22 May 2024
Learn how to relieve aching shoulders when sleeping. Find practical tips and tricks to alleviate pain and improve your sleep quality. Wake up refreshed and pain-free!

You’re no stranger to the restless nights caused by those pesky aching shoulders. Tossing and turning, trying desperately to find a comfortable position, only to be met with frustration and discomfort. But fear not, for there are simple and effective ways to alleviate the pain and ensure a peaceful night’s sleep. In this article, we’ll explore some practical tips and tricks that will help you find relief and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to take on the day. So say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to a restful slumber with these helpful techniques for relieving shoulder pain when sleeping.

How to Relieve Aching Shoulders When Sleeping

Common Causes of Aching Shoulders When Sleeping

Sleeping Position

The position you sleep in can have a significant impact on the health of your shoulders. One common cause of aching shoulders during sleep is sleeping on your side with your arm tucked under your pillow or body. This position puts excessive pressure on the shoulder joint and can lead to discomfort and pain. Another problematic sleeping position is on your stomach, as it forces you to twist your neck and shoulders, straining the muscles and causing discomfort.

Wrong Pillow

Using the wrong pillow can also contribute to aching shoulders when sleeping. A pillow that is too high or too firm can elevate your shoulder, causing misalignment and leading to pain. On the other hand, a pillow that is too soft or lacks support can cause your shoulder to sink in, causing strain on the muscles and joints.

Poor Mattress Quality

The quality and condition of your mattress play a significant role in the health of your shoulders. An old mattress that has lost its firmness and support can lead to improper spinal alignment during sleep. This misalignment can put pressure on your shoulder joints, resulting in pain and discomfort. Additionally, a mattress that is too firm or too soft may not provide adequate support for your shoulders and can contribute to aching when you wake up.

Improving Sleeping Posture

Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back is generally considered the best position for overall spinal alignment. To ensure that your shoulders are in a comfortable and supported position, consider using a pillow that provides adequate support for your neck and allows your shoulders to rest naturally without being elevated.

Side Sleeping

If you prefer to sleep on your side, it is essential to choose a pillow that fills the gap between your shoulder and head, ensuring proper alignment. Placing a pillow between your knees can also help alleviate pressure on your shoulders by maintaining better spinal alignment.

Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on your stomach is not ideal for shoulder health as it can lead to strain and discomfort. However, if you cannot sleep any other way, try using a thin pillow or no pillow at all to reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders.

Choosing the Right Pillow

Pillow Thickness

The thickness of your pillow is crucial in maintaining healthy shoulder alignment during sleep. Ideally, your pillow should be thick enough to support your head and neck while ensuring that your shoulders are not forced into an elevated or sunk-in position.

Pillow Material

The material of your pillow can also affect your shoulder comfort. Memory foam pillows are known for their excellent support and contouring abilities, providing optimal support for your shoulders. Alternatively, down pillows can offer a soft and comfortable sleep surface, but they may lack the necessary support for your shoulders.

Specialized Pillows

There are various specialized pillows available that cater specifically to shoulder pain relief. These pillows usually have a unique design, providing additional support and cushioning for the shoulders. Consider exploring different options such as shoulder pillows or cervical pillows to find the one that best suits your needs.

Identifying Mattress Issues

Mattress Firmness

The firmness of your mattress should be chosen based on your individual preference and needs. A mattress that is too firm can create pressure points and cause shoulder discomfort, while a mattress that is too soft may not provide adequate support. Finding the right balance is essential for maintaining healthy shoulder alignment.

Mattress Age

The age of your mattress can significantly impact its ability to provide proper support for your shoulders. Over time, mattresses can lose their firmness and develop sagging areas, which can lead to shoulder pain. If your mattress is over eight years old or showing signs of wear, it may be time to consider replacing it.

Mattress Support

A mattress with inadequate support can cause your shoulders to sink in or be elevated, leading to discomfort. Look for a mattress that evenly distributes your weight and provides adequate support to keep your shoulders aligned with the rest of your body. Consider trying different mattress types such as memory foam or hybrid mattresses to find the best fit for your needs.

How to Relieve Aching Shoulders When Sleeping

Effective Stretching Exercises

Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder rolls are a simple yet effective exercise to relieve tension in the shoulder area. Sit or stand with a straight back and gently roll your shoulders forward in a circular motion. Repeat this exercise for 10-15 seconds, then switch to rolling your shoulders backward.

Chest and Shoulder Stretch

To stretch your chest and shoulders, stand in a doorway and place your forearms on either side of the door frame. Gently lean forward, feeling the stretch in your chest and shoulders. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, then release.

Upper Back Stretch

To stretch your upper back and shoulders, sit on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Interlace your fingers behind your head and gently lean forward, bringing your elbows toward your thighs. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat as needed.

Neck and Shoulder Release

Sit or stand with a straight back and gently tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear toward your shoulder. You should feel a gentle stretch in your neck and shoulder. Hold this position for 15-20 seconds, then repeat on the other side.

Applying Heat and Cold Therapy

Hot Water Bottle

Using a hot water bottle can provide soothing relief for aching shoulders. Fill a hot water bottle with warm (not boiling) water and place it on your shoulders for 15-20 minutes. The warmth helps to relax the muscles and reduce pain and stiffness.

Warm Compress

Using a warm compress, such as a heated towel or a microwaveable heat pack, can also help alleviate shoulder discomfort. Apply the warm compress to your shoulders for 15-20 minutes, allowing the heat to penetrate the muscles and provide relief.

Cold Compress

If your shoulders are inflamed or swollen, applying a cold compress can help reduce inflammation and numb the area. Wrap a bag of ice or a cold pack in a thin towel and place it on your shoulders for 10-15 minutes. Repeat as needed throughout the day.

Ice Pack

An ice pack can also be used to reduce inflammation and relieve pain in the shoulders. Wrap an ice pack in a thin towel and apply it to your shoulders for 10-15 minutes. Be sure to take breaks between applications to avoid skin damage.

How to Relieve Aching Shoulders When Sleeping

Using Supportive Accessories

Shoulder Brace

A shoulder brace can provide extra support and stability for your shoulders during sleep. It helps to keep your shoulders in proper alignment and reduce strain on the muscles and joints. Choose a brace that is comfortable and adjustable to ensure a proper fit.

Posture Corrector

A posture corrector can help improve your overall posture, which can alleviate shoulder pain caused by poor posture during sleep. These devices gently pull your shoulders back and promote proper alignment. Consult a healthcare professional to find the right posture corrector for your needs.

Mattress Topper

If your mattress is too firm or lacks sufficient cushioning, a mattress topper can help provide extra support and comfort for your shoulders. Look for a topper made of pressure-relieving materials, such as memory foam or latex, to help alleviate shoulder pain.

Modifying Sleeping Environment

Room Temperature

Creating a comfortable sleeping environment is crucial for promoting a good night’s rest and reducing shoulder pain. Aim for a room temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold, as extreme temperatures can cause muscle stiffness and discomfort.

Humidity Level

Maintaining an appropriate humidity level in your bedroom can also contribute to shoulder comfort. Dry air can cause your muscles and joints to become stiff and increase the likelihood of shoulder pain. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air if necessary.

Ambient Noise

Excessive noise during sleep can disrupt your rest and contribute to shoulder discomfort. Consider using a white noise machine or wearing earplugs to block out unwanted noise and ensure a peaceful sleep environment.


Having a dark sleeping environment can help signal your body to produce melatonin and promote deeper, more restful sleep. Use blackout curtains or an eye mask to block out any unwanted light sources and create a conducive environment for shoulder pain relief.

Incorporating Relaxation Techniques


Practicing meditation before bed can help relax both your mind and body, reducing tension and promoting better sleep quality. Find a quiet space, sit or lie down comfortably, and focus on your breathing while letting go of any lingering stress or tension in your shoulders.

Deep Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing exercises can help calm your nervous system and relax your muscles, including those in your shoulders. Take slow, deep breaths, filling your lungs and abdomen, and exhale slowly. Repeat this breathing pattern for a few minutes before bed to promote relaxation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in your body. Start with your toes and work your way up to your shoulders, consciously releasing tension as you go. This technique can help alleviate shoulder pain and promote overall relaxation.

Seeking Professional Help

Physical Therapy

If your shoulder pain persists despite trying various home remedies and lifestyle modifications, it may be beneficial to seek professional help. A physical therapist can assess your condition, provide targeted exercises and stretches, and guide you in improving your shoulder health.

Massage Therapy

Massage therapy can be a valuable tool for relieving shoulder pain caused by muscle tension and tightness. A skilled massage therapist can manipulate the soft tissues in your shoulders, promoting relaxation and reducing discomfort.

Chiropractic Treatment

Chiropractic treatment focuses on aligning the spine and joints to promote overall health and well-being. If your shoulder pain is related to spinal misalignments or joint dysfunction, a chiropractor may be able to provide adjustments and other therapies to alleviate your symptoms.

In conclusion, aching shoulders when sleeping can be caused by various factors such as sleeping position, the wrong pillow, and poor mattress quality. By improving your sleeping posture, choosing the right pillow and mattress, incorporating stretching exercises, applying heat and cold therapy, using supportive accessories, modifying your sleeping environment, incorporating relaxation techniques, and seeking professional help when needed, you can effectively relieve and prevent aching shoulders for a better night’s sleep and improved shoulder health. Remember, everyone’s body is unique, so it may take some experimentation to find the best strategies that work for you.

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