What Position Should I Sleep In? Article of the week October 16-20
This week's article of the week is on proper sleep posture. It's a topic I get asked about frequently, and I thought it was worth a newsletter as so many people struggle to get a good night's sleep.
Most people understand that the worst position to sleep is on the stomach. There are two problems with sleeping face-down. The first is that the head is rotated for a prolonged period of time which creates an imbalance in the muscles and tissues of the neck. Twisting the head to one side for 6-8 hours consecutively places stress on muscles, joints and ligaments and over time can lead to neck, shoulder and arm pain, numbness or tingling.
The other problem with stomach sleeping is that it creates extension through your lower back which over time can cause the muscles in the lower back to excessively shorten, and it can also pinch the joints between the vertebrae. Over time this can create an imbalance that will make you more prone to back injury and pain.
The second best position to sleep in is on your side. Make sure that the pillow you use supports your head in a neutral position so that your head is not tipped toward your left or right shoulder. Also ensure that your neck isn't flexed, that is, your chin should not be tucked down toward your chest. The legs should be slightly flexed at your hips to reduce pressure on your lower back, and you can even add a pillow between your legs to reduce stress on your pelvis.
In my opinion, the best posture to sleep in is on your back. The reason I say this is that your body weight is distributed over the greatest amount of surface area. When you sleep on your side, excessive pressure is placed on one shoulder and one arm is pinned underneath you which can compress nerves and lead to arm numbness. When sleeping on your back, make sure that the pillow is providing support underneath your neck and not your head. When the pillow is placed too high under the head it can take the normal curve out of your neck while you sleep and lead to more forward head posture and neck pain and stiffness. The only caveat to back sleeping is that this may not be the best choice for you if you suffer with sleep apnea, and you may opt for the side position.
The pillow that you choose does not particularly matter, as long as you find it comfortable and it keeps your head in a neutral position. Your mattress should be medium-firm. It should be soft enough to displace the heavier parts of your body if you're on your side (shoulders and hips), but also firm enough to support the 3 curves in your spine if you're on your back. The mattress should never “hammock” and leave your spine in one c-shaped curve.
If you want a clue as to whether your current sleep posture is helping or hurting you, ask yourself the question, “how do I feel when I wake up?”. Do you feel stiff and sore, moreso than when you went to bed? If so, chances are that you need to either make modifications to your current sleep posture, or consider a different pillow or mattress.
If you are trying to break the habit of sleeping on your stomach, realize that training yourself to sleep in a better position is going to take time, anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
Sweet dreams everyone!
Grace Chiropractic – 1-3230 Monarch Drive – 705-323-9100 – http://gracechiropractic.ca