Shoulder Pain From Sleeping On Your Side: Causes & How To Relieve It

shoulder pain from sleeping on side

Have you ever tried to get to sleep, but were plagued by sudden body aches? Or, do you just have trouble getting comfortable at night? 

Many people who sleep on their side suffer from sleep-related shoulder pain, and there's a pretty good reason why. 

In this article, we're going to break down why you're likely experiencing shoulder pain and what you can do to make sleeping with shoulder pain as painless as possible.

Before we dig into this issue more, be old is your mattress? A bad is the #1 cause of pain while you sleep.

If you're more interested in solving the issue, rather than dwelling on the cause, it may be time to upgrade your mattress to one that's designed to alleviate pain that side sleepers endure, like the GhostBed 3D Matrix

According to GhostBed's owner, Marc Werner:

"Side sleepers will enjoy the benefits of a soft mattress for the same body-contouring qualities, as it molds around the shoulders and hips, holding them in alignment with the spine to provide a restful sleep"

While this mattress is a sizable investment, it's designed to help relieve pain for side sleepers, and can even be financed at interest rates as low as 0%, and GhostBed allows you to try it in your home for 101 nights.

If the mattress isn't the issue, keep on reading to find out more about shoulder pain from sleeping on your side.

Does Side Sleeping Cause Shoulder Pain?

Shoulder pain, and other types of pain too, come from a variety of sources. Generally speaking, sleeping on your side doesn't cause shoulder pain, but it can make a less apparent injury feel worse. 

Side sleeping can cause some shoulder pain.

Sleeping on your side puts additional stress on areas like your shoulder. Your shoulders aren't designed to carry the brunt of your body weight, which is why some people experience shoulder pain from sleeping on their side. 

In fact, there was a recent study that found that 67% of the people who participated had shoulder pain that lined up with the side they most often slept on. 

While this evidence may support the theory that sleeping on your side causes shoulder pain, we can't jump to conclusions just yet. 

If you're on this article, your shoulder pain is severe enough for you to notice and to want to take action. Before you go blaming your old mattress, or your sleeping position, consider some other common causes of shoulder pain.

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Common Causes of Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain doesn't just pop up overnight (unless you had a really rough night). Normally, shoulder pain comes from an injury, or overuse of your shoulder. Here are a few examples of how you can injury your shoulder. 

Rotator Cuff Injury

Rotator cuff injuries are fairly common, and can often be overlooked. They don't always happen during an accident. Your rotator cuff is a collection of tendons that surrounds your shoulder joint that helps keep your shoulder securely in its socket.

A rotator cuff injury happens when these tendons become inflamed. This can happen for a variety of reasons but is most commonly associated with a sports injury. Here are the common ways people injure their rotator cuff.

  • Sports injury - By far the most common, a rotator cuff injury from sports can happen from a high impact event, overuse, or overextension. 
  • Overuse - If you're in a sport like rowing that requires a lot of shoulder use, a rotator cuff injury can happen slowly over time, and often last throughout a good portion of your life if left untreated. 

Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Injury

  • Dull pain deep in your shoulder
  • Pain that gets worse when you do certain activities that involve using your shoulder
  • Loss of motion or stiffness
  • Pain while sleeping

If you sleep on the same side as a potential rotator cuff injury, your best bet is to train yourself to sleep in another position. The best position for your spine is to sleep on your back. So, if you're going to relearn how to sleep, start by trying to get comfortable sleeping on your back. 

If you can't seem to change how you sleep, you may need to upgrade your mattress or add a mattress topper for side sleepers to help. 

Shoulder Bursitis

Bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that help cushion your joints. They're found all around your body, including in your shoulder. Bursitis is when these sacs become inflamed. 

Similar to a rotator cuff injury, Bursitis comes from a variety of sources but is generally caused by overuse. 

  • Overuse - If you're in a sport like rowing that requires a lot of shoulder use, bursitis injury can occur. 

Unlike a rotator cuff injury, Bursitis doesn't always hurt all the time, and the pain is very localized. You generally feel the most pain when using your shoulder or when there's pressure applied, such as when you're lying down. 

Solutions Shoulder Pain When Sleeping On Your Side

Sleeping on your side is perhaps the worst sleep position if you're prone to shoulder pain. When you sleep on your side, your shoulders and your hips support most of your body weight. 

Not only that, but side sleepers tend to curl up while sleeping too. This misaligns your spine and can cause more body pain as you age. 

What Is The Best Way To Sleep If You Have Shoulder Pain?

The best way to fix shoulder pain from sleeping on your side is to train yourself to get comfortable sleeping in a different position. 

  • Sleep in a different position, ideally avoiding sleeping on the bad shoulder
  • Use a pillow to adjust positions
  • Stay active during the daytime
  • Practice good sleep habits

Sleeping on your stomach can help alleviate pain, but many people find this sleep position uncomfortable, and it's the least common sleeping positions and one of the worst for your back. 

The best way to sleep to remove shoulder pain is to sleep on your back, with proper support for your neck, lower back, and legs. 

If you get comfortable sleeping on your back, opt for a softer mattress or invest in a good mattress topper that helps cradle your body and provides soft support in these areas. 

Related Content: How to fall asleep after cervical neck surgery 

Get Matched With Your Perfect Mattress

We know how hard it is to find a mattress just by reading information online. 

Thats why we created a mattress finder quiz to help pair you with the perfect mattress for your sleep style and comfort preferences

What If You Can Only Sleep On Your Side?

If you can't bring yourself to change sleep positions, we highly suggest you invest in a mattress topper for side sleepers. These types of mattress toppers are generally soft and supportive and can help alleviate some of the shoulder pain associated with sleeping on your side. 

If you have pain while sleeping, let us know! We may be able to recommend a good product to help you sleep better. But in the meantime, make sure your shoulder pain isn't another underlying issue and try out some of this advice to help alleviate some of the pain. 

8 thoughts on “Shoulder Pain From Sleeping On Your Side: Causes & How To Relieve It”

  1. I sleep on side and back. problem is lately I wake up on my side with pain also in the morning when I get up I have shoulder pain. Now I know my age has a lot to do with it but I am tired of it. We did buy a new bed that we can raise up or down but the sides are not separate (mistake) as I could probably solve the issue if I could go up as far as I want also raise the bottom to where comfortable then going on side would be hard to do. Anyways I was hopping there was something I never thought of to help with this problem, thank you

    1. Hi Harold, did you happen get a medium or medium-soft mattress? The biggest thing with people in your situation is not enough pressure relief when you sleep on your side. If you got a medium-firm mattress, that could be a lot of the issue. If your mattress is still new, but too firm, you may want to try a soft topper to see if that helps. Check out this post about mattress toppers for side sleepers.

  2. It seems strange but my shoulder pain at night gets worst when I sleep on the opposite side from the painful shoulder. Right shoulder pain. Left shoulder no pain. Sleep on left side right shoulder aches. Sleep on right side where shoulder hurts, no pain from laying on hurt shoulder. Is that strange?

  3. Have to sleep on side due to 2A/A in 2000. My shoulder’s are starting to hurt so bad. I use muscle rub, ibuprofen, good pillow position. & mattress is softer one. Any other ideas?

    Thank you, in advance
    Marlene Christ

  4. I have a problem sleeping on my right side ever since I did a surgery I had a teared tendon now I’m forced to sleep on my back because when I sleep on my tummy my back aches.

  5. I had a shoulder surgery I couldn’t move my arm to balance when I get out of bath or doing filing as I am an administration clerk and couldn’t pull or push those filing cabinets

  6. Useless. If you have sleep apnea you often need to sleep on the side as they helps keep the airways open (along with the CPAP machine). And the best they can do is say “Get more cushioning” when then leads to back pain from lack of proper support there. It’s a fracking joke. You can’t sleep on the back without making apnea worse, you can’t sleep on the side due to shoulder pain, you can’t cushion that without leading to back pain. What we NEED is a solution that will properly support all the pressure points of a side sleeper up and down the mattress while on their side. This article is basically useless for that.

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