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How To Sleep After Cervical Neck Surgery? [Do’s and Don’ts]

By: Susie
Updated On: October 19, 2023

Recovering from cervical neck surgery can be fairly challenging, especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.

This dilemma has led many to ask the question, “How to sleep after cervical neck surgery?” Understanding this dilemma, we’ve put together a guide to tackle exactly that problem.

Whether it’s the discomfort stemming from the surgery or anxieties about aggravating the condition while you sleep, it’s normal for these worries to keep you awake at night.

Rest assured, though, with the right preparation and precautions, you can safely return to your nightly slumber without any hitch. This article provides some useful tips and advice on how best to achieve this.

What is Cervical Neck Surgery?

What is Cervical Neck Surgery?

Cervical neck surgery is a medical procedure aimed at addressing various conditions affecting the neck area, specifically targeting the seven cervical vertebrae.

Common reasons for this type of surgery include cervical disc herniation, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal cord compression.

The process may involve removing a ruptured or diseased disc bone spurs or performing a spinal fusion, among other treatments.

Success and recovery from cervical neck surgery significantly depend on the specific condition, the patient’s general health status, and the surgical procedure undertaken.

How To Sleep After Cervical Neck Surgery?

How To Sleep After Cervical Neck Surgery?

Sleeping post-cervical neck surgery tends to be a concern for many, and rightly so, with your neck in a delicate state, making you more susceptible to discomfort or even further damage.

But not to worry, we’ve got this covered here. We’ve compiled easy yet effective strategies that may help you catch those Z’s in the most comfortable way possible.

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Consult Your Surgeon For Specific Recommendations

Your initial course of action should always be consulting your surgeon. Since every surgery is unique and personal, specific aftercare instructions may differ for every patient.

It’s crucial to communicate your concerns about sleep to your surgeon, as ignoring them could lead to severe repercussions over time.

They can provide you with personalized suggestions based on the type of procedure performed and the healing process’s progression thus far.

From recommended positions to sleep aids such as special pillows or cervical collars, they’ll guide you on what is best for your specific condition based on their expertise.

Sleep In A Reclined Position

Once given the go-ahead by your surgeon, sleeping in a reclined position is often an optimal choice following your surgery.

This position helps keep your spine aligned while reducing strain on fragile areas within the neck region. While traditional beds may not offer the most support during this period, consider investing in an adjustable bed or using stackable pillows to achieve the right incline level.

The goal here is not necessarily achieving complete elevation but comfortability while laying slightly upright to provide substantial relief from any pressure exerted on the surgical site overnight.

Just like every procedure is different, everyone’s journey towards recovery will also differ greatly. Patience will play a significant role as you learn how best to adapt during this period for successful healing and recovery.

Use a Cervical Pillow

Use a Cervical Pillow

Investing in a cervical pillow can be beneficial for supporting your neck during sleep post-surgery. Specifically designed to maintain the natural alignment of the neck and spine, these pillows have unique features, such as a center cavity and elevated sides, that aim to reduce undue pressure on your neck.

Cervical pillows can also provide relief from snoring or mild sleep apnea caused by improper head or neck placement.

This is still recommended to use in compliance with your doctor’s advice. Always take into consideration the specifics of your surgery and recovery before altering your sleeping environment.

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Keep the Neck in a Neutral Position

Striving to keep your neck in a neutral position is another golden rule in achieving sound post-surgery sleep.

A neutral position implies that your head isn’t tilted upward or downward but is instead aligned with the rest of your body, ensuring minimal stress on the surgical site.

Using cushions and pillows strategically can help you keep this position throughout the night. Please note that it’s all about finding what works for you while abiding by medical advisories.

Sleep On Your Back

Sleeping on your back is generally regarded as best for maintaining spinal alignment following cervical neck surgery.

This positioning allows even distribution of body weight across pressure points and minimizes potential disruptions to the surgery site. If you aren’t accustomed to back sleeping, some patients find it helpful to train themselves gradually – beginning with short naps before progressing towards full nights’ sleep.

Using extra support like pillows along the sides can also prevent accidental rolling over in sleep. The idea here is always comfort over habit – don’t force what doesn’t feel right; instead, meet with your healthcare provider for alternative solutions if necessary.

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Avoid Sleeping On Your Stomach

While stomach sleeping might have been your go-to position pre-surgery, it’s essential to avoid it now at all costs.

This posture can be harsh on the neck as it often forces you to twist your head to one side or another, potentially straining your surgical site.

It adds increased pressure on your lower back and spine. Though this position might initially feel natural or comfortable, it can inhibit the recovery process and lead to complications down the line. So, for the time being, say goodbye to stomach sleeping until you obtain clearance from your surgeon.

If Side Sleeping, use a Supportive Pillow

For some individuals, sleeping on their side is most comfortable post-cervical surgery. The type of pillow you use in this scenario matters a lot.

Make sure that it’s supportive enough to keep your neck aligned with the rest of your body—your neck shouldn’t be bending downward or upward too drastically.

A common suggestion is using a thick memory foam pillow that can mold your head shape while providing ample support for your neck.

Discussing this with your surgeon or a physical therapist will lead you toward the perfect fit for maximized comfort.

Wear a Neck Brace or Collar if Advised

Wear a Neck Brace or Collar if Advised

Your doctor may recommend wearing a neck brace or collar following cervical neck surgery. While they might seem cumbersome at first, these tools play an integral role in stabilizing and positioning your neck correctly during recovery.

By holding the injured area still and secure, they significantly reduce pain and discomfort that would otherwise disrupt sleep—a vital component of any healing process.

It’s pivotal that you adhere strictly to any instructions about duration and timing for wearing these braces from trained specialists who know precisely what’s necessary for a swift recovery.

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Use a Wedge Pillow

A beneficial tool to help overcome sleep challenges after surgery is a wedge pillow. Designed to provide incline support, these pillows can create a reclined position, which eases the strain on your neck and back.

They allow gravity to work in your favor by preventing the neck from twisting into uncomfortable positions while sleeping. Wedge pillows come in various sizes, so you’ll be sure to find one that suits your needs best.

While these pillows can offer great comfort, they’re not universally suited for all patients. It would be best if you discussed this with your surgeon or physiotherapist before making any changes.

Keep Pain Medications Nearby

Post-surgery, discomfort or pain can often intrude on precious sleep hours. To manage this, always keep prescribed pain medications within accessible reach of your bed.

Strictly adhere to your physician’s advice about dosage and timing to minimize discomfort that might affect your sleep cycle. Note that medicines are generally used as short-term solutions while you heal; they are not meant to replace the need for restorative sleep.

Always monitor any changes or side effects since certain medications can disrupt normal sleep patterns further.

Maintain a Cool, Comfortable Sleeping Environment

Maintain a Cool, Comfortable Sleeping Environment

Maintaining an optimized sleeping environment is critical for cervical neck surgery recovery. A calm, cool room facilitates restful sleep more efficiently than a warmer climate by helping reduce inflammation and swelling around the incision site that may cause discomfort during sleep hours.

Ensure clean air circulation and pick bedding materials carefully – opt for softer fabrics that won’t irritate sensitive skin near the surgical area or cause unnecessary sweating, which might disrupt your sleep cycle.

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol Before Bedtime

As you recover from cervical neck surgery, what you consume directly impacts your sleep. Research has shown that caffeine and alcohol can severely disrupt sleep patterns.

Caffeine, typically found in coffee, soda, or chocolate, acts as a stimulant that can keep you alert and make falling asleep more difficult. Alcohol, while initially inducing drowsiness, disrupts your REM phase— the deep sleep essential for recovery.

Resist the temptation to grab that glass of wine or late-night cup of coffee if you want to enjoy an undisturbed, peaceful slumber.

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Practice Relaxation Techniques

Following surgery, it’s common to experience heightened stress levels that can potentially interfere with restful sleeping patterns.

To combat this issue, incorporating relaxation techniques in your night-time routine may benefit tremendously.

Deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation encourage the body to fall into a natural state of tranquility, providing ease when falling asleep.

Listening to soft music or using aroma-therapy oils are other alternatives that promote calming effects beneficial for sleeping after cervical surgery.

Avoid Rigorous Activities Before Bedtime

Refraining from rigorous activities before bed is crucial for ensuring quality sleep post-operation. Heavy exercises or strenuous physical actions raise heartbeat rates and increase adrenaline levels in your body, causing difficulty while falling asleep after surgery.

Consider engaging in gentle activities like light gardening or strolling, which are generally safer during recovery without compromising on promoting good sleep health.

Get Up Slowly from Bed

Get Up Slowly from Bed

Getting out of bed may seem like a simple task, but when recovering from cervical neck surgery, extra care must be taken.

A sudden or inadequate movement can lead to unnecessary strain on the neck area. To prevent this, always try to get up slowly from bed.

Start by cautiously turning onto your side, using your arms to push yourself into a sitting position before finally standing up. Essentially, take things slow and steady – there’s no need to hurry.

Also, consider using aids such as handrails or adjustable beds that can lessen the physical toll of moving in and out of bed.

Contact the Surgeon for Unusual Symptoms

Post-operative symptoms after cervical neck surgery are sometimes unpredictable. While mild pain and discomfort are typical following the operation, any unusual or severe symptoms must not be overlooked.

Suppose you encounter issues such as extreme pain not soothed by medication, fever, chills, increased swelling in the neck area, or any drastic changes in sensation around your neck and arms. In that case, it’s time to contact your surgeon immediately.

Keep an open line of communication with your healthcare provider throughout your recovery process. They can help handle any complications early before they escalate further and compromise both your health and well-being.

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FAQs about cervical neck surgery

Can I sleep on my side after cervical neck surgery?

It’s generally safer to sleep on your back using proper support, especially in the early recovery stages, but discuss with your doctor for personal advice.

How long will it take before I can sleep comfortably after the surgery?

Every patient is unique, so that recovery times may vary widely, but usually, comfort returns gradually over several weeks.

Do I need to wear a neck brace while sleeping?

If your surgeon recommended a brace, you should wear it during sleep for the prescribed period.

Why does my neck hurt more at night post-surgery?

It can be due to fewer distractions at night that make you more conscious of the pain or due to maintaining one position for too long.

Are there any specific pillows recommended for postoperative cervical neck surgery patients?

Yes, cervical pillows designed to maintain spinal alignment are often suggested, but always consult your doctor before making changes.


Recovering from cervical neck surgery is no small feat, and it’s only natural to face certain hiccups along the way.

But with proper guidance and adhering to the right sleeping habits recommended by your surgeon, you can gradually resume a normal, comfortable sleeping routine.

It’s a slow process, but every good night’s sleep you achieve post-surgery is a step closer to your full recovery. So hang in there; quality rest is essential and possible, even after cervical neck surgery!

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