Does your neck hurt when you wake up in the morning? It’s a surprisingly common problem. The vast majority of the time, the pain can be traced back to something specific you’re doing when you sleep. Here are some of the more common causes of chronic morning neck pain:

The Position You’re Sleeping In

Are you a side sleeper? A stomach sleeper? Most people have a favorite sleeping position. Unfortunately, not all sleeping positions are equally good for your neck. If you sleep on your stomach, you have to twist your head and neck to one side or the other, which can put more pressure on nerves and muscles in your neck than they normally get, which can lead to a painful start to your morning.

Your Sleep Habits

Most people have highly inconsistent sleep habits and their bedrooms simply aren’t optimized for a decent night’s sleep. The two simplest things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep and minimize your chances of waking up with a sore neck are as follows:

First, start going to bed at the same time every night. This one simple change will make a huge difference. Two, don’t go to bed tense. Just before bed, make a conscious effort to relax. Whether you do that via meditation or a brief stretching routine, or a cup of hot tea, just make sure you’re relaxed when your head hits that pillow.

The Pillow You’re Using

The right pillow positions your head so that it’s in a neutral position while you’re sleeping, which is to say that your nose is aligned with your spine.

If your pillow is overstuffed, it will change the angle of your head. If it’s too flat for you, it will bend your neck too far back the other way while you’re sleeping. In both cases, you spend the entire night with your head out of alignment and by morning, your neck is usually screaming in protest.

Follow these simple tests to find out if they help you experience less neck pain every morning.