, you’ll be healed up and feeling better than before in no time at all!