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How to Avoid Shoulder Pain From Sleeping on Your Side


Aoife O.
Mar 11, 2020

In This Article

In this article

Waking up refreshed after a good night’s sleep is one of the most invigorating feelings, you can do anything, you’re energized and looking forward to what the day has in store. Unfortunately, many suffer shoulder pain from sleeping and that joy sparked from a good night’s sleep is rarely felt.

If you’re a side sleeper who experiences shoulder blade pain, then this article is for you. Let’s talk about the causes of your shoulder pain, what you can do tonight to feel better, and what to look for in a side sleeper mattress. Everyone can sleep soundly, especially those suffering shoulder pain at night.

What Is Causing Your Shoulder Pain?

Some of the most common reasons for shoulder pain at night are:

Rotator Cuff Injury

A strain or tear in the tendons, muscles, and shoulder joints of the rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff Injury Symptoms:

  • Deep pain in the shoulder that can feel like a dull ache
  • Pain is more severe when using the affected arm
  • Loss or diminished motion in the affected arm
  • Sleeping on the affected shoulder is impossible

Shoulder Bursitis

Inflammation of the fluid filled sac, bursa, that protects the rotator cuff tendons.

Shoulder Bursitis Symptoms:

  • Pain around the outside tip of the shoulder
  • Pain to the touch
  • Limited range of motion
  • Swelling and redness around the area

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

Shoulder bones impinge on the bursa or tendons causing pain and mobility issues.

Shoulder Impingement Syndrome Symptoms:

  • Constant pain in the arm
  • Pain radiates from the front of the shoulder to side of the arm
  • More painful at night
  • Weakness in the affected arm

Frozen Shoulder

The upper arm, shoulder blade, and collarbone made up your shoulder capsule that is surrounded by soft tissue. In frozen shoulder, the synovial fluid that lubricates the joints diminishes, scar tissue develops and motion becomes limited.

Frozen Shoulder Symptoms:

  • Painful when moving
  • More painful at night
  • Range of motion is limited
  • Pain and stiffness gets worse and can take years to recover

Why Do My Shoulders Hurt When I Sleep?

Shoulder blade pain can be most painful at night while lying still. During the day, you’re distracted by running errands, taking care of family, and working. You don’t have time to think about shoulder pain, perhaps now and then when you attempt to lift something heavy, you’ll feel a twinge of pain. At night there’s nothing to distract you.

Side sleepers enjoy the most favorable sleep position for digestion problems, it eases snoring and acid reflux while aligning the spine. If you’re a side sleeper who is experiencing shoulder pain from sleeping, you’re probably tempted to blame your sleep position.

However, it’s often the mattress that’s to blame for side sleeper shoulder pain. If your mattress doesn’t offer adequate pressure relief, the delicate shoulder areas are put under strain. Shoulder pain at night could be the result of the mattress being too soft. If your mattress is too firm it pushes against your shoulders, aggravating the symptoms further.

Those who sleep on a memory foam mattress tend to complain about muscle stiffness in the morning. Memory foam usually offers little to no pressure relief. You may think a soft memory foam mattress is ideal for side sleeper shoulder pain but it could make it worse.

The shoulders sink into the memory foam, compressing the shoulders to create more discomfort. Shoulder pain from sleeping will dampen your day, can affect your ability to work or do household chores but is there relief from shoulder pain sleeping on either side? Yes, there is.

A mattress that's too soft or too firm for your weight and sleep position can cause nighttime shoulder pain.

What Is the Best Way to Sleep with Shoulder Blade Pain?

Shoulder blade pain could be alleviated by sleeping on your opposite shoulder or sleeping on your back. Put a pillow between or under your knees for added comfort. A pressure relieving mattress such as AirFoam™ provides optimal support and relief from shoulder pain from sleeping.

How to Avoid Shoulder Pain From Sleeping on Your Side

Here's is how to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulders:

Choose a Supportive Pillow for Your Head

Put a supportive pillow under your head to align the spine better and not put any additional strain on your shoulders. Sleeping without a pillow puts a strain in the neck and will make shoulder pain much worse.

Sleep on Your Other Side

Sleep on your opposite side with a pillow behind your back so you don’t roll over in your sleep.

Put a Pillow Between or Under Your Knees

A pillow between your knees, if you’re a side sleeper, will align the hips. A pillow under your knees if you’re a back sleeper will help to support your lower back.

Can Your Sleeping Position Cause Shoulder Pain at Night?

There are many cozy sleep positions you can try tonight that could offer some relief from shoulder pain from sleeping. Alternating sleep positions could help your recovery from shoulder pain, allowing your tendons some relief from stress.

Upgrade to a Supportive Mattress

Sleeping on an old and uncomfortable mattress could be exacerbating your shoulder pain at night. The best mattress for shoulder pain, such as our hybrid mattress for side sleepers, offers superior pressure relief that supports your body weight and comfortably aligns your spine and hips.

What Is the Best Mattress to Avoid Shoulder Pain?

AirFoam™ for side sleeper shoulder pain: AirFoam™ mattresses are made of innovative and modern materials that offer superior pressure relief that no other mattress can compete with.

The best mattress for shoulder pain will be soft yet supportive, especially in the hip and shoulder areas. AirFoam™ is designed with side sleepers in mind, the delicate hips and shoulders are gently supported by billions of tiny air bubbles in the foam.

AirFoam™ also sleeps cooler than memory foam because air can circulate around and through the foam, and it has a temperature-neutral formula. It’s supportive, pressure relieving, durable and comfortable. Especially for those suffering shoulder pain from sleeping.


Shoulder pain at night can be resolved with medical treatment and making some changes to your sleep hygiene. Try these tips and gain some relief from pain while sleeping better tonight.

Disclaimer: Nolah does not provide medical advice. All resources on the Nolah blog, including this article, are informational only and do not replace professional medical counsel. Talk to your doctor about any health, mental health, or sleep-related issues.


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