Spine Health

How to Sleep with Whiplash Injury – Medically Proven Tips

After you are injured with a whiplash in an accident, sleeping comfortably can be a daunting task. To sleep with whiplash, you will require a specialized pillow/s and a spine support mattress. Use foam rollers to reduce muscle tension before sleeping. Keep your bedtime necessities within your arm’s reach to reduce mobility while sleeping. Moreover, when you sleep on your back, keep a pillow below your thighs, and when you sleep on the side keep a knee pillow between your legs to support your spine.

To listen to the audio version of this article, please click above.

Continue reading to have a better understanding of how to sleep with whiplash injury.

Disclaimer: This content is medically approved by Mr. John Friedman – an authority chiropractor. If you experience severe whiplash pain in the neck or shoulders, do not hesitate and visit your doctor.


Our body tends to heal its damaged parts better and faster at night rather than in the daytime. Therefore, it is imperative that we take measures to have the right amount of quality sleep, especially after getting hurt.

However, like other neck conditions, whiplash injury also makes it harder for the injured person to properly rest at night, leaving one sleep-deprived.  Sleep deprivation has adverse effects on the patients’ health as it can hinder the healing process after a whiplash trauma, which is why getting adequate sleep after such an injury is mandatory for helping the body recover quickly. Below, we have strived to explain what whiplash injury is and how you can properly sleep after being injured with it.

What is Whiplash Injury

Whiplashes are spine injuries caused by a rapid and forceful back-and-forth movement under the influence of an external force. One of the most important causes of whiplash is road accidents especially rear-ended car accidents. Apart from road accidents or car collisions, the causes of such an injury may also include high-impact contact sports (skiing or snowboarding), horseback riding, and gymnastics. After a whiplash injury, you can experience mild to severe symptoms.

The symptoms of a whiplash trauma include but are not limited to:

  •        Stiffness and pain in the neck, which can get worse with the movement of the neck.
  •         Loss of range of motion in the neck.
  •         Headaches at the base of the skull or starting from there.
  •         Pain or tenderness in the arms or shoulder area (upper back).

Mild whiplash symptoms tend to subside after a week, while the severe symptoms stay for months. Some patients complain about neck pain even after 10 years of getting injured in whiplash. The recovery depends on the severity of the damage that the accident did to the nervous system (in the back of the neck). Such traumas can affect the daily physical activity of the patients and make it difficult for them to sleep well at night.

If the symptoms of whiplash exacerbate, please refer to the nearest emergency or urgent care center as soon as possible.

Effects of Whiplash on your Sleep and Health

Whiplash resulting from a motor vehicle accident injuries can cause many difficulties for the patients. The most common challenges faced by such patients include sleep deprivation and loss of sleep quality, which can cause them considerable discomfort. If sleep deprivation is extended for a long period, patients can experience the following severe symptoms:

  • Weight Gain
  • Visual Disturbances
  • Frequent Illness
  • Poor Motor Skills
  • Skin Changes
  • Micro-sleep (fall asleep at the wheel)

 On the other hand, sleep deprivation can affect the quality of patients’ life by causing lack of concentration, decision-making issues, irritability, memory loss, and increased emotional instability.

Does Whiplash Get Worse at Night?

Whiplash gets worse at night

It is true that whiplash can get worse at night. The reason lies in the fact that while sleeping, a person becomes unaware of one’s surroundings and can get hurt due to posture change. Whiplash-associated neck pain can also exacerbate when soft muscles are relaxed. Nonetheless, proper use of neck pillows can help in avoiding unnecessary posture changes thereby reducing the chance of neck or head being misaligned.

Is it safe to sleep after whiplash?

Yes. Sleeping comfortably with whiplash can be challenging. However, if you sleep on a spine support mattress on your back with a special neck pillow under your neck, it is completely safe to sleep after whiplash. Remember to take your bedtime medication and follow the doctor’s advice.

Tips on How to Sleep with Whiplash Injury

Are you having difficulty sleeping after a whiplash? Don’t worry it is common among people who suffer from such traumas! However, to avoid this challenge, there are some important measures that you can take. These measures can help you sleep better and recover quicker.

1.      Hot or Cold Compress

cold pack and hot compress for whiplash

Doctors suggest that a Heat compress or an ice pack before going to bed can mitigate the neck pain associated with whiplash injuries. The application of cold packs blocks the nerves that transmit pain sensations to the brain. Moreover, it also blocks the tips of broken arteries thereby inhibiting the outwards flow of blood. This prevents the seeping out of inflammatory agents in your injured area. The decrease in the flow of inflammatory agents coupled with blocked pain sensation reduces the neck pain.

The application of a hot compress or heat also works to the same end, but its mechanism of action in reducing neck pain is different. When you apply a hot compress to your neck, it warms the injured part and increases the blood flow in that area. This occurs when the blood vessels dilate i.e. increase in diameter. Increased blood flow to that area allows the flowing blood to clear the debris of inflammatory agents. Moreover, it lowers muscle stress by the same principle.

2.      Foam Rollers

foam rollers for whiplash

To prevent pain and stiffness of the neck throughout the night, patients should use the rolling out technique before going to bed. This practice plays a major role in the release of tension built-up from the day and helps the patients to go to bed without any extra burden on the head. This way the patients can sleep better as there will be no tension and lesser pain.

3.      Neck Pillow

Neck Pillow for whiplashWith advancements in medical technology, many kinds of special neck pillows are now available in the market. These medicated pillows are designed to provide more support to the neck while the patients are fast asleep. A good night’s sleep that comes with better neck support can help people recover from whiplash. In addition to this, the use of a scientifically engineered pillow keeps the patient’s neck stable and prevents pain and stiffness. With a stable neck posture throughout the night, the patients can prevent misaligned or uncomfortable neck and can enjoy better sleep. The best thing about such pillows is that even if you are sleeping on your side, it helps your body stay in alignment. Nonetheless, while sleeping on your side, you should consider using a knee pillow as well. These two pillows would complement each other to stabilize your head, neck, and the rest of the body.

Hence, proper alignment of the head, neck, and spine can ease the pain and can help you in dealing with the whiplash. On the other hand, if the pillow is too low or too high above the spine, the patients will feel uncomfortable and restless. This misalignment can keep the patients disturbed in their sleep and even cause a sleep-related issue. Therefore, the use of a medicated pillow, instead of a regular one for keeping the head and neck stable, is vital for a patient with whiplash injury.

4 . Take Pain Relief Medication:

Pain relief medication should not be taken without a doctor’s advice. Mos common pain relief medicines for neck pain include Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) such as Naproxen and Ibuprofen. NSAIDs work by reducing inflammation as they block the lifecycle of inflammation by inhibiting chemicals involved in the production of inflammatory agents at the injury site. However, sometimes when pain is excruciating, your doctor might suggest using narcotic drugs such as Nalbuphine to suppress the brain’s pain recognizing system.

5. Spine Support Mattress:

Spin support mattresses are ergonomically designed using memory foam which adjusts according to your body structure to give you an exceptional sleeping experience. As whiplash pain most often occurs due to body misalignment, a spine support mattress would make your life easier by adjusting itself according to your sleeping positions. Chiropractors usually recommend memory foam to relieve body stress build-up by muscle tension. These foams or mattresses are also recommended by chiropractors for neck and shoulder pain in cases and conditions other than whiplash injuries.

6. Use Foam Collar

During the daytime, if your mobility is not limited, consider using a neck collar. A neck collar would fix your neck in one place and prevent unintended movement of neck muscles. By doing so, this collar would prevent pain and stiffness of the head and neck muscles.

Best Sleeping Positions for Sleeping with Whiplash Injury:

Keeping a proper sleeping posture is very important for people suffering from whiplash. If a proper position is not implemented and maintained during sleep, the neck can become stiff and bring more pain. On the other hand, if the patients manage to sleep in a proper position, there will be less tension to the muscles and less neck pain to endure.

1. Sleeping on the side

Sleeping on side with neck and head injury

Sleeping on the side is one of the highly recommended positions for patients of whiplash. This sleeping posture helps keep the spine in natural curvature and prevent misalignment. It also keeps the body comfortable and blood flows optimally in this position. Healthcare providers also advise the patients of whiplash injury to place a pillow between their knees and legs to keep the spine in alignment with the neck.

2. Sleeping on back 

Sleeping on your back when you have hurt your neckSleeping on your back when you have hurt your neck

Health experts recommend that patients with whiplash injury should sleep on their back. This sleeping position can prevent the building up of extra tension in the neck, back, and other body parts. This option helps the patients alleviate the neck pain by keeping it properly aligned and supported. This sleeping posture can help avoid arching of the back. Additionally, in this position, there will be more strain on the back, which will make the back muscles work harder for fast recovery.

Note: Rember not to sleep on your stomach. If you sleep on your stomach, your spine will misalign with your body and it can worsen your whiplash.

Key Takeaways

To conclude, sleeping with a whiplash wound is an easier said than done job. The use of a heat compress or an ice pack, foam rollers, and medicated neck pillows can mitigate the pain and can help the patients of such conditions enjoy a good night’s sleep. Therefore, if you have a whiplash, you should use the afore-mentioned medical inventions to help your body recuperate overnight.

In addition to this, choose a sleeping position that is recommended by the experts. If your pain aggravates, consult your doctor. All in all, a cautious attitude can help you recover fast even with severe whiplash injuries.

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