Blog Fitness Why Do My Muscles Tighten Up When I Sleep? (Causes & Solutions)

Why Do My Muscles Tighten Up When I Sleep? (Causes & Solutions)

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately one-third of adults in the United States do not get enough sleep (3).

The causes of poor sleep quality are many, but one of the most common is muscle pain. When muscles tighten up during sleep, it can be difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. 

There are several possible causes of muscle tightness during sleep and some simple solutions that could help. Let’s explore some of the most common reasons as to why your muscles might tighten up at night and what you can do to find relief.

Why Your Muscles Tighten Up When You Sleep

There are several different reasons why your muscles might tighten up when you sleep, including:

Poor Sleep Position

Ideally, you should sleep in a neutral position. This means your head, neck, and spine should be in alignment. However, many people sleep in a position that puts strain on their muscles.

For example, if you sleep on your stomach, you may end up arching your back and straining your neck and shoulder muscles. Sleeping on your side can also cause muscle pain, particularly if you curl up in a fetal position (5).

Sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees can help take the strain off your muscles and improve sleep quality.

Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are common causes of muscle tension (14).

When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode, meaning that your muscles tense up in preparation for action. This can make it difficult to relax at night and lead to muscle pain (14).

If you’re struggling with stress or anxiety, finding ways to relax before bed can help ease muscle tension and improve sleep quality.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Modern life is increasingly sedentary, and this can lead to tight, stiff muscles. If you spend most of the day sitting, your muscles may tighten up from lack of use (16). Exercising regularly can help keep your muscles loose and prevent pain from stiffness.

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Dehydration can cause muscle cramping, which can be painful and disruptive to sleep (7). Make sure you drink enough water during the day and avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

Muscle Overexertion

Exercise is good for you, but too much of it can lead to muscle pain. If you’ve been working out hard, your muscles may be sore. Resting for a day or two can help ease the pain and allow your muscles to recover.

If you work in a physically taxing job, you may also be susceptible to muscle pain. If your job requires you to lift heavy objects or stand for long periods of time, your muscles may become strained. Taking breaks and using proper lifting techniques can help prevent pain.

Abnormal Nerve Activity 

The nerve endings in your muscles send signals to your brain, telling your muscles when to contract and relax.

Sometimes these signals can get mixed up, which causes your muscles to spasm or cramp (10). This is often seen in people with conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (17).

Chronic Overuse of Joints 

Tendons are the tissues that connect your muscles to your bones. Some people, whether it be for work or sport, do repetitive motions that can cause degeneration and pain in tendons around joints. This condition is called “tendinosis” (15).

why do my muscles tighten up when i sleep  

Why Do My Back Muscles Tighten Up When I Sleep?

Back stiffness and pain are common complaints that may be a result of:


As your baby grows, your abdominal muscles stretch and loosen to accommodate the new life that is growing inside of you. This can cause your back muscles to work overtime to support your changing body (13).

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Bad Sleeping Surface 

A bad mattress can cause your back muscles to tighten up during sleep. If you don’t have proper support, your spine can become misaligned or remain in an activated position all night in an attempt to support your back, which causes pain (4). Investing in a good mattress and pillow can help alleviate back pain.

Excess Weight 

Carrying extra weight can place strain on your back muscles and lead to pain. Losing weight may reduce back pain and improve sleep quality (8).

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal is too narrow, putting pressure on the nerves. This can cause pain, tingling, and weakness(1). Treatment for spinal stenosis can include surgery.

Read more: Push Day Workout: Your Blueprint to Powerful Chest, Shoulder, and Tricep Muscles


This is a condition when joints in your body become painful and stiff due to the protective cartilage that cushions them wearing down. The pain caused by osteoarthritis can lead to reduced physical activity which also results in muscle tightness and stiffness 

Treatment for osteoarthritis includes pain medication, physical therapy, and weight loss (12).

Disc Herniation

Disc herniation occurs when the cushion-like discs between bones in the spine rupture or bulge. This can place pressure on the nearby nerves. The muscles eventually tighten up in response to the discomfort or to protect the injured area. This tightness can cause stiffness or difficulty in movements. Treatment for a disc herniation may include pain medication, physical therapy, and surgery (9).


This condition occurs when the sciatic nerve that runs from the lower back through the hips and into each leg is compressed or irritated. This can cause pain, burning, or numbness along the path of the nerve. Treatment for sciatica can include pain medication, physical therapy, and surgery (2).

It’s important to emphasize that if such medical conditions become severe, you should stop trying home remedies and seek professional help. Consulting a healthcare expert can provide personalized advice, an appropriate diagnosis, and structured treatment options. However, delaying medical care could worsen their conditions or lead to other complexities. Therefore, it’s always best to address the issues you’re facing and get help from a certified healthcare expert.

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why do my muscles tighten up when i sleep  

How to Ease Muscle Tightness at Night

There are several things you can do to ease muscle tightness at night and improve sleep quality. They include:

Change Your Sleeping Position

Make sure you’re sleeping in a comfortable position. If you’re used to sleeping on your stomach or side, it may take some time to adjust to sleeping on your back. However, this is the best position for preventing muscle pain.

Place a pillow under your knees to keep your spine in alignment and ease tension in your lower back and legs.

Use a Body Pillow

If you find it difficult to adjust to sleeping on your back, try using a body pillow. This will support your spine and keep your muscles in alignment.

Try Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help ease stress and anxiety. These activities can also help relax your muscles and improve sleep quality.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise is important for keeping your muscles loose and preventing pain. However, it’s important to avoid exercising too close to bedtime as this can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Stretch Before Bed

Stretching before bed can help ease muscle tension and improve sleep quality. Try stretches such as the child’s pose, neck rolls, and side bends.

Here’s a breakdown of each exercise, complete with steps and instructions:

Child’s Pose

  1. Start on your hands and knees.
  2. Bring your big toes together and sit back on your heels.
  3. Stretch your arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on the floor.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Neck Rolls

  1. Start by sitting up tall with your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Drop your right ear to your right shoulder and slowly roll your head forward.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  4. Do 5-10 repetitions on each side.
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Side Bends

  1. Start by standing up tall with your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Lift your arms above your head and lean to the right, bend your torso, and stretch the left side. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  4. Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Deep Breathing

  1. Start by sitting up tall with your shoulders relaxed.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose and count to four.
  3. Exhale slowly through your mouth and count to four.
  4. Repeat this breath for 1-2 minutes.

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Get a Massage

A massage can help relax your muscles and improve sleep quality. If you don’t have time for a professional massage, try using a foam roller or tennis ball to massage your own muscles.

Apply Heat or Cold

Applying heat or cold to your muscles can help ease pain and improve sleep quality. Try taking a hot bath or using a heating pad before you go to bed.

Drink Plenty of Water

Dehydration can cause muscle cramping, so it’s important to drink plenty of water during the day (7). Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed, as they can dehydrate you and make muscle pain worse.

Eat Magnesium-Rich Foods

Magnesium is a mineral that’s important for muscle health. Eating foods that are rich in magnesium can help prevent muscle pain (6). Good sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, and seeds.

why do my muscles tighten up when i sleep  

Take a Vitamin D Supplement

Vitamin D plays an important role in maintaining overall muscle health. Sufficient levels of this vitamin are associated with improved muscle growth and repair. At the same time, low levels of vitamin D can cause muscle-related issues such as sarcopenia and myopathy (18).

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You should maintain a balanced diet that is rich in vitamin D sources such as fatty fish and egg yolks. In addition, make sure you get enough sunlight as this can trigger the natural production of vitamin D. Even those who are following a no-sugar diet plan can follow a routine where they include multiple sources of vitamin D in their diets.

People with darker skin tones and limited sun exposure should consume vitamin D supplements after consulting a healthcare professional. This can help prevent any potential issues and allow improved muscle health.

Do Mild Exercises 

Mild exercises such as walking or gentle stretching can help ease muscle tension and improve sleep quality. Avoid strenuous exercise close to bedtime, as this can make it difficult to fall asleep.

Establish a Sleep Routine 

Having a sleep routine goes a long way in improving sleep quality. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.

Avoid watching television or working on the computer in bed. Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom by using comfortable sheets and eliminating noise and light pollution.

Identify and Treat Underlying Conditions

If you’re dealing with chronic muscle pain, there may be an underlying condition that is causing it. Conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis can all cause muscle pain (11). Talk to your doctor about these conditions and treatment options. Your doctor can also provide other tips for pain management.

Read more: How Much Protein Should I Eat A Day to Build Muscles – A Comprehensive Guide

why do my muscles tighten up when i sleep  


  • Can low magnesium cause tight muscles?

Yes, low magnesium levels may cause muscle tightness. Magnesium is essential for adequate muscle function and relaxation. When levels are low, this can cause spasms, muscle cramps, and increased muscle tightness. It plays a fundamental role in regulating muscle contractions by balancing calcium in muscle cells.

A lack of magnesium may cause the muscles to contract more forcefully and for longer periods, which can lead to discomfort and stiffness.

  • What is the best sleeping position to relax all muscles?

The best sleeping position to relax all muscles varies from person to person. Generally, it is recommended to sleep on your back on a high-quality mattress with a pillow underneath your knees.

  • What relaxes muscles the most?

Several methods can help relax the muscles effectively – stretching tops the list when it comes to muscle relaxation. Gentle stretching exercises can lengthen the tight muscles and promote flexibility. They can also help some individuals to deal with height issues. Look up “does stretching make you taller?” and you’ll find your answers.

  • What drink is good for tight muscles?

Drinks made with natural substances are the best for dealing with tight muscles. Water, coconut water, herbal teas, and turmeric milk are some examples of drinks that help with this. They work wonders, as they all contain nutrients that can distinctly fuel your body.

The Bottom Line 

There are many possible causes of muscle pain when sleeping. However, there are also many treatments and solutions that are available. Try stretching before bed, getting a massage, or applying heat to your muscles.

You can also improve your sleep quality by drinking plenty of water, eating magnesium-rich foods, and taking a vitamin D supplement. 


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Current concepts and recent advances in understanding and managing lumbar spine stenosis (2019, 
  2. Diagnosis and treatment of sciatica (2007, 
  3. Do You Get Enough Sleep? (2021, 
  4. Effect of prescribed sleep surfaces on back pain and sleep quality in patients diagnosed with low back and shoulder pain (2010, 
  5. Effect of sleep posture on neck muscle activity (2017, 
  6. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Muscle Soreness and Performance ( 
  7. Influence of Hydration and Electrolyte Supplementation on Incidence and Time to Onset of Exercise-Associated Muscle Cramps (2005, 
  8. Low Back Pain and Obesity (2015, 
  9. Lumbar Disc Herniation (2017, 
  10. Muscle Cramps (n.d., 
  11. Muscle pain (2021, 
  12. Osteoarthritis (2021, 
  13. Pregnancy and low back pain (2008, 
  14. Stress effects on the body (2018, 
  15. Tendinosis (2022, 
  16. The Relationship Between Sedentary Behavior, Back Pain, and Psychosocial Correlates Among University Employees (2019, 
  17. Understanding Muscle Dysfunction in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (2016, 
  18. Vitamin D and Muscle Health: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials (2021, 
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