Shoulder Pain at Night: Tips for Better Sleeping Positions

Suffer from shoulder pain at night? You might find that your pain worsens at night when you try to sleep—especially if you’re recovering from a shoulder injury.

There are a number of reasons why your shoulders might hurt more at night. One common explanation is that during the day, our shoulders are being actively used in a vertical position. This allows our tendons to engage while they’re being pulled by gravity, creating space within the tendons for an increase in blood flow.

At night, however, our bodies and our shoulders are horizontal. They aren’t moving, which means the blood stops flowing and inflammation can occur. This is further exacerbated if you tend to sleep on your side, further compressing your shoulder.

If you suffer from shoulder pain at night, here are some easy-to-do tips for preventing it.

Adjust Your Sleeping Position

If your pain is specific to one shoulder, try sleeping on the other shoulder at night. Work to find a position that feels comfortable and allows you to fall asleep easily, as tossing and turning is only going to exacerbate the pain.

Consider wearing a sling to prevent your arm from moving if the pain is severe. In addition, if you notice associated back pain with your shoulders, place a pillow underneath your knees while you sleep.

Create a Sleeping Schedule for Yourself

Develop a bedtime routine. At the same time every night, silence your phone and set it down. Get ready for bed by performing your personal hygiene and eliminate the use of any electronics.

Wind down by reading a book or listening to a relaxing podcast. Do this routine every single night to accustom your body to going to bed with a routine. Try to avoid using sleep medication. Instead, make yourself Sleepy Time tea or consider taking melatonin supplements.

Stretch Out Your Shoulder at Night

As part of your nighttime routine, consider performing regular shoulder stretches before bed. Benefits to stretching include flexibility, pain relief, increased range of motion, and improved blood flow. Yoga poses are a great way to relieve pain.

There are a wide variety of different stretches you can do, but some good ones to begin with include:


Sit cross legged on the ground. Extend your arms out in front of you with your palms facing down. Take your left elbow and place it in the crook of your right elbow, then bend both of your forearms so that your arms are in a 90 degree angle. While holding this pose, try to place your palms against each other.

Hold for thirty seconds or so and then switch which arm is on top.

Thread the Needle

Position yourself on your hands and knees. Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders, and your knees directly underneath your hips. Lift one arm out to the side towards the ceiling then “thread it” underneath your body, resting your head on the ground.. Keep your butt lifted. You should feel a nice stretch in your shoulder muscles.

Do this on both sides.

Consult with a Doctor

If you find yourself suffering from intense shoulder pain, it’s time to consult a professional.

As a shoulder specialist in Raleigh and longtime orthopedic surgeon, I have the resources and expertise to help you find a solution to your shoulder pain at night.

Please reach out to me today to schedule a consultation so we can get your shoulders back to feeling happy.