5 Tips for Sleeping Well with a Broken Neck

bed coversA while ago, I broke my neck while playing baseball with my kids. (Yes, I’m just that good.) In the time that I’ve been healing from my injury, I have made several observations about changes I can make to positively impact my comfort, health, and happiness. In particular, I have tried to master sleeping well with a broken neck.

Many people have difficulties sleeping as it is. Frequently, I have people concerned about whether I can sleep with my neck brace. Let me tell you, there was a learning curve, but I feel like I’ve mastered it.

Additionally, I’ve tried to make my tips universal, so you don’t have to have a broken neck to benefit from these tips.

Sleeping Well With a Broken Neck

1. Relax your shoulders away from your ears.

As your shoulders tense, they will push against the neck brace. This will push against your jaw and create a mild traction for your cervical spine. This will hurt.

As you feel your shoulders tense and raise toward your ears, slide them down. Rock side to side so that you can get your shoulder blades in the correct neutral position on your back. When your shoulder blades are slightly pinned on your back, they will be less likely to raise and become a problem.

2. Plan for comfortable sleeping on your back.

Doctors say that it’s best for people to sleep on their backs. With a broken neck, back sleeping is definitely your best option. Since this will be your main sleeping posture, come up with some ideas of ways you can change positions but still be on your back.

For example, you might work on bending one or both knees. Right after I broke my neck, this was my preferred modification. I was so tired that my feet stayed firmly anchored while I slept. My bent knees were enough of a change that my body could easily sleep this way.

You might also think of having pillows as props. For me, pillows tend to be an obstacle, so I didn’t go this route.

3. Make sure you have the correct pillow for your sleeping style.

If you are stable enough that you think you could sleep on your side, make sure you have a pillow plan. For example, back sleepers need a very thin pillow. With this sleep style, you’re really just looking for something to support your cervical curve in your neck. For side sleepers, though, you need quite a bit more pillow.

To determine how thick your pillow needs to be, roll completely onto your side. Make sure that you are stacked right on top of your shoulder joint. (The tendency is for the shoulder capsule to be slightly in front of the body. This causes misalignment.) Even though your body weight is squarely on your shoulder, you should still be very comfortable and able to move your arm with ease. Keep your head lifted to neutral.

Ideally, the space between your mattress and ear should be filled with an appropriately supportive pillow.

4. Manage your pain medications.

Using pain medications while sleeping can be a double edge sword. On the one hand, you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night with pain. On the other hand, pain medications can cause you to be drowsy during the day.

This may result in long naps. These long naps could prevent you from getting a good, restful night sleep.

I was feeling sluggish during the day and having difficulty sleeping at night, so I quit taking my Tylenol. It was the correct decision. My head cleared, I was productive during the day, and I slept like a champ at night.

5. When you lay down to sleep at night, focus on your task.

You are going to sleep. This is going to help your mind rest and your body heal. In a day, one of the most important things you will do for yourself is sleep. If your mind is racing, focus on the task at hand–you are repairing any damage your day may have done to your body.

What are your tips to get a good night’s sleep? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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