Home / Blog December 22, 2022 Updated on April 28, 2023

3 min read

How To Sleep With Shoulder Pain – Solutions For A Better Snooze

Side sleeper shoulder pain can be caused by osteoarthritis, rotator cuff injuries, and other complications. It’s best to avoid sleeping on your side if you’re experiencing shoulder pain, but if you can’t, body pillows can help by relieving pressure on your shoulder joints. They can also make back sleeping more manageable

how to sleep with shoulder pain


Shoulder pain can come from overuse and trauma injuries or from medical conditions like osteoarthritis.

Body pillows can help by relieving pressure on the shoulders in side position or making back sleeping more comfortable.

The proper head pillow for your sleeping style can also help by keeping your neck aligned. 

Did you know?
You can injure your shoulder while you sleep. If you find yourself waking up to shoulder pain, it could be a sign that your sleep posture is putting too much pressure on the joint.

Love curling up on your side but starting to notice aches and pains? Is side sleeping impacting the quality of your sleep?

If you’re a side sleeper with shoulder pain, there could be many different causes. But for the most part, simple adjustments to the way you set up for sleep can help get you that quality rest you need.

Why Do You Get Shoulder Pain From Sleeping?

The shoulder is home to the most complicated joint in the body. It moves the arm in all directions and makes a variety of movements possible. With that variety comes the possibility of unwanted friction.

If you’re noticing shoulder pain for the first time, it can have a terrible impact on your sleep. There could be several causes that are making friction in the shoulder worse.

Why Do You Get Shoulder Pain From Sleeping?

Shoulder Impingement

Shoulder impingement happens when your shoulder blade rubs up against your rotator cuff over and over – usually due to inflammation. This type of situation is more common in athletes or manual labor workers who use their full range of shoulder motion more often.

Rotator Cuff Injury

A more obvious source of shoulder pain can come from a rotator cuff injury. Rotator cuff injuries can come from daily wear and tear, but trauma from incidents like car accidents or falls can also lead to shoulder pain while sleeping on your side.


If you feel shoulder pain frequently, it could be because of osteoarthritis. As you get older, this condition is more common because the cartilage covering your bones wears down. If you have osteoarthritis, you may experience a dull burning sensation in your shoulder that gets better when you rest.

Shoulder Bursitis

Another source of side sleeper shoulder pain is bursitis, a condition where the normally thin layer protecting your skin from your bones gets inflamed. This doesn’t always cause pain, but it can occur.

As with many of the other issues on this list, bursitis is usually caused by friction between the shoulder and your skin. However, there are certain pre-existing conditions that can make the odds more likely.

how to sleep on your side with shoulder pain

How To Sleep On Your Side With Shoulder Pain

For some people, side sleeping is like breathing: it just comes naturally!

Side sleeping is the sleeping position that most people spend the most time in. For pregnant people, side sleeping is actually a medical recommendation. It’s also great for improving digestion and reducing snoring.

Most solutions for shoulder pain from sleeping on your side involve staying away from side sleeping altogether, but there are ways to have your cake and eat it too.

Studies show that body pillows are effective at relieving pain by displacing pressure across the joints. They can help your sleep routine in many other ways, too.

Hugging a body pillow like our satisfyingly squashy Cuddler throughout the night can make your shoulders more comfortable — and it may also help you get higher-quality sleep.

How To Sleep On Your Back With Shoulder Pain

If sleeping on your side is too much for your shoulders, it might be time to flip the script and try sleeping on your back.

But not everyone is comfortable sleeping on their back. It can be an especially difficult sleeping position for those with lower back pain.

Bolster Pillows like our Cuddling can be a good solution here. Sliding one under your knees can get your spine in a more comfortable position. You can also use it as a side prop to prevent you from rolling onto your side

Body pillows can be a good solution here, too. Sliding one under your knees can get your spine in a more comfortable position. You can use it as a side prop to prevent you from rolling onto your side, too.


  34 Reviews
Cuddler cta

Ergonomically designed

Made from natural Melofoam™

Additional cover styles available

Cuddle up
Cuddler cta

Cocoonable, couchworthy perfection

Sleep tips for restful nights

Unveil the secrets to restful sleep and join the Napperhood for a chance to win our perfect weighted blanket, the Cotton Napper. Get expert tips and insights delivered to your inbox.

Cotton Napper cta

Pillows For Shoulder Pain

Aside from body pillows, one final tip for sleeping with shoulder pain is to take a good, hard look at what you’re resting your head on.

Do you have pillows stacked a foot high, cranking your neck out of position? Do you have a pillow so thin that it’s practically no pillow at all?

Here’s some good general advice about head pillows and the different sleeping positions:

  1. Side sleepers might want thicker pillows to keep the neck from bending to the left or right.
  2. Back sleepers can look for a medium-sized pillow with a curve that supports the back of the neck.
  3. Stomach sleepers do best with very thin pillow to avoid bending the neck backward too far. (Side note: it’s generally agreed that stomach sleeping is bad for the back. It may also be bad for the shoulders too, so it might be best to avoid it when you can.) 

The position of the neck can have a major impact on the shoulders, so getting your neck set up right may help reduce pain.


Rotator cuff injuries and medical issues like osteoarthritis can cause a great deal of pain when sleeping. Supporting your limbs with a body pillow or elevating your ordinary head pillow may help.

Shoulder pain from sleeping on your side can come from many sources, and the best way to manage that pain is by adjusting the way you sleep. By paying a little extra attention to how you support your head, neck, and shoulders while you sleep, you can help prevent pain and set yourself up for a better night’s rest.