Your body position and alignment during the sleeping hours is very important. You can spend up to a third of your life sleeping, so of course sleep posture is important. Poor sleep posture can cause back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and hip pain. Improving your posture while sleeping can help to alleviate many types of pain or make you more comfortable if you are experiencing pain that is affecting your sleep.
If you wake up with pain, if your pain is worse during the night while trying to sleep, or if your pain is worse in the mornings when you get out of bed, then chances are that your sleep posture is contributing to your pain experience. If your pain is one-sided and you tend to sleep on one side primarily, then your sleep posture may be a problem.
Why does pain result from poor sleep posture? First of all, poor alignment while sleeping can cause stress in all the wrong places. Also certain sustained bad sleep postures or positions can lead to soreness or pain. Sleeping in an ergonomically correct position can reduce or eliminate pain.
Most people are side sleepers. This position is usually the most comfortable for those with back pain, especially when the knees are pulled close to the chest — in a semi-fetal position. Here are some strategies to bring you a more comfortable night's sleep.
- Use a pillow between your knees. Our hips are wider than the knees, so a pillow here ensures proper alignment of the spine.
- Use a pillow thick enough to fill the space between the head and shoulder tip. You can achieve proper alignment with a pillow to fill this gap. Without this you might wake up with a kink in your neck or strained neck muscles.
- Rest your upper arm on a cushion like a body pillow. The upper arm needs support; otherwise, gravity pulls on the shoulder or tugs on the sensitive nerves in your neck.
- Try a small towel or soft, small pillow at your waist. Because our hips are wider than our waist (usually), it creates a gap, and gravity fills the gap by misaligning our spine.
- Do not sleep on your side with a thin, flat pillow supporting your head. The neck will bend in order for the head to rest on the pillow. Bending your neck all night will cause a pain in the neck. Make sure your pillow is thick enough to take up the distance between the neck and the shoulders while maintaining alignment between your neck and spine.
This position can be uncomfortable for your lower back because your hips are too tight. With proper pillow placement, sleeping on your back can be ergonomically correct, very comfortable, and one of the best, least stressful positions to sleep in.
- Use a thin pillow under your head. Very little gap exists between the back of the head and shoulders in this position; therefore, only a thin pillow is required for good alignment.
- Try to support your knees on a few pillows. Remember, when the knees are bent and closer to the chest (like a semi-fetal position), it eases back discomfort.
Some like this position for a change of pace. It is the least recommended sleep position. This position can be stressful on the neck because when sleeping on your stomach your head is usually rotated and extended backwards causing stress on the neck. Also, lying on the stomach can be uncomfortable for those with back pain because lying on the stomach can cause extra strain in the low back. But, one key pillow placement may be all that you need to make stomach sleeping work for you.
- Try a pillow or stack of pillows under your stomach and chest. The extra height of the torso above the mattress will flex your hip and ease back strain
Hopefully this will help you be more comfortable while sleeping. Getting a good nights rest is important in helping you feel your best. For more recommendations on special neck pillows and ergonomically correct mattresses, speak with your doctor of chiropractic.