How to Sleep with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

If you have thoracic outlet syndrome, you know how difficult it can be to find a comfortable sleeping position. The pain, numbness, and tingling that come with this condition can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep. Fortunately, there are some tips and tricks you can use to make sleeping with thoracic outlet syndrome more comfortable. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the best ways to get a good night’s rest despite this condition.

What Is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome?

Before we dive into how to sleep with thoracic outlet syndrome, let’s take a quick look at what this condition is. Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a condition that occurs when there is compression of the nerves and blood vessels that run through the thoracic outlet, which is the area between your collarbone and your first rib. This compression can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in the shoulder, arm, and hand.

Symptoms of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The symptoms of TOS can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include:

•           Pain in the neck, shoulder, and arm

•           Numbness and tingling in the arm and hand

•           Weakness in the arm

•           Swelling in the arm

•           Aching pain in the hand and forearm

Tips for Sleeping with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Now that we have a better understanding of what thoracic outlet syndrome is, let’s take a look at some tips and tricks for getting a good night’s sleep despite this condition.

  1. Choose the Right Sleeping Position

One of the most important things you can do when sleeping with TOS is to choose the right sleeping position. Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your neck and a rolled-up towel under your shoulders can help to keep your shoulders back and reduce compression on the thoracic outlet. If you prefer to sleep on your side, try using a body pillow to keep your shoulders back and prevent them from rolling forward.

  • Use Supportive Pillows

Using supportive pillows can also be helpful when sleeping with TOS. A supportive pillow under your neck can help to keep your neck in a neutral position and reduce compression on the thoracic outlet. Additionally, using a pillow between your legs can help to keep your spine in alignment and reduce pressure on your shoulders and neck.

  • Stretch Before Bed

Doing some gentle stretches before bed can help to relieve tension in your shoulders and neck and reduce compression on the thoracic outlet. Try doing some gentle neck and shoulder stretches, as well as some chest stretches, before getting into bed.

  • Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

Practicing good sleep hygiene is always important, but it’s especially important when you have TOS. This means creating a relaxing sleep environment, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed, and sticking to a consistent sleep schedule.

  • Consider Physical Therapy

If you’re struggling to sleep with TOS, consider seeing a physical therapist. They can work with you to develop a stretching and strengthening program that can help to relieve your symptoms and make sleeping more comfortable.

Common Sleeping Positions to Avoid

When you have thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), getting a good night’s sleep can be a real challenge. The pain and discomfort in your neck, shoulders, and arms can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position. However, there are certain positions you should avoid to prevent aggravating your TOS symptoms.

  • Sleeping on your stomach: This position puts a lot of strain on your neck and shoulders, which can worsen TOS symptoms. It also puts pressure on your chest, which can further compress the thoracic outlet.
  • Sleeping on your side with your arm overhead: This position can cause compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet, leading to tingling, numbness, and pain in the arm.
  • Sleeping with your arms tucked under your body: This can also put pressure on the nerves and blood vessels in the thoracic outlet, exacerbating TOS symptoms.
  • Sleeping in a recliner: While this position may seem comfortable, it can actually worsen TOS symptoms by compressing the thoracic outlet and causing poor circulation in the arms.

It’s important to note that finding the right sleeping position may take some trial and error. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep due to TOS, talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend specific pillows or other aids to help you get comfortable and improve your sleep quality.


While thoracic outlet syndrome can make sleeping difficult, there are things you can do to make it more comfortable. Choosing the right sleeping position, using supportive pillows, stretching before bed, practicing good sleep hygiene, and considering physical therapy are all effective ways to get a good night’s rest despite this condition.