Uncomfortable in bed? Maybe The Good Sleep Expert can help

Woman uncomfortable in bed
Just as there are good sitting and standing positions, there is also good sleep posture. Some of us may feel comfortable only in one position, whereas others will choose to sleep in many different positions.

Whatever your preference I always recommend keeping the body in the correct mid-line position.

By doing this you will minimize any stresses and strains on your neck back and the rest of your body and you will maintain the natural curves of the spine.

E.g. Just as sitting on the phone with your head ‘cocked’ to one side or other will cause you to compress structures on one side of the neck and stretch and strain the other side, so will sleeping with a pillow that is too low for you. The difference is that you will be doing this for 6-8 hours as opposed to the length of a phone call.

Getting your sleep position right so you’re not uncomfortable in bed will minimize:

  • Neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain
  • Snoring
  • Heartburn
  • Numbness in hands

Tips for Sleeping Positions

On your side-the most common sleeping position
  • Make sure that the neck is in the correct midline position by referring to our grid
  • Finding a pillow that properly fills the gap between the shoulders and the neck will help to prevent any neck strain or headaches.
  • Keep the neck aligned with the rest of the body
  • If you have an ‘hour-glass’ figure ensure that you are on a softer mattress or buy a mattress topper
  • Ensure that your pillow is not too high or too low, as this can strain the muscles and nerves in the neck, leading to head and neck pain in the morning.
  • If you experience lower back pain, it’s especially important to make sure the neck and spine are in a straight line and there is no twisting at the hips and pelvis
  • Get your partner to spot you or take a photograph in this position and look at their spine and neck they should be in a straight line.
  • A pillow propped between the knees can help to keep the spine in alignment and prevent unwanted twisting of the hips and pelvis
  • When reading or relaxing try a butterfly pillow which will give your neck additional support
On your back

Man uncomfortable in bedThis is my favourite sleeping position and is ideal if you suffer with aches and pains as your body is in the mid-line position. It isn’t ideal for everyone as it may aggravate snoring or sleep apnoea particularly if you are overweight or suffer with other medical conditions

  • Make sure that your head is in the correct mid-line position
  • Ensure that your head is not pushed too far forwards or backwards
  • If you have good posture try out a slim pillow
  • Place a pillow under your knees to help your lower back relax
  • A big pillow could be giving you headaches
  • If you are a snorer try our snore soothe pillow which will position your head in a better position and so help open your upper airwards and help reduce snoring
On your front

This is my least favourite sleeping position as it throws up neck and back pain, numb hands as well as teeth grinding. It will however help snoring and for some of you it is the only way to sleep

  • Too many pillows will affect the neck position and put it out of alignment with the spine.
  • Try a slim pillow which will prevent your neck from being forced backwards
  • Try placing a pillow under your chest so as to minimize the rotation of your spine
  • Try to not over rotate your neck or spine as this will cause too much strain resulting in pressure on the nerves
  • Try sleeping on a pillow placed lengthwise under your stomach to your shoulders, as this can help to reduce the arching of the back.

Uncomfortable in bed case study


Mrs JS, Lowestoft had been uncomfortable in bed and experiencing neck pain when she woke in the morning; her usual sleeping position was on her front with two pillows. After analysing her sleep position, Sammy had the following advice

Just as there is good standing posture, there is good sleeping posture, and this can make all the difference between a good and a bad night’s sleep. The key to a peaceful sleep may be as simple as a subtle adjustment to your sleeping position, your pillows or a simple assessment of your bed.

I see many patients who suffer with painful necks as a result of sleeping in an awkward position.

Most of us give little thought to the position in which we sleep; nor do we know what good sleeping positions are. In fact, falling asleep in the wrong position can be as damaging as walking around with a permanent slouch. If, for example, your head is turned to one side throughout the night as it is when you lie on your front, this will cause an asymmetrical strain on the neck, resulting in pain in the neck and possibly the arm, too, as well as nerve-related symptoms such as numbness or pins and needles.

Lying on your front has the potential to cause lots of problems: resting with your head twisted at a 90-degree angle to your torso can cause stiffness and cricks. Placing it on two pillows will exacerbate this further, compressing the nerve bundles in the neck.

When you’re lying on your front, try to take the strain off your twisted neck by slightly raising one side of your body with a pillow for support. This is a subtle adjustment and known as a quarter turn. Alternatively, place the pillows under your chest rather than your head. By doing so, you will twist your neck less and again reduce the strain. Another consideration is to use thinner pillows, or just the one.

The ideal sleeping position is on your side. This allows the structures of the back, the discs, muscles and ligaments to adopt an optimal position, with the natural curves of the spine being maintained. Placing your arms in front of you will prevent pins and needles. You may wish to position yourself at a quarter turn so that you are not squashing your shoulders together.

While lying on your side, a pillow placed between bent knees can be helpful to support the hips. If you have a soft bed, or an hourglass figure, place a pillow under the waist to support the midriff and back.

The support provided by our beds is a crucial factor in protecting us from physical discomfort. If you sleep in a bed that is too soft, you may put an asymmetrical strain on your spine.

The ideal mattress should keep your spine in alignment and distribute pressure evenly throughout the body. Men and women often have different mattress needs depending on their weight, shape, sleep position and night-time temperature. If you share a bed, consider getting one that has split mattresses. In addition, replace your mattress if it is more than 10 years old. Its structure will have deteriorated by up to 75 per cent, causing sleep disruption and potential damage to the spine. Research shows that buying a new bed is more effective than sleeping pills and can improve a night’s sleep by as much as 42 minutes.

If you’re uncomfortable in bed, hopefully the above tips and advice will help, please let us know how you get on.