The short answer is, yes. It’s possible to pull a muscle while sleeping, especially if you are sleeping in an awkward position or if your bed is not providing enough support for your body. It isn’t a common occurrence with most people. How does it happen, how do you prevent it, and how do you sleep if it happens? Let’s see.
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Why do I wake up with a pulled muscle?
You wake up and your neck is stiff and hurts and you can’t turn your head. Sound familiar? The way you sleep can actually cause pain and injury. An awkward sleeping position, poor support from your mattress, or a poorly positioned pillow use can all be culprits.
What is a pulled muscle?
Muscle strains, sometimes referred to as a pulled muscle, is an injury to a muscle or tendon. Muscle strains occur when muscle fibers are stretched beyond their limits, While sleeping your muscles are generally relaxed and not subjected to the type of strain that typically causes injuries. However, you may overstretch a muscle from sleeping in an awkward position or without proper support causing pain, tenderness, limited motion, and weakness.
What are most common muscle strains from sleeping?
Sleeping position plays a large role in sleep related injury. Sleeping in an awkward position can increase the chance of pulling a muscle in the night. Poor posture or lack of exercise can create muscular imbalances making some muscles more susceptible to strains, even during sleep.
Some of the most common strains people experience during sleep include:
- Neck – I am a stomach sleeper. But, this causes you to twist your head at an awkward angle. Especially as I find myself forcing my head into the pillow propped against the head of the bed. Are you a back sleeper? Too thick of a pillow can force your head forward causing neck strain. And, if you like sleeping on your side too thin of a pillow will allow your head to droop down strain the muscles on the side of your neck.
- Hip – If you are trying to change positions from back or stomach sleeping to side sleeping and are not used to it you may feel hip pain. This because without the proper support side sleeping can wear down your hips.
- Shoulder – Do you sleep with your arm under your head as a pillow? If your shoulder feels painful in the mornings when you try to straighten your arms it’s because sleeping this way can cause your shoulder muscles to lock into place while it may wear down cartilage in the joint.
- Elbow – Believe it or not you can actually cause extra strain on your elbows if you sleep with your arm hanging off the bed or extended straight out to the sides.
- Back – Has your mattress worn down with depressions or uneven areas. Sleeping on your back improperly, these areas can pull on your back muscles and your spine can slip out of alignment without changing your sleeping position or your mattress.
Also, during different sleep cycles you move and change positions. A sudden shift or stretch during deep sleep can pull a muscle unexpectedly. Especially if, like me, you tend to raise yourself up to change positions during the night.
How to prevent pulling a muscle in my sleep
There are several things you can do to avoid muscle strains while you sleep.
- Sleep posture – The number one best thing you can do is to maintain a good sleeping position with your spine and neck aligned. A comfortable mattress and pillows that support your body and sleep style are imperative. Make sure pillows are placed to keep your neck straight whatever position you sleep in.
- Regular exercise – Staying physically active can prevent weak or tight muscles. These muscle imbalances can make you more prone to strains.
- Stay well hydrated – Dehydration can contribute to muscles cramping at night and an increased chance of strains during sleep.
- Stretching – Gently stretching your muscles during your bedtime routine can reduce chances of a strain by making the muscle more loose and flexible.
- Move slowly – A sudden movement from a relaxed position may prompt a strain, especially if you have rolled into an awkward position in bed.
How do I sleep with a pulled muscle?
If you have already pulled a muscle it can be difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. The first thing you want to do is avoid a position that aggravates it further. Your body does much of the repair of muscle tissue during sleep.
Depending on the severity of the strain it may be a few days to several weeks for it to heal. To treat it remember RICE. Its stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and elevation.
- REST and refrain from movements that cause pain so the muscle can heal.
- ICE packs applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time a few hours apart can also help reduce pain as well as swelling.
- Use a COMPRESSION bandage if needed for support and help reduce swelling.
- ELEVATION of the injured muscle can also help to reduce swelling.
In addition, you can use over the counter pain relievers to reduce pain. Remember to keep the injured area in a neutral position when you sleep for the best recovery and allow to heal in the proper orientation.
Pulling a muscle in your sleep is may not be how you usually expect to get a strain, but it can happen. While it is uncommon, many of you may have woken up with a stiff neck or strained shoulder at one time or another. Understanding how it happens and taking steps, to improve your sleep posture, hydration, and exercise, can help you get a good nights sleep without an unexpected sleep injury when you wake up. And don’t forget to stretch. You’ll feel better.
Sleep well……. Goodnight!
The information in today’s post is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. When you have questions regarding your health you should seek the advice of your health care provider.