Sleeping is essential for restoring the body’s energy and allowing us to function at our optimal capacity. Many times what keeps us from getting a good night’s rest is poor sleep positioning. Improper sleep positioning leaves us feeling unrested the next day, and it also positions our spine in poor alignment. Over time, this poor alignment can contribute to back pain. The good news is there are simple techniques you can use to keep your back in proper alignment while sleeping.
If you are a side-sleeper, your upper leg may tend to slide forward to rest on the mattress, causing your lower spine to twist (or rotate). This can contribute to hip or back pain. To prevent your spine from rotating, it is important to keep your knees and hips aligned. This can be achieved by placing a pillow between your legs. Another thing that may happen is that your top arm and shoulder will drop forward, causing rotation at your upper back as well. To keep your shoulders aligned, place a pillow in front of your chest and rest your top arm on it.
If you sleep on your back, it is important to maintain the normal curvature of the low back, which is just the slightest curve in the low back. Sleeping with your legs straight out can cause an increased curvature in your back (over-arching), placing more pressure on your low back. To relieve this pressure, sleep with one or two pillows under your knees.
It is the most difficult to find the best position for stomach sleepers. This is because the neck is in a statically rotated position. In addition, your back tends to arch, contributing to increased pressure on the low back. It is generally not recommended for people to sleep on their stomachs, but if this is the only position you can sleep in, you can try some of these techniques: if you sleep with your head turned to the right, place a pillow under your right chest and shoulder, one under the right part of the stomach, and another pillow under your right hip and thigh. This will help to get your neck in a less rotated position, while promoting a neutral curve of the spine. A body pillow may be a good option to minimize the amount of pillows needed. If you sleep with your head turned to the left, put the pillows on the left side.
Now you may be wondering which pillow is the best for you. This is a good question, as many times people are sleeping with pillows that are completely wrong for them! The best advice is to use a pillow that is thick enough to take up the space between your bed and your neck. If you are sleeping on your back, the space will not be as much as if you are sleeping on your side. If your pillow does not provide this type of support, try placing a rolled towel inside your pillowcase (pictured below). You also want a pillow that is firm enough to support your neck throughout the night. Sometimes pillows are so soft that it stays flat just minutes after laying on it.
Now that you have a little more knowledge on the best sleep position for you, I hope you will be able to find a comfortable position to rest. Good night!
Tania Yuen SPT