Expert tips & exercises for back pain after sleep

Back pain and neck tension can not only disrupt sleep, they can also be caused by poor sleep at night. Fitness and health expert Prof. dr Stephan Geisler explains how to avoid muscle tension after sleeping and reveals his best tips and fitness exercises for back pain in the morning.

Table of Contents

  1. Back pain in the morning
  2. Prevent tension
  3. Causes & development of neck and back pain
  4. Three tips against back pain after sleep
  5. The best exercise after an uncomfortable night
  6. Conclusion

1. Back pain in the morning

Who doesn't know it? You only sleep one night in a strange bed or with another pillow and bang you wake up the next morning with a tense neck or a stiff back. We already know that existing muscle problems can disturb sleep and cause a painful feeling in the morning. A sleep study by Techniker Krankenkasse from 2017 showed that muscle and back pain can be a decisive cause of sleep disorders with a share of 54%.

But how exactly is it the other way around that we develop nasty muscle tension almost overnight, even though we hardly move during sleep?

2. Causes and development of neck and back pain

The causes of back pain are very different and often remain unexplained. Most diagnosed back pain is assigned to the so-called MFS (Myofascial Pain Syndrome). This means that most pain originates from the muscles themselves and/or the connective tissue that envelops and infiltrates them. A frequent cause of muscular complaints is tension, which can be counteracted with targeted stretching exercises and thus experience fast and effective pain relief. So, one could assume that “poor sleep” is definitely capable of giving us back pain. How can this be prevented?

3. Prevent tension

smartsleep Schlafmagazin Rückenschmerzen am Morgen nach dem Schlaf

From my point of view, there are two things you can actively do to prevent nasty morning cramps and reduce pain:

First, you should try to optimize your sleep. The room environment, the bed and your pillow should suit you optimally. However, since I am not an expert myself, I would like to refer you to other articles in the sleep magazine, where you will find tips for a good sleeping environment and the search for a suitable pillow.

On the other hand, you should also strive for a certain physicality so that you stay fit and healthy and your muscles stabilize your body. If the musculoskeletal system, joints and muscles work together optimally, you can even allow yourself to sleep on the floor and wake up without any significant back pain. To do this, you should train and stretch your muscles regularly. I can highly recommend sports such as yoga or targeted fitness training.

4. Three tips against back pain after sleep

In the event that you still get a cold one in the morning and your day starts with diffuse back pain, I would be happy to give you a few tips to get you started.

    Tip #1: The Cat Cow Stretch

    To do this, get down on all fours and round your back like a cat by sucking in your stomach and arching your back up. Then you make it long/hollow like a cow. Repeat this movement as often as possible, at best between 30-50 times, and your back will almost certainly feel a little better.
    smartsleep Schlafmagazin Katze Kuh Dehn-Übung gegen Rückenschmerzen nach dem Schlaf

      Tip #2: Heat & Exercise

      Take a warm shower and move your spine a little. The combination of heat and movement is unbeatable for back pain and helps to mobilize the vertebrae, joints and bones.

      smartsleep Schlafmagazin Warme Dusche und Bewegung gegen Rückenschmerzen und Verspannungen am Morgen

        Tip #3: Exercise in everyday life

        Try to shape your everyday life with "normal" movements despite tension and avoid any kind of relieving posture. Although these can have a relieving effect for a small moment, they only make the whole thing worse and, on the contrary, can lead to even more pain in the long run.

        smartsleep Schlafmagazin: Bewegung im Alltag bei langem Sitzen oder Stehen und Rückenschmerzen am Morgen

          The best exercise after an uncomfortable night

          Finally, I would like to recommend an exercise that works particularly well against pain between the shoulder blades at the level of the thoracic spine and has already helped thousands of people. So if you have pain in this back area after an uncomfortable night or after sitting for a long time at work, feel free to give them a try. I give you quick and easy instructions in this video!

          You can find these and many other exercises for acute relief and prevention of back pain in my book "Healthy Back".

          If you prefer these tips, you can probably manage back pain that wakes up while you sleep. However, if the pain does not get better or if it gets worse, you should definitely consult a doctor or physiotherapist.


          • Back pain in the morning is often due to muscle tension, which can be caused by the wrong sleeping environment or an unsuitable pillow.
          • The cat-cow exercise, a warm shower and avoiding relieving posture help against acute back pain after sleep.

          Greetings and see you next time!

          smartsleep Schlaf und Sport Experte Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler
          smartsleep Fitness- und Gesundheitsexperte Prof. Dr. Stephan Geisler

          Leave a comment

          All comments are reviewed prior to publication

          Matching products at smartsleep®