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Best Sleeping Positions for Headaches

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Update: May 17, 2023
6 min read

Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
Best Sleeping Position For Headaches

There’s nothing worse than waking up with headaches or even getting woken up by one after just a few hours in bed. But the migraine often begins or ends with sleep. 

Considering how sleep can start and lull the headaches, there might be other factors relating to sleep with regards to the headaches: Bad sleeping posture

And if you are suffering from headaches, this short article will review the best and worst sleeping position for headaches and provides tips on how to sleep with a headache. So keep reading to find out.

Optimal Sleep Position to Prevent Headaches

Sleep problems and headaches co-occur. For instance, sleep issues can trigger headaches, and headaches can lead to poor sleep. Therefore, to lessen the headache, focus on sleep and how you sleep. 


According to Dr Jared, a physical therapist, “anything that causes increased tension in the neck can lead to a headache.” Furthermore, according to many sports physical therapists, head pain results from somewhere other than the head: the cervical spine.

So, if a sleeper sleeps on their sides, maintaining a good neutral position is essential. The sleeper can use the so-called custom-made arrangements to align the spine optimally. 

For example, certain areas around the neck, hips, and knees are uncomfortable when sleeping on the sides. To alleviate the discomfort, the sleeper can use pillows to support the areas. 
The best sleeping position for tension headaches requires a pillow that is high enough to span the distance between the shoulder and head, which may help alleviate neck tension. A rolled towel, blanket, or small pillow under the hip section to fill the gap and help lift the tension off the spine. Lastly, a pillow between the knees to help maintain the neutral position and to keep the knees from collapsing onto each other.

Back and Stomach Sleepers

Like the side sleepers, the back and stomach sleepers also require keeping the body posture neutral. And according to a 2016 research on the “Effect of pillow height,” pillow height elevation significantly increased the average and peak pressures of the head and cervical regions.

Back sleepers do not require too much support, and sleepers that sleep on their back sometimes use high-lofted pillows, which may contribute to neck pain. Similarly, low pillows can bend the head backward unnaturally.

As mentioned above, an adequate sleeping position for headache is when a sleeper uses a pillow that can keep the neck and spine neutral. In addition, a pillow or two under the knees might help the back into a more comfortable position.

Stomach sleeping is not the best sleeping position for headache— or anything, because it requires the sleepers to turn their heads to the side to breathe; this can strain the neck, spine, and lower back. Hence this sleeping position is not widely recommended.

Can Sleeping Wrong Cause Headaches

Yes, it can. As mentioned before, the tension in the neck can lead to a headache. And if a person has migraines, neck and shoulder problems can make migraine worse, and poor sleep positions might contribute to these issues. 
Sleeping on the stomach with the head turned to one side can strain the neck, spine, and lower back. Thus, as mentioned above, back and side sleeping with a proper spine alignment might be a better migraine sleep position.

6 Sleep Tips for People With Migraine

Besides the optimal sleep position to prevent headaches, there are other ways to tone down the pain. According to research, the treatment of headaches cannot be optimized without attention to sleep hygiene. Following are some tips on how you can maintain proper sleep hygiene.

Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule

Sleep hygiene includes a consistent sleep schedule, and it is crucial to have one because irregular sleep and wake times increase the chances of a migraine attack. 

A consistent sleep schedule also helps maintain the biological clocks in a living thing, known as circadian rhythm. And since circadian rhythm influences the body temperature, eating habits, and digestion, it also helps with getting ample rest, improves sleep quality, and maintains good health.
Furthermore, sleep doctors recommend avoiding daytime naps; this can help a person sleep better at night. They also recommend not napping too close to bedtime and exercising regularly. This also helps improve sleep quality.

Create the Right Sleep Environment: Dark, Quiet, Cool, and Comfortable

Epidemiologic research has shown that environments, such as light, noise, and temperature, can shape and impact sleep patterns. It also reports that people sleep better when their bedroom is optimized for light and noise levels, temperature, and comfort.
The sleep experts also suggest making the bedroom a comfortable sleep environment and using light to your advantage. For example, exposure to light during the day and limiting light exposure in the evening. This will also help maintain the circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality.

Turn off Electronics an Hour Before Bed

A good rule is typically keeping away from devices for the night, an hour or two before bed. And for a good reason.

A study in 2020 reports the association between mobile use and poor sleep quality. It says using a mobile screen for more than or equal to 8 hours per day, or at least 30 minutes before sleeping, can positively impact sleep quality. How? 
The mobile or screen emits blue light; this blue light can decrease the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for the sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. It increases brain alertness and can stimulate cognitive functions.

Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Meals Too Close to Bedtime

Who doesn’t like a good cup of coffee? However, coffee before bedtime can disrupt sleep. Although no studies have investigated the effects of a given dose of caffeine taken at different times before sleep, experts recommend refraining from caffeine intake close to bedtime. 

When talking about stimulating drinks, according to a study, alcohol can have either a stimulating effect that disrupts sleep or a sedating effect that induces sleep. Stimulating effects are at low doses, and sedating effects occur at high doses.
Similarly, nighttime eating, particularly before bed, can adversely affect health. It can cause overweightedness, abdominal obesity, impaired glucose tolerance, and decreased kidney function. Moreover, avoiding food before bedtime is a widely accepted sleep hygiene practice.

Practice a Relaxation Technique

Although the exact cause of migraines is unknown, they’re thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. Hormonal, emotional, physical, dietary, environmental and medicinal factors can cause migraines.
According to study reports, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, aromatherapy, and yoga, help manage the negative mood and emotions like stress which is often associated with migraines and headaches. And the study concludes that stress reduction led to reduced headaches.

Be Cautious About Sleep Aids

The associated symptoms or side effects of sleep aids include drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, and headaches. And though sleep aids may help with disorders or headaches, they are only for short-term use.

When to See a Doctor

If your headaches aren’t settling with the simple measures outlined above, you are constantly waking up with headaches and migraines. Contact your healthcare provider instead of getting an over-the-counter medication. 

They can help direct the cause of the headaches, including lack of sleep, an incorrect eyeglass prescription, stress, loud noise exposure, tight headwear, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, and epilepsy.


As per some aforementioned research reports, sleep problems and headaches co-occur. For example, sleep can start and lull the headaches; sleep issues can trigger headaches and vice versa.

Furthermore, wrong body posture and anything that causes increased tension in the neck can lead to a headache. Whether the person is a side sleeper or a back sleeper, maintaining a good neutral position is important while sleeping. 

Also, remember the treatment of headaches cannot be optimized without attention to sleep hygiene. So, try incorporating the above tips into your lifestyle to maintain proper sleep hygiene.


Should I sleep if I have a headache?

Yes, getting enough good quality sleep can help treat your headache. So, you should try to fall asleep if you are experiencing a headache.

What do I do if my headache won’t go away?

Consult a doctor if you have a headache that won’t go away or if it keeps happening in the same spot on your head. People who experience any of the following symptoms ought to get medical help immediately: a sudden, debilitating headache, headache and stiffness in the neck.

Why do I wake up with a headache?

Many sleep or medical conditions, as well as individual habits, can cause headaches when you wake up. Common causes include sleep apnea, migraines, and insufficient sleep. However, you could also awaken with a headache if you grind your teeth, drink alcohol, or take certain medications.

Is it normal to have a headache every day?

It is NOT typical to experience headaches every day.Most people occasionally experience headaches. However, if you experience headaches more often, you may have chronic daily headaches, which can take many different forms and are typically quite disabling.

When should I be worried about a headache?

You should be worried if your headache won’t go away. Painkillers don’t work, and they make your headache worse. You have a severe headache with throbbing in the front or side of your head; this could be a cluster headache or, less frequently, a migraine. 

Why is my headache worse when lying down?

When you lie down, the blood vessels in your head and neck may constrict, temporarily reducing blood flow and resulting in headaches. In addition, lying down can raise blood pressure in arteries, making headaches worse.


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Written by

Rahul Upadhyay
Content Writer
10 years of experience as a content writer Previously worked as a copywriter for a health journal Ability to write in a variety of formats, including articles, white papers, and clinical trial summaries

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