Why You Wake Up Stiff and Achy

Senior Man Suffering With Neck Pain Sitting On Side Of Bed At Home
Photo Credit
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

10 Tips for Beating Morning Soreness and Body Pain

Print Friendly and PDF
No content available.

Do you grunt, groan, and ratchet yourself to a standing position as you get out of bed in the morning? Then, after stretching and moving around for a few minutes, do you feel the achiness and stiffness abate (at least some of it)? Why do you feel so achy in the morning? There’s a reason for this!

The Body’s Natural Ibuprofen

Scientists have discovered that we wake up stiff and achy because our body’s natural ibuprofen has not kicked in yet. As the day darkens into night, the circadian clocks in joint tissue suppress inflammation and also the body’s production of anti-inflammatory proteins, our natural pain-dampeners.

Yep, our body’s biological clock suppresses anti-inflammatory proteins while we sleep. Once the morning light streams in and we’ve struggled up and moved around a bit, the body begins producing its anti-inflammatory compounds again, and we begin feeling more flexible with less pain.

British researchers say that these findings may eventually lead to new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

10 Ways to Reduce Morning Body Pain

While waking up stiff and sore is common for just about anyone, it can be especially painful for people with recent injuries or arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other inflammatory conditions; those recovering from a recent surgical procedure; athletes after a hard training day; or just plain ordinary folks who have spent hours shoveling snow or garden compost.

While you can’t reverse the effects of joint aging, you can reduce the severity of morning stiffness with these tips:

  1. Don’t sleep on a worn-out mattress and/or pillow—or one that doesn’t provide the right level of support for the neck and spine.
  2. Try a new sleeping position. Sleeping on your stomach may contribute to morning pain. Try sleeping on your back or side with a pillow under your knees.
  3. Avoid sleeping in an environment that is too cold. 
  4. Find ways to be more active during the day. Movement lubricates joints. Exercise and yoga relieve inflammation by increasing blood flow to your muscles. Aim for 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  5. Be careful not to overtrain (working beyond your limits or strength and/or endurance).
  6. Watch for poor posture, especially while performing daytime tasks. Change your position regularly if you are sitting at a desk.
  7. Maintain a healthy weight. Here are some common sense weight loss tips.
  8. Improve a poor diet. Avoid foods that cause inflammation, including sugary foods and drinks, refined carbs (white bread, white pasta, pastries), fried foods, red meat (steak, burgers), processed meat (hot dogs, sausage), some dairy, margarine, and shortening. Aim to eat a diet with more green leafy vegetables (plants!), tomatoes, olive oil, seafood (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), fruit (especially berries) and nuts (almonds, walnuts)
  9. Look for ways to reduce physical or emotional stress that results in chronically tightened muscles and tendons. Consider mindfulness meditation which has been clinically shown to change the way your brain processes pain. How to meditate? Begin by focusing on breathing. Start with a minute and build up to more time. If your attention wanders, return your focus to your breathing.
  10. Do not smoke cigarettes! Amongst all its many health evils, cigarettes are linked to poor pain relief. Smoking prevents oxygenated blood from reaching bones and tissues. And it limits the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood, making the blood quality lower. 

5 Tips for a Better Morning

  1. Working up from your toes, contract, wiggle, and stretch every part of your body while you’re still lying in bed. This gives your muscles a chance to warm up before jumping into action for the day.
  2. Move slowly and stretch after you stand up. 
  3. If you can, get into a warm tub or shower to loosen up and soothe the overnight aches.
  4. Of course, if you take pain medication, ask your doctor about rescheduling and/or altering the dose.
  5. Take a vitamin D supplement. You can also get this all important vitamin from the sun—learn all about the health benefits of sunshine.

Finally, note that joint health supplements do not appear to help manage symptoms, so don’t waste your money.

Follow these steps to get off to a smoother—and more comfortable—start and get on with your day!

See more about getting better sleep:

About The Author

Margaret Boyles

Margaret Boyles is a longtime contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. She wrote for UNH Cooperative Extension, managed NH Outside, and contributes to various media covering environmental and human health issues. Read More from Margaret Boyles

No content available.