When you wake up in the morning, you want to feel well-rested and ready to face your day. If you have ever asked yourself, why do my muscles tighten up when I sleep? Then this article is for you.

We understand that dealing with muscle pain is frustrating.

Getting a good night sleep is important. This guide will help you understand why muscles tighten while sleeping and what you can do to avoid it happening to you.

No, it's not bad if your muscles tighten overnight. In fact, it's a sign of normal health. It's completely normal to feel a little tight after lying still all night long. 

After all, your muscles won't have moved much for 6-8 hours (which is a fairly long time). 

And, if you're like me and workout often, your muscles will likely feel a little tighter due to DOMS, which again is a natural response to exercise such as resistance training. 

You can lower your chances of muscle tightness by stretching after your workout and even before bed. I used to do this regularly, and it sure does help. 

While it's a natural for some stiffness overnight, it shouldn't be excessive, so if you're worried, always speak to a doctor as it could be signs of something more serious (which I'll cover in a moment). 

Why Does Muscle Stiffness Happen Overnight?

There are many reasons why someone might wake up with muscle stiffness even if they did not experience muscle stiffness during the day [1]. If you had a day filled with exercise or hard manual labor, then your body might naturally be sore the next day from being overworked.

When we sit or sleep for a long period of time, our muscles can naturally tighten. When we wake up and start to move around again, experiencing muscle soreness and stiffness is normal.

People with arthritis will also experience morning stiffness because they already have stiff muscles and tendons.

woman sleeping in bed

What Causes Leg Muscles To Tighten Up While Asleep?

Muscles tighten up while we sleep because we aren’t using them. When we wake up, it can help to stretch muscles out before moving around. 

Leg cramps can happen while sleeping because there is unusual nerve activity, so the muscle begins to cramp [2]. When waking up, this ache is felt, and the pain is felt.

  • Sedentary Lifestyle
    A sedentary lifestyle is a lifestyle where there is little movement. If you spend most of your time sitting down, then you are leading a sedentary lifestyle. This type of inactivity can lead to muscle cramps and muscle stiffness because your muscles are not being worked out properly each day. Adding a walking routine or exercise routine to your day can make a big difference.
  • Muscle Overexertion
    Muscle overexertion typically occurs when people implement an intense exercise routine or work a manually taxing job. If you work your muscles hard during the day, particularly in a new way, you can wake up with muscle soreness. It is best to slowly implement physical activity and build up physical strength to avoid muscle fatigue.
  • Improper Sitting Position
    If you are sitting in an uncomfortable position for a long time where you are hunched over or crossing your legs, this can lead to muscle cramping later in the day. In these positions, the calf muscles are shortened, and therefore, when you try to elongate them later, you experience pain.
  • Prolonged Standing
    If you need to stay standing for long periods, typically because of your job, we recommend that you purchase comfortable, shock-absorbing shoes. This will help protect your leg muscles from chronic fatigue. Studies have shown that standing for long periods of time contributes to nighttime leg cramps.
  • Abnormal Nerve Activity
    Some people have overly wired nerve activity and sensations. For these people, cramping can be a constant part of their life. If you have abnormal nerve firing in your muscles, then you are more likely to experience nocturnal cramps.
  • Shortening Of The Tendons
    Another cause of tight muscles after sleeping is shortened tendons. Some people have shorter tendons than other people. This cannot be prevented, but regular stretching during the day can help keep tendons elongated and avoid muscle tightness.

Why Do Back Muscles Tighten Up When I Sleep?

Bad Mattress

A bad mattress can lead to muscle tightening and back pain. This usually happens with soft mattresses. If the mattress isn’t firm, the body slouches into the mattress, and the spine moves out of alignment.

However, if the mattress is too firm, then the back may experience excess pressure and pain.


Pregnancy has been known to cause back muscle tightness and general back pain. The reason for this is because the baby weighs significantly more than most people are used to carrying.

Most doctors recommend sleeping on your side while pregnant.

Disc Degeneration

Disc degeneration is a painful condition where chronic pain occurs through thinning discs and bone spurs. For people with disc degeneration, we recommend sleeping on the stomach.

This can help remove pressure from the discs. A firm mattress is best for stomach sleepers.


Fibromyalgia is a neurological condition that affects the muscles, including the back muscles. Many people report waking up with pain and muscle soreness.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia back pain, we recommend speaking with your doctor. You may need to use a natural sleep aid such as melatonin to ensure that you get the sleep you need.

a person sleeping in bed with feet out

7 Strategies To Prevent Waking Up With Tight Muscles

Preventing tight muscle pain while sleeping is possible with these seven strategies [3].

1. Pillow Adjustment

A pillow adjustment may be all that is needed to prevent waking up with tight muscles. Why? Because pillows can be placed in positions that help you sleep better or that hinder your sleep.

If you experience hip pain, for example, we recommend placing a thin pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side. This can help neutralize the hips.

2. Switch Up Your Diet

Adding foods rich in magnesium can help with tight muscles. These foods include dark chocolate, nuts, tofu, seeds, bananas, and avocados. Magnesium is vital for muscle function and helps eliminate cramps.

3. Mild Exercise

A mild exercise every day (20-30 minutes of brisk walking would count) can help reduce muscle tightness. Exercising helps warm up your muscles and elongate them, which helps while sleeping.

Related Article - Should You Workout Biceps & Triceps On The Same Day?

4. Take Vitamin D Supplement

A vitamin D supplement has been shown to reduce muscle tightness that people experience in their joints [4]. This is particularly true for people with arthritis. Try taking a daily vitamin D supplement to help with cramped muscles.

5. Sleeping Routine

Changing your sleeping routine can help with tight muscles. We recommend adding light stretching to your evening and morning sleeping routine to wake up restored without all of the muscle cramping you typically experience.

6. Try A New Sleeping Position

Sometimes we get used to sleeping in one position when another would actually be more comfortable.

If you have been sleeping in one position for a long time and experience restlessness or muscle tightening, try a new sleeping position. Consider side sleeping (opposite sides), stomach sleeping, and back sleeping.

7. Relieve Stress

Stress can keep you up at night and make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can also lead to uncomfortable muscle tightness. One way to reduce stress is to perform breathing exercises before bed.

Related Article - Why Are My Lat Muscles Growing Uneven?

woman sleeping in bed at night

Stretches To Reduce Morning Muscle Stiffness

There are many different stretches that can help reduce morning muscle soreness and stiffness.

Cobra Yoga Pose

The cobra yoga pose is a common pose that helps to remove morning stiffness because it stretches the shoulders, spine, abdominal muscles, and chest.

Lie on the floor with your palms flat down. Then slowly bring your head up, and arch your back.

Related Article - Yoga Vs Stretching

Do The Twist

The twist can help you release anxiety and muscle tension. Lie down (this time on your back) and leave your legs straight. Then move your right leg over the left using your hip to make the twisting movement.

Bend this right leg at a 90-degree angle. Then repeat, but on the opposite side.

Neck And Shoulder Stretch

For this stretch, you can do a neck roll. Gently, move your head to the right and then roll it around to the front of your body, to the left side, to the back of your body, and then to the right side of your body.

Repeat, but starting with the left side.

Single-Leg Hug

The single leg hug works by bringing one leg back towards your chest and hugging your knee (while lying on your back). Pull your core inward to stabilize your body. Then repeat with the other leg.

Side Stretch

The side stretch helps lengthen your lower back and rib cage muscles. Start by standing and make sure that your feet are shoulder-width apart.

Next, place your hand on your bed and move your right leg in front of your left leg. Do a gentle twist and lengthen your torso. Repeat on the other side.

Long Stretch

A long stretch involves taking a deep breath in while standing and then raising your hands above your head. Try to stretch your arms, your neck, and your chest as far as you can.

Reach for the sky. Then exhale and bring your arms down to your sides. Repeat to begin your morning relaxed and peaceful.

Related Article - Benefits Of Stretching

Standing Hamstring Stretch

The standing hamstring stretch begins standing. From here, lift up the foot of your left leg (toes to the sky) but keep your heel on the ground.

Bend your right knee and gently push back. You should feel the stretch in your hamstring and possibly your calf.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Why does my whole body hurt after waking up?

If your whole body hurts after waking up, it may be that you are experiencing arthritis or another medical condition. If it only happens after an intense exercise session or lots of physical lifting, then it may be due to overexertion.

When should I be worried about muscle pain?

If you experience muscle pain for more than a week, we recommend visiting the doctor. If your muscle stiffness occurs at the same time as a weakness in the body or dark urine, then you need to go to the emergency room.

Is stiffness a sign of inflammation?

Stiffness can be a sign of muscle inflammation. In fact, stiffness is a common symptom of arthritis. We recommend visiting the doctor to find out why you are experiencing stiffness. Medication or stretching exercises may help you.

Can muscle pain last for months?

Yes, muscle pain can last for months, depending on the underlying cause of the muscle pain. If you experience muscle pain that lasts beyond a few days, we recommend making an appointment with your primary care doctor.


Muscles that tighten up when you sleep can be painful and frustrating, keeping you from the sleep that you need.

Performing regular stretching and sleeping in a comfortable position can help your muscles relax and make it easier to sleep each night.






Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.