How To Sleep On Your Side Without Hurting Your Shoulder?

Is your shoulder ache affecting the daily activities of your life and making it difficult for you to sleep? Follow this article to learn about shoulder pain, remedies to heal the pain, and solutions on how to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder.

Aches on any part of the body can affect your daily activities and make your night sleepless. One of the most common aches is shoulder aches, which can be an indication of a severe injury if left untreated. Hence, one should analyze the aspects related to shoulder pain to ensure that it is not because of any severe injury. Minor aches can be treated at home with certain precautions and treatments.

This article will guide you about the most common shoulder injuries, the reason for their occurrence, and effective preventive measures so that you can resume your activities and know how to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder.

Solutions to shoulder pain from sleeping on the side

The position of your body while you sleep, sit, or walk plays a vital role in aligning the shape of your bones. If you try to adjust your body in the wrong posture, it puts extra pressure on a specific part of the body and ends up in a minor or major injury. For instance, sleeping on the wrong side can exert pressure on the rotator cuff of your body and can result in affecting your joints.

Sleeping in the wrong posture has a greater tendency to harm the body and create discomfort because a human body sleeps for 6 to 8 hours straight. The body being in the wrong position for that long can cause stiffness because of strain on the shoulders. Additionally, there is also the risk of soreness, impingement, and tendinitis as the bones get pressed to the sensitive areas of the shoulder for several hours.

This can cause shoulder pain which will not only affect your everyday activities but will also trouble you at night and make your relaxing time torture.

Ways to prevent hurting your shoulder

Some of the ways through which one can prevent shoulder aches are as follows:

Switch your sides

Although sleeping on the left side is reported to have more benefits, one person with chronic lower back pain relief can sleep on either side for their ease. Health professionals advise not to put pressure only on one side and keep switching sides throughout the night.

Choose the right pillow

Your pillow should support your neck’s alignment with the rest of the body. If you do not stay aligned to the upper back, it can create extra pressure on the neck and result in extreme pain in the shoulder joint or neck area. Hence, your pillow should provide ample space for your neck and the edge of your shoulder. You can use multiple pillows and provide support to your knees and shoulder to reduce pressure on the joints of the shoulder and knees.

Choose the right mattress

Normally, people prefer a soft cushiony mattress as they find it perfect for relaxing, but such mattresses do not provide much joint support. Your joints are at risk of collapsing throughout the night, which will make you wake up with shoulder and back aches. On the other, a mattress is too firm and stiff as the hardness of the mattress does not support your spine alignment and body shape. Hence, an ideal mattress should have a perfect balance of firmness and softness.

Watch the overall posture of your body

Many people sleep on their sides, but their posture is not correct, so they put extra pressure on their body parts and end up injuring them. Hence, one should know the correct posture to protect himself from unwanted shoulder pain. After you sleep on either of two sides, keep the arms and hands below your neck, parallel to the sides. Furtherly, you need to make sure that the ears are in line with your shoulders while the chin is not tucked in your chest but in a neutral position. You can support your knees with pillows to avoid the risk of knee joint collapsing.

Benefits of sleeping on the side

Sleeping on your side can benefit your body in the following ways:

Improves your gut health:

Sleeping on your side helps your body to function better. It improves the process of digestion and decreases the risk of constipation, bloating, and heartburn.

Provides relief from back pain:

All the other sleeping positions can increase spine pressure and result in aches while sleeping on your side can alleviate the back pain, but it is required to switch your sides a few times while you sleep so that one side does not get strained and the balance of the body is evenly managed from both sides. You can also support your leg with pillows to avoid unnatural pressure on the spine area, helping with spine alignment.

Helps to stop snoring:

People who are dealing with constant snoring are advised by doctors to sleep on their sides. When a person sleeps on his back, his tongue blocks the airway, and this obstruction in the respiratory system makes it difficult for him to breathe, so he ends up snoring. However, sleeping on either side does not cause this issue and opens the airway so that you are able to breathe easily.

Helps to develop a healthier brain:

The only time that your brain relaxes is when you sleep. It keeps functioning throughout the day and needs some recharging for further functioning the next day. Waste is expelled from your brain at a higher rate when you sleep on your side as the canal-forming glymphatic system of the brain increases in that position.

Sleeping on the side can help it relax in a healthier way and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Hence, this position is considered to contribute to a healthier brain compared to other sleeping positions.

Recommended posture for pregnant women:

Health professionals advise women to sleep on their sides when they are conceiving because sleeping on the stomach can put pressure on the womb, while sleeping on the back can exert pressure on the back of the body and increase the risk of stillbirth, whereas sleeping on either side reduces the pressure on one area.

The side position makes it easier for the heart to pump blood in all parts of the body and avoids putting pressure on a specific vein so that blood is carried from the heart to the lower body without any interruption.

Where to put arms when sleeping on the side?

People sleeping on their sides opt for three main positions: fetal log and yearner. If you curl up your body on your bed, resembling a fetus in the womb, then it is called a fetal position. The fetal position is the most common sleeping position, as people find it more comfortable. If you extend your legs and arms in a downward direction resembling a log, then it is called a log position.

If you extend only your legs in the downward direction and extend your arms on the sides as if you are trying to reach something, then it is called the yearner position, and it is the least preferred sleeping position.

Can sleeping on your side damage your shoulder?

Every individual must have encountered a situation where waking up from a night of sleep has caused him an ache in the shoulder. Some of the aches have short-term effects in the form of shoulder pain, which goes away on its own after a day or two, but the other aches signal adverse conditions resulting in a long-term injury or physical health problem. Some of the major physical abnormalities arising due to inappropriate sleep posture are as follows:

Shoulder impingement

When we suddenly switch the posture of our body in sleep, the tissues near our rotator cuff get in touch with other nearby tissue or bones in an abrasive manner. This can be caused by bursitis, tendinitis, and bone spurs and ends up in the form of extreme pain in the shoulder.

Neck pain

Sleeping on your side is reported to provide relief from back pain, but it increases the chance of having neck pain. When you sleep on your side, and your jaw area is not in the right position, it can cause strain in the neck area.

Pressure on the heart

Sleeping on your left side can exert unwanted pressure on the heart organ and can bring heart problems in the form of cardiac output and heart rate. This is the reason why heart patients are advised not to sleep on their left side.

Frozen shoulder

When the tissue around your shoulder joint, called the shoulder capsule, becomes thick and stiff that it gets difficult for a person to even move, it is called a frozen shoulder. The synovial fluid required to keep the joint area lubricated does not reach there, and it further causes pain and stiffness for a few days.

Shoulder bursitis

When the fluid-filled sac called bursae (protects the rotator cuff tendons) in our body gets inflamed, this condition is called shoulder bursitis. Although bursae are located in different parts of our body, the shoulder area is most likely to get affected due to uneven posture. One can experience redness, stiffness, and inflammation in the shoulder with shoulder bursitis.

Rotator cuff injury

When your body’s rotator cuff’s tendons get inflamed or partially damaged, then it is called a rotator cuff injury. If a person with a rotator cuff injury sleeps on the injured area, there is a risk of it getting worse, resulting in pain and stiffness. Hence, it is required to be extra careful with your shoulder while sleeping so that it does not make it worse.


It is mostly caused in older people because as you grow old, your body becomes weaker, but it can occur at any age as a result of a severe injury. When your shoulder’s cartilage deteriorates and is damaged then, the condition leads to osteoarthritis. It affects the function of your shoulder.

How to sleep on your side properly?

There are three main postures that the human body prefers to sleep in: sleeping on the back, sleeping on the front, and sleeping on the side. Many people prefer to sleep on their stomachs. It is called sleeping on your front. It can put your body in an awkward position, putting pressure on your neck and lower back. When a person sleeps on his stomach, all his weight is on the stomach, and his shoulders either need to be in the upward direction or downward direction.

It might not feel comfortable to put your shoulders in the downward direction while putting them in the downward direction puts strain on the back and neck. That is why health specialists advise people to avoid this position, as your spine is not aligned properly, and it can lead to aches in the morning when you wake up.

Another sleeping position that people find comfortable is sleeping on their backs. It gives more ease to the arms and decreases the risk of strain and damage. It keeps the spine of your body aligned and reduces pressure to help you deal with chronic conditions.

If you put your arms in the upward direction, there can be a strain on the tendons of your rotator cuff, so it is recommended to keep the arms at your sides. However, keeping on the sides does not refer to keeping the arms on your side always as it can cause stiffness so one can spread the arms and legs. In this way, your body weight is distributed and reduces the chance of pressure building.

The last position to sleep is sleeping on one’s side. Sleeping on your side is a favorable position, but this posture can increase the risk of strain exertion on your body as you put all your weight on the upper part of your body, specifically on the shoulder joint. This problem arises mostly when the mattress or pillow is not providing adequate pressure relief. Your mattress should not be too soft nor too hard but balanced enough to provide relief from the pressure. It can result in inflammation, soreness, and shoulder damage.

Another way to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder is to lie on the other shoulder and put the aching shoulder towards the ceiling. After directing it to the ceiling, place your pillow in the armpit of the injured shoulder to hold it slowly in the upward direction.

I slept on my shoulder wrong. How to fix it?

Some of the remedies that can help you sleep with shoulder pain are listed below:

Change your sleeping position

It is mostly advised to switch sides when you are sleeping, as sleeping on one side can put irresistible pressure on one side of the body and cause inflammation or soreness. However, if one side of your shoulder aches, you need to relieve it and make sure that you are sleeping on the other side until it heals back. As you will be unable to switch to the other side, you can turn on your back instead of putting pressure on one side or the injured side. In this way, the weight of the body gets distributed evenly.

Shoulder exercises

There are a few exercises that can help you heal your shoulder faster. These exercises are called strengthening exercises, such as rotator cuff strengthening and upper extremity strengthening. You can practice stretching and releasing exercises. The stretching exercise can help your body increase the flexibility in your shoulder joint, while the neck-releasing exercises can release the tension in your neck area.

In severe aches, one should consult a physiotherapist before practicing any exercise. He can teach you suitable exercises to regain shoulder movement and ease pain, but one must be consistent and determined to follow the therapist’s instructions for quick healing.

Heat and ice packs

Heating and icing are widely used methods of relieving pain in the body. However, one should consult doctors before opting for either of the methods, as not every shoulder pain should be treated with ice packs; osteoarthritis pain can be relieved through heat packs, and ice packs can be beneficial for compressing swollen shoulders, numbing pain, and alleviating inflammation.


Doctors can prescribe suitable medications after analyzing your shoulder condition. There are anti-inflammatory medicines that can help you reduce shoulder pain. Some of the most commonly used medicines for shoulder pain include ibuprofen and aspirin, but in case of severe pain, your health professional will provide other stronger anti-inflammatory drugs.

Surgical ways

If a frozen shoulder or soreness on your shoulder does not heal after a few days, the doctor can suggest other surgical treatments. Those treatments include steroid injections, shoulder manipulation, and surgery. Steroid injections into the shoulder joint can reduce the pain and soreness so that the shoulder can gain mobility.

In shoulder manipulation, the doctor will numb your shoulder so that you feel no pain and move it in a different direction to release the tissue. If neither of these procedures works, the doctor will go for surgery to remove scar tissues from the joint.

Sides according to the health condition

There are certain conditions that require you to refrain from one side. Some of the sleep sides determining your health condition are as follows:


Doctors advise pregnant women to sleep on the sides only and avoid sleeping on the back and stomach, but it should be kept in mind sleeping on the left side is more beneficial as it helps in pumping blood. It increases the blood flow between different organs of the body and does not put unnecessary pressure on the liver. However, one can not always sleep on the left side, so side switching is also encouraged so that one side does not get all the pressure.

Heart patients:

People who have undergone heart failure are recommended to sleep on their right side as putting pressure on the left side can affect the functioning of the heart and increase the risk of discomfort.


People experiencing Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are recommended to never sleep on their back as it can increase the occurrence of reflux. They should sleep on their left side so that the risk of heartburn decreases as acid reflux episodes are reduced.

When to see a doctor for shoulder pain?

Most shoulder pains are not severe and can heal with preventions and remedies, but if your shoulder pain is severe and interrupts your daily activities for weeks, then you may need to see a doctor. You should notice the duration of your shoulder ache.

If it extends more than two weeks, you hear snapping or clicking noises from the shoulder, have difficulty sleeping, or there is a visible swelling that does not go away in a few days. Any of the aforementioned conditions can be an indication of severe injury, and only a professional doctor can help you heal your shoulder in that case.


Sleeping in the wrong posture can lead to several shoulder problems, including soreness, numbness, and rotator cuff injury, which can end up in extreme shoulder pain for many days. This shoulder pain disrupts all your life activities, including sleeping, so an individual should make sure that his posture is supporting the affected area and easing the pain.

There are some remedies that can provide relief from shoulder pain, but along with all the remedies, one should make sure that the sleeping posture is not exerting any extra pressure on the aching part. The use of suitable mattress and pillow support can also help you sleep comfortably with a shoulder ache.