Waking Up Sore & Stiff in Morning (2019 Guide)

You finally got your full eight hours of sleep, and then you woke up feeling stiff and sore. What’s up with that? Instead of feeling rested and rejuvenated you felt aches and joint pain.

There can be a number of things at play that are causing you to wake up feeling worse than when you went to sleep. Known injuries and back issues can often be a culprit of morning pain. But for some, that’s not always the case. Luckily, we’ve rounded up some potential causes and tips to tackle the morning pain, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and well rested.

Morning Stiffness Causes

Sleep Position

While your asleep, your body remains in one position for a long period of time. When you hold this position in a way that doesn’t keep your spine aligned or exerts pressure on certain points, you can certainly feel the painful effects in the morning. If your positioning causes a portion of your body to be compressed or pinched, lactic acid can build up. Therefore, you might wake up feeling sore.

You most likely determined your preferred sleeping position years ago, so try studying what tweaks you can make to your sleep position to be sure you are doing it correctly. Whether it’s adjusting your shoulder placement or placing a pillow under your knees—tweaking your sleep position can prevent compression and pinching. Truthfully, it may feel odd at first and take a lot of effort to not revert back into your standard sleeping position. But, the long term benefits are worth it.

Pillow Problem

Waking up with a lot of stiffness in your neck could indicate that your pillow is to blame. The wrong pillow could still cause you morning stiffness even if you are snoozing in a proper position. Very important for your spinal alignment, a pillow is meant to keep your head in a neutral, healthy position.

Back sleepers and side sleepers tend to need loftier pillows, or ones that provide more support. If you fall under the category of stomach sleeper, a pillow with very low loft that lays almost flat is best. You want a pillow that keeps your nose in line with your spine, or the center of your body.

Sleep Surface

Sometimes, swapping out your pillow and some trial and error with your sleep position still won’t give you a pain-free morning. In most cases, those who experience chronic morning stiffness and pain should look to their mattress.

When examining the pain-inducing qualities of your mattress, you first want to look at firmness. Too many people are sleeping on the wrong mattress and wind up with a myriad of issues. If you find yourself waking up with a stiff and sore lower back, your mattress may be too soft. If joint and shoulder pain is a problem, your mattress may be too firm.

Your second step in examining your mattress, is looking at the materials. Contouring foam layers will comfort and support your body as you move and adjust throughout the night. Sophisticated technology that will reduce pressure—unlike springs that may increase pressure— is the best way to ensure that you are in proper alignment all night long. An adjustable base can sometimes aid in providing additional support, and can be a great solution for aiding with other sleep issues, such as snoring or acid reflux.

And don’t even get us started on the age of your mattress! If your mattress has fulfilled its life-span of about seven to ten years, you might want to think of getting a replacement. If you’re unsure if your mattress is too old, we’ve got an article to help you determine if it’s time.


You may have already heard that many health issues are linked to inflammation. New research from Manchester University revealed that the reason we are aching and sore in the morning is because the body suppresses inflammation while we sleep. Think of it as—when you wake up, your body’s natural ibuprofen hasn’t kicked in yet.

If you wake up feeling sore and stiff, but eventually feel pain-free throughout the day and at bedtime, then inflammation may be to blame.  When we start moving around in the morning, the inflammation suppressing proteins activated while sleeping will begin to wear off. Which explains that once you begin your day, the pain begins to fade.


With age, the cartilage between joints stiffens and dries out. Lack of joint lubrication coupled with the stiffened cartilage can cause uncomfortable stiffness and pain.

Sometimes, inflammation can increase as we age as well. Slow and steady increase in chronic inflammation as we age has been dubbed as “inflammaging.” This inflammaging causes you to wake up in pain as your body experiences joint pain effects of both aging and inflammation.


Musculoskeletal conditions that impact joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bursas can definitely result in waking up feeling in pain and unrested. If you have one of these conditions, such as arthritis, it may cause stiffness and discomfort after remaining in one position throughout the night. Read more about how sleeping affects arthritis. Talking to your doctor about how to abate these symptoms is the best route to go.

If you have an injury that prevents your body from adjusting your position throughout the night, the lack of movement can cause inflammation or stiffness. Try sleep position adjustments, like placing a pillow somewhere, so that you can maintain good circulation and feel more rested in the morning.

Health Habits


As we all know, what we eat can have a huge impact on our body. Foods can both increase or reduce inflammation in our bodies, so it’s important to know which foods might trigger it or counteract it. Foods to avoid are: sugary beverages/desserts, refined carbs, processed foods and meats, certain oils, trans fats, and alcohol. You can eat up the anti-inflammatory foods: fruits, veggies, high-fat fruits (avocados), fatty fish, nuts, peppers, spices, chocolate, and red wine.  

If you’re looking for a diet to embrace, look no further than the mediterranean diet. It is famous for limiting inflammation, and you’ll find many dishes and ingredients align with the list we just provided.


Just as emphasizing a proper diet sounds redundant, exercise is all the same. Muscles and joints that are inactive are much more likely to experience morning pain and stiffness when compared to those that regularly exercise. The lack of activity means that your joints and muscles are not being stretched, strengthened, or circulated, all of which keeps your circulation strong and your joints lubricated.

However, too much activity can also have a negative effect. Engaging in physical activity that is high impact, or doing workouts incorrectly, can wear down muscles and joints. This stiffness can easily manifest itself when you wake up in the morning.

Tips to Overcome Morning Stiffness

  • Get enough deep restorative sleep to repair your body (those full 8 hours!)
  • Invest in a mattress that best suits your body type and needs
  • Keep your room at the optimal 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit–too cool of a room may cause sensitive joints to become stiff
  • Stretch in the morning–while laying in bed begin to slowly wiggle fingers and toes, then contract muscles and stretch
  • Move slowly when you first get out of bed, and gently stretch
  • Take a hot shower to loosen up and soothe aching
  • Drink lots of water
  • Engage in healthy diet and exercise habits