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How To Keep Your Shoulders Down While Sleeping

Do you know what position you sleep in? Many of us don’t think about our sleeping posture, but our sleep position can affect our waking lives much more than we think — especially if our go-to position is unhealthy and unaligned, like with your shoulders up around your neck.

Supporting your neck and keeping your spine in alignment is a must while you sleep. Poor sleep posture can cause lumbar and cervical back problems during daily life (Cary, Jacques, and Briffa, 2021), so ensuring you’re sleeping properly can help you reduce pain and increase comfort.

One bad sleep habit is sleeping with your shoulders up or your hands above your head. That’s right, that age-old comfortable position might not be suitable for your back health. This article reviews how to train yourself to keep your shoulders down while sleeping and why healthy sleep posture is crucial. Let’s dive straight in.

How Should Your Shoulders Be When Sleeping

If you’ve spent your whole life sleeping with your arms above your head, you might not think there’s anything wrong with this position. However, your shoulders shouldn’t be raised or hunched when you’re in bed.

The best sleeping position for your shoulders is on your back, with your spine in a neutral position, as this removes excess pressure and strain from your shoulders. In this position, your shoulders should be parallel, and your arms down by your sides.

You can also sleep in a healthy side sleeping position with your shoulders at a parallel angle. Your hands should also be down by your sides while sleeping on your side. It doesn’t necessarily matter which side you sleep on, but it can be helpful to alternate between sides for maximum comfort. However, if you already have shoulder pain, sleeping on your side may worsen this discomfort (Zenian, 2010).

In general, poor sleeping posture can lead to various issues. For example, a bad sleeping position can lead to a lower sleep quality. Chronic insufficient sleep leaves you with a poor attention span, slow reaction times, fatigue, and other serious impacts (Chattu et al., 2018).

Why Are Raised Shoulders an Issue During Sleep?

Raised arms or shoulders can be an issue during sleeping as they can put extra pressure on your neck or lower back. A sleeping position with raised shoulders is also more likely to leave your spine out of alignment, as you need to twist or lay on your stomach to raise your arms.

Over a long time, sleeping with raised shoulders can lead to certain health risks, such as chronic neck pain or back aches. The spine and neck are left without support at night, leaving them with more pressure and an unnatural posture.

Shoulders are central to good sleep posture. The key aims of a good sleeping position include keeping your neck, head, and shoulders in alignment and without pressure. When your shoulders are raised, these goals aren’t fulfilled, and you’re more likely to wake up with a sore neck after sleeping.

Is Sleeping With Arms Above Your Head Bad?

Sleeping with your arms above your head can be harmful if you're left with shoulder, back, and neck pain. Since this position is unaligned and unsupported, most sleepers experience some discomfort, especially after months or years. So, it is best to avoid sleeping with your arms over your head whenever possible.

How To Keep Shoulders Down While Sleeping?

If you've noticed that you frequently sleep with your hands above your head or your shoulders hunched, you should try to sleep with your shoulders down. Don't worry if you need to make a change. Embracing a healthier sleeping position is easily done with the tips below.

1. Change Your Sleeping Position

Firstly, you can switch to healthy sleeping positions, encouraging lower shoulder placement. For example, back sleeping is the best position for a comfortable night's rest. In this position, you sleep on your back with your arms down and parallel to each other. It is excellent for catching ZZZs without adding extra strain to your neck or spine.

2. Explore Memory Foam Pillows

You can also add supportive or specialized pillows to your nighttime routine. A memory foam pillow offers extra support and pain relief, allowing you to embrace a better sleeping posture without hard work. Memory foam pillows provide many benefits, including pressure point relief, improved sleep quality, and scientific spinal alignment. Just make sure you know how to sleep on a memory pillow before you start using one!

3. Try Shoulder Stretches & Exercises

If you've been sleeping on your shoulders for years, you can also relax your shoulders through stretching and exercises before you sleep. Tension-relieving exercises can reduce overall stiffness caused by incorrect sleeping patterns (Healthline, 2018), making you feel more comfortable in bed. Pair these with an aligned sleeping position for the best results.

4. Combine the Tips For a Better Night’s Sleep

Combining a healthy sleeping posture, professional pillows and bedding, and shoulder exercises will give you better sleep hygiene and a more comfortable and deeper night of sleep. Perfect.

When To Go to a Professional

If you're experiencing intense shoulder pain that won't go away or is getting worse, it's time to visit a healthcare professional.

The tips and tricks in this article help improve your sleeping posture and relieve minor aches and pains. Any pain lasting over two weeks that inhibits your movement, or causes numbness requires immediate medical attention.


Good sleep is crucial for your overall well-being. Not only does it leave you feeling well-rested, but it impacts other parts of your health and life. So, if you've been sleeping with your hands above your head or your shoulders hunched, it's time to resolve this issue to increase your sleep quality and avoid aches and pains in the future.

Want better sleep ASAP? The Original Groove neck pillow is here to relieve pain and improve your sleep hygiene.


  • Cary, D., Jacques, A. and Briffa, K. (2021). Examining relationships between sleep posture, waking spinal symptoms and quality of sleep: A cross sectional study. PLOS ONE, 16(11), p.e0260582. doi:
  • Chattu, V., Manzar, Md., Kumary, S., Burman, D., Spence, D. and Pandi-Perumal, S. (2018). The Global Problem of Insufficient Sleep and Its Serious Public Health Implications. Healthcare, 7(1), p.1. doi:
  • Healthline. (2018). Tight Shoulders: 12 Stretches for Fast Relief and Tips for Prevention. [online] Available at:
  • ‌Zenian, J. (2010). Sleep position and shoulder pain. Medical Hypotheses, 74(4), pp.639–643. doi: