This article is reviewed, corrected, and approved by: Dr. Benjamin McLean M.D. | FCPS | FRCP | MPH

Sleeping peacefully can be a challenge for those battling Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS). In this condition, nerves and blood vessels are compressed in your neck and shoulders. TOS brings discomfort, pain, and numbness, making it hard to find a restful position.

Sleeping better reduces TOS symptoms, improves sleep quality, and increases your ability to wake up refreshed in the morning. Let's discover some unconventional techniques and sleeping positions that can assist you in achieving a more relaxed and revitalizing sleep.

What is Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)?

Nerves and blood arteries become squeezed between the collarbone and the first rib, causing thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). The consequences are not pleasant, as they manifest through painful sensations, tingling, and weakness that invade the arms and hands.

But fret not, for there is hope! With a range of treatments at hand, relief from these troublesome symptoms.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome And Its Impact On Sleep Quality

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) can significantly impact sleep quality due to the discomfort and pain it causes in the affected areas. When lying down, the pressure on the compressed nerves and blood vessels can worsen, leading to heightened symptoms during sleep.

Thoracic outlet syndrome may cause sleep disturbances. Moreover, the pain and numbness in the arms and hands can disrupt sleep patterns, preventing TOS patients from achieving restful and uninterrupted sleep.

As a result, TOS can lead to nausea, fatigue, and overall diminished quality of life. Improving sleep quality and overall well-being can be achieved by effectively managing TOS symptoms and adjusting sleep positions.

Managing TOS: The Importance of Sleeping Positions

Thoracic outlet syndrome sleeping position plays a vital role in managing TOS. Proper alignment is necessary to reduce stress on blood vessels and nerves.

Back sleeping or side sleeping on the unaffected side is recommended. I will discuss in more detail TOS sleeping position, thoracic outlet syndrome exercises, and tips for improving sleep quality.

Most Promising Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Sleeping Position

Finding the best sleeping positions is essential for individuals with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome to reduce discomfort and improve sleep quality. Here are some best thoracic outlet syndrome sleeping positions that give you better comfort.

Here are the recommended sleeping positions for TOS management:

Back Sleeping

Sleep on your back to maintain proper spinal alignment and reduce shoulder and neck pressure. A pillow under your knees can provide you with extra support and comfort.

Side Sleeping on the Unaffected Side

If you prefer side sleeping, choose the side opposite to the affected area. This helps relieve pressure on the compressed thoracic outlet and reduces the risk of aggravating TOS symptoms.

Avoid Stomach Sleeping

Patients with TOS should avoid sleeping on their stomachs. It can lead to excessive neck rotation and further thoracic outlet compression, potentially worsening the situation.

Supportive Mattresses and Pillows

Ensure that you use a mattress and pillows that are supportive and align your spine properly. The right mattress can alleviate pressure points and enhance sleep comfort.

Ergonomic Sleep Aids

Consider using ergonomic sleep aids, such as cervical pillows or shoulder supports, to cushion and support the neck and shoulders during sleep.

Gentle Stretching

Before bedtime, thoracic outlet syndrome massage could be applied. For example, strain relief cord grip, gentle stretching in the neck, shoulders, and arms.

Regular Position Changes

If staying in one position becomes uncomfortable, try changing positions regularly throughout the night.

Tips for Better Sleep with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Here are some tips that may help individuals with thoracic outlet syndrome -

  • Choose the right sleeping position.
  • When selecting a mattress and pillows, be mindful to choose ones that provide proper support for your shoulders and body.
  • Use ergonomic sleep aids.
  • Perform gentle stretching before bedtime.
  • Consider wearing a compression sleeve during sleep.
  • Consult a doctor for severe TOS symptoms.

Sleeping Habits to Avoid for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Patients

Adjusting your sleep position can help relieve symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).  You can get better sleep by avoiding a few sleeping habits.

  • Head Turned to One Side: Refrain from sleeping with your head turned to one side, as it can lead to additional compression of the thoracic outlet.
  • Excessive Neck Rotation: Avoid sleep positions that involve excessive rotation of the neck, which can exacerbate TOS discomfort.
  • Poor Neck Support: Do not use pillows that do not provide proper neck support, as it can lead to strain and worsen TOS-related issues.
  • Sleeping with Elevated Shoulders: Avoid sleeping in a position that elevates the shoulders, as it can compress the thoracic outlet and cause discomfort.
  • Unsupported Arms: Refrain from sleeping with unsupported or awkwardly positioned arms, as it can lead to increased pressure on the affected areas.
  • Inconsistent Sleep Schedule: Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, as irregular sleep patterns can impact TOS symptoms.
  • Stomach Sleeping: Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as it can strain the neck and shoulders, worsening TOS symptoms.

The Bottom Line

TOS can acutely impact sleep quality in real life. To promote better sleep, it's important to maintain a good thoracic outlet syndrome sleeping position. Stick to a regular sleep schedule, and avoid sleeping on a mattress that is too hard or soft.

Individuals with TOS can experience relief and a better quality of life by prioritizing proper sleep positions and habits. If you have a severe condition, you can speak with a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Specialist for better results or a checkup.


Is thoracic outlet syndrome a disability?

Ans: The disability status of TOS (thoracic outlet syndrome icd 10) depends on each person's physical condition.

How to sleep with thoracic outlet syndrome?

Ans: To sleep with thoracic outlet syndrome, use supportive pillows, avoid sleeping on the affected side, keep arms and shoulders relaxed, use heat or ice packs, and consult a physician for personalized advice.