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What causes shoulder pain while sleeping?
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Digital x-ray of shoulder pain


What causes shoulder pain while sleeping?

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Sleep can help your body repair itself. But if you have shoulder pain from sleeping, it can make getting quality sleep challenging or worsen your preexisting shoulder pain. 

There are a few possible causes of shoulder pain while you're asleep. 

Below you'll learn some of these causes — and what steps you can take to help ease the pain to obtain a restful night's sleep.


Causes of shoulder pain from sleeping 


Close-up of a man touching his shoulder pain


Here are 6 regular factors for shoulder pain at night or after sleeping:

1. Your sleeping position

Sometimes, you might experience shoulder pain due to your sleeping position. A study in 2017 found individuals who placed their dominant hand on their forehead while they're sleeping and lying on their back, experienced shoulder pain the most.

This sleep position adds more stress on your shoulder and neck muscles than others. It also adds more tension on your spine through your scalene muscles, which are three paired muscles located in the neck. These muscles are connected to both your spine and your shoulder through your ribs. 

When stress is placed on these muscles, it could lead to a few types of pain. Shoulder and neck muscle tightness could cause a tension headache, but scalene muscle tightness could cause pain, tingling, and arm weakness.

2. A rotator cuff injury

A rotator cuff is a group of tendons that encircle your shoulder joint. It connects the end of the bone of your upper arm to your shoulder blade, which helps keep it secured in your socket.

A rotator cuff injury occurs when your rotator cuff tendons become irritated and inflamed (called tendinitis) or become completely or partially torn. Regardless of the type of rotator cuff injury you’re experiencing, it can lead to shoulder pain during sleep. 

3. A frozen shoulder

A frozen shoulder occurs when your shoulder joint's connective tissue thickens, which could impair motion. It's unknown what leads to frozen shoulders exactly, though diabetes and other underlying conditions could also increase your risk.

What is known is that when your shoulder is immobilized for a lengthy time, because of things like recovery from surgery or injury, it increases your risk of frozen shoulder, and its associated pain.

4. Shoulder bursitis

Bursae are fluid-filled, small sacs that help cushion your tissue surrounding your joints. You have them all over your body. Bursitis occurs when a bursae becomes inflamed. Your shoulder is a common location for bursitis.

Injuries that impact your shoulder are frequent causes of shoulder bursitis. Repetitive actions overworking your shoulder joint is another common cause.

5. Osteoarthritis

This occurs when cartilage, which provides cushioning between your bones, starts to break down. It could impact a variety of joints throughout your body, which includes your shoulder. 

As you get older, shoulder osteoarthritis can occur naturally. It could also occur due to past injuries affecting your shoulder joint, like a dislocated shoulder or rotator cuff tear. Pain is one of the most common symptoms of osteoarthritis.

6. A shoulder impingement

Another cause of shoulder pain from sleeping is shoulder impingement. This occurs when your shoulder joint traps certain surrounding soft tissue. This could occur because of:

  • Muscular imbalance in your shoulder

  • Inflammation around your joint

  • RCIs (rotator cuff injuries)


5 Polysleep's tips to avoid shoulder pain from sleep 


If you're experiencing pain on your shoulder while sleeping, some of these tips below might help you sleep more comfortably.

A study in 2018 found certain sleep positions might help decrease or protect against shoulder pain

For instance, the "starfish'' or "freefaller" are positions researchers named where you extend your arms above your head while lying down either on their back or front. The study showed that these positions seemed to be less linked with shoulder pain.

Some things you'll want to look into when trying to choose the ideal mattress when you have shoulder pain are:

  • Support: the mattress's ability to support your body properly, so your spine is aligned perfectly. Great support also helps prevent joint and muscle pain that could interfere with sleeping. 

  • Firmness: this is the mattress's "feel" when you're lying down.

There's no set standard for the measurement of firmness. It depends on your personal preference. A Polysleep mattress provides the perfect balance of support, firmness, and comfort, which can help reduce shoulder pain from sleeping and help you obtain a better night's sleep.

You can check out Polysleep's guide here to find the perfect foam mattress for your personal needs.

You can try using a pillow, like this customizable pillow. It can be fully customized to fit your requirements by using adjustable hybrid foam layers. It's also squishy and soft.

Sleep hygiene means having a bedroom environment and daily routines that promote consistent, uninterrupted sleep.

For certain individuals, not obtaining sufficient sleep might increase pain. A study found individuals who obtained less sleep were twice or three times more likely to develop a pain condition.

Here are some helpful habits that will help with sleep hygiene:

  • Creating a relaxing sleep environment and bedtime routine

  • Obtaining natural light exposure in the day and darkness during the night

  • Avoiding naps longer than 30 minutes in the daytime

  • Avoiding stimulants like nicotine or caffeine in the evening

While alcohol consumption might help an individual become drowsy, it also decreases the quality of sleep later on in your sleep cycle.

The R.I.C.E approach stands for:

  • Rest your shoulder for 48 hours

  • Ice your shoulder four to eight times each day for 20 minutes

  • Compress your shoulder with a bandage or wrap

  • Elevate your shoulder above your chest


What are the possible treatments for shoulder pain from sleeping? 


Woman relieving her shoulder pain by massage therapy


There is an array of treatment options for your pain. The specific cause will determine the best treatment option.

1. Reducing pain and inflammation

For most types of shoulder pain, the first line of treatment is OTC pain medication like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) or acetaminophen.

Individuals with shoulder impingement, arthritis, or inflammation in the shoulder might also find they can reduce pain by resting the joint. 

2. Getting physical therapy

Home exercises and physical therapy are extremely effective treatments for shoulder impingement and RCIS. With shoulder injuries, the goal of PT is to slowly increase your range of mobility and strength.

3. Taking corticosteroids

These are medications used for reducing inflammation. They can offer you short-term shoulder pain relief.

4. Having surgery

If you don't find relief from steroid treatments, pain medicine, or physical therapy, your doctor might recommend surgery.

Learn more: The Importance of A Good Posture At Night

Man Sleeping on Stomach on Polysleep Bed


Consult your doctor


It's essential you see your doctor if you're experiencing shoulder pain that doesn't go away even after making improvements on sleep hygiene, sleep positions, or your mattress. 

It's possible your shoulder pain is a symptom of an underlying disorder that requires medical attention.




Sleeping might be the cause behind your shoulder pain, whether it's because you're sleeping in a poor position or your mattress isn't suitable for you. It could also be due to an underlying condition, like a disease or injury.

If your mattress is causing your pain, you might want to consider sleeping on a Polysleep mattress that could help reduce your shoulder pain while you sleep.

Learn more about the Polysleep mattress!

Woman Sitting On Polysleep Bed Shopping On Her Laptop

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