We all know that sleep is important for our brains and bodies, but many people don’t realize that the position we sleep in can have a major impact on both our quality of sleep and our overall physical health.
A Chiropractor’s Guide To Getting Great Rest Without Hurting Your Spine
If you’re sleeping in a position that doesn’t support your spine, respiratory system, and digestive system, you’ll likely struggle to get great sleep. This is worth thinking about, because in a survey, 65% of Americans said that they get a restful night’s sleep less on only three nights a week or less.
Even if you are getting restful sleep, it’s possible that the position you’re sleeping in is not healthy for your body. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the pros and cons of different sleeping positions, a guide to finding the right pillow for your needs, and some helpful tips for optimizing the sleep position that’s most comfortable for you.
What is the Best Sleep Position?
While some sleeping positions are better than others, there’s no one right or wrong way to sleep.
The best sleeping position for you will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Your age
- Health conditions such as acid reflux, sleep apnea, or chronic pain
- The natural curvature of your spine
- The type of mattress you sleep on
- Your weight and weight distribution
It’s also important to find a sleep position that’s comfortable to you, because if you spend the whole night tossing and turning or struggling to fall asleep, you won’t get the rest your body needs.
In general, the goal is to sleep in a position that supports the natural curvature and alignment of your spine. Sleeping on your side or your back is typically better for you than sleeping on your stomach, but no matter which position you prefer, there are ways to make it more comfortable and less harmful for your body.
Here’s an overview of the three most basic sleeping positions and the pros and cons of each:
- Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your side is the most popular sleep position, and it has many health benefits.
In particular, side sleeping allows your body to rest with the spine’s natural curvature, which is good for your back and neck, especially if you deal with lower back pain. Sleeping on your side can also help reduce heartburn, acid reflux, snoring, and sleep apnea.
To make side sleeping even better for your spine and joints, consider sleeping with a pillow between your knees. This is especially helpful for people with low back, hip, and knee pain.
On the other hand, if you experience shoulder pain, you should avoid sleeping on your side.
- Sleeping On Your Back
Sleeping flat on your back is a great alternative for people with shoulder and neck pain, because it provides the affected joints with support while still keeping your spine aligned.
If you deal with congestion or allergies, sleeping on your back with your head slightly propped up can help you breathe more easily.
Some people with low back pain find that sleeping on their back is painful, because it leaves a gap between your back and the mattress. To help with this, try placing a thin pillow under the small of your back or under your knees.
It’s also best to keep each arm in the same position, whether that’s to leave them rested at your sides or to fold them across your stomach.
If you have sleep apnea, acid reflux, or obesity, you should avoid sleeping on your back. Older people are also less likely to find this position comfortable.
- Sleeping On Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach provides the least support for the spine, and most experts recommend avoiding this position if possible.
In order to sleep on your stomach, you have to turn your head to one side, which twists your neck and head out of alignment and can cause neck and shoulder pain. Depending on the firmness of your mattress, you may also find that your hips sink into the mattress in this position.
However, if sleeping on your stomach is the most comfortable position that allows you to get the best quality of sleep, there are a few things you can do to minimize these problems. First, use a thin pillow, or even no pillow at all, so you don’t have to tilt your neck any further than necessary.
You can also place a pillow under your hips to take some of the pressure of your spine and support its natural curvature. If you consistently sleep on your stomach and don’t plan to switch things up, you may also want to invest in a firm mattress, as this will help prevent your hips and legs from sinking.
What is the Best Sleeping Position for Back Pain?
Many people who deal with back pain find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, there’s no one sleeping position that can eliminate this problem; it depends largely on the type and location of the injury.
In general, people with low back pain should avoid sleeping on their stomachs. If you’re experiencing neck or upper back pain, try sleeping on your back with a flat pillow, or a pillow with a lot of cushion.
If you often find yourself waking up feeling stiff or sore, you may benefit from a different pillow or sleeping position, but it’s likely also a sign that you should make an appointment with a local chiropractor.
What Pillow Should I Sleep On?
Much like sleeping positions, there is no perfect pillow that works for everyone. It depends on your weight distribution, unique pain issues, and also the sleeping you prefer.
As a general rule, there’s no need to purchase extremely expensive pillows. Something in the $40-50 is more than sufficient.
If you sleep on your side, make sure you’re using a pillow that allows your head to rest level with your spine. You may need to have someone look at you when you’re lying down to let you know if your pillow meets this standard.
The same rule applies for sleeping on your back. If you have neck pain, you may prefer a pillow with extra cushion, while others might enjoy a flat pillow.
And if you sleep on your stomach, try to use the flattest pillow possible, or even no pillow at all if you can do so comfortably.
If you’re experiencing back or neck pain that’s making it difficult to sleep, a chiropractor can help you heal more quickly and effectively. Give us a call right now at 954-432-5006 to schedule a consultation.
Dr. Rush is a 1994 graduate of the University of Florida where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Exercise Sports Science and Wellness.
Dr. Rush earned his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree at Life University in 2000 where he was honored with magna cum laude. Dr. Rush was born and raised in South Florida where he returned after graduation. He currently practices in Pembroke Pines, Florida where he owns and operates Rush Chiropractic and Rehab at Pembroke Pines FL.