How to Sleep on Your Side Without Hurting Your Shoulder

Side sleeping is one of the most preferred sleeping positions.

Although it has numerous health benefits, you can completely enjoy these only if you get into the correct position and if you have everything you need for a comfortable sleep. Otherwise you will wake up with sore back and pain in your shoulder.

Here we will talk about what exactly causes shoulder pain and give you some tips on how to deal with your shoulder problems and sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder. Last updated Apr 29, 2020 @ 7:55 pm

Sleeping on Your Side

Most people are side sleepers and, like we have already mentioned, side sleeping has many health benefits. It can help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea and reduce snoring, but it isn’t the best sleeping position for everyone.

Sometimes it can cause you to wake up with a numb arm either from too much pressure placed on nerves or lack or blood flow and pain in neck and back. Furthermore, it can cause more facial wrinkles and even sagging breasts. But how it can hurt your shoulder?

Side sleepers place a lot of pressure on their shoulders and some doctors discourage side sleeping because it can affect the rotator cuff of the shoulder and cause damage.

But there are ways how to prevent this and get the most comfortable and pain-free sleep while sleeping on your side.

How to Sleep on Your Side Without Hurting Your Shoulder

Here are some tips that can help you get the most comfortable sleep without hurting your shoulder:

Get the Right Mattress

One of the reasons why you may be experiencing shoulder pain could be the firmness of your mattress.

If your mattress is too firm, it won’t cradle your hips and shoulders and allow them to sink into it enough for a perfect pressure relief. This can put a pressure on your shoulders and hips and cause both hip and shoulder pain.

A mattress that is too firm can also lead to back pain while sleeping your side as it can throw your spine out of a natural alignment.

Side sleepers benefit most from softer to medium firm mattresses that fall somewhere between 5 and 6 on the firmness scale (10 being the firmest).

Such mattresses allow side sleepers to sink into them enough to keep their spines properly aligned and they also cushion their shoulders and hips and prevent the appearance of pressure points and pain.

Some of the best mattresses would be:

  • Foam mattresses – These are entirely made of various types of foams. Depending on the density and types of foams used in their construction, they will allow you to sink into them to a certain degree and provide some contouring support, but may not offer enough of it for side sleepers.
  • Memory foam mattresses These are the best mattresses for side sleepers. They are soft enough to contour and mold to your body and prevent the appearance of pressure points while also having enough firmness needed to keep your spine properly aligned.
  • Gel memory foam mattresses – Mattresses made of gel memory foam are similar to memory foam mattresses. The only difference is that these feature cooling gel in their construction which prevents the build up of excessive body heat and keeps you cool and comfortable longer than pure memory foam mattresses.
  • Latex mattressesLatex is known to be more buoyant and responsive than memory foam, but it also provides a nice balance of pressure relieving comfort and support. It is breathable and sleeps much cooler than any other type of foam.
  • Innerspring mattresses – Traditional innerspring mattresses feature a spring system beneath a thin layer of foam. They may not be the best choice for side sleepers as they tend to be a bit too firm and you can easily feel the springs beneath the top comfort layer that can cause the appearance of pressure points. They also cause a lot of motion transfer .
  • Hybrid mattresses – Hybrid mattresses are made of various layers of foams and pocketed coil system. They usually provide a perfect balance of comfort and support. Softer top comfort layers and pillow tops will cushion your shoulders and hips while the firm pocketed coil system below will stop you from sinking too much into the mattress and will provide you with the right amount of support.

Click here to see what are our top choices for the best mattresses for side sleepers.

However, if your mattress is still new and you don’t want to purchase another one, you can get a mattress topper that will soften up the sleeping surface of your bed, change its feel and make it more comfortable.

Click here to see what are our top picks for the best mattress topper for side sleepers.

Get the Right Pillow

To get enough of a comfortable night’s sleep while sleeping on your side and to avoid waking up with pain in your shoulder, you will need the right pillow too.

You need a supportive pillow that will provide your neck and head with the right amount of support and keep them aligned with your spine and the rest of your body.

Medium loft pillows made of memory foam, latex or adjustable pillows would be the best choice here. They won’t prop up your head too much and cause spinal misalignment and they also won’t cause your head to fall towards your shoulder and put a pressure on your shoulder.

The pillow you choose should also be enough responsive to keep your head from sinking too much into the pillow.

Put a Pillow Between Your Knees

Another solution would be to put a pillow between your knees. It will relieve pressure on your knees and hips and also straighten up your hips and thus promote healthy spinal alignment, reduce pressure on your back and throughout your whole body, including shoulders.

Avoid Sleeping on Your Arm

Many side sleepers tend to put their arms under pillows or under their heads. Although you may feel you are getting more support by doing this and although you may feel more comfortable sleeping like this at first, eventually this will lead to numbness in your arm and shoulder and pain.

Besides this, it can misalign your neck, head and lead to even greater discomfort. So, avoid sleeping on your arm.


Side sleeping is one of the most preferred sleeping positions and although it has numerous health benefits, it can sometimes cause you to wake up with pain in your shoulder. 

Here we gave you a few tips on how to sleep on your side without hurting your shoulder. We hope they will be helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask and we will be happy to answer them.

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