If the average person sleeps about 7 to 8 hours a night, that means that the average person spends around 33% of their entire lives snoozing. If you have poor sleeping posture then you could be trading your stress free time for a time of distress. Bad sleeping posture can be the cause of some headaches, neck pain, low back pains and even sciatica. It could also be the cause of poor sleep quality.
The same rules that apply to standing posture apply to sleeping posture. In a nutshell we want to avoid any musculoskeletal strains due to you neck or back in a stressful position. Here are a few tips for various styles of sleeping on how to sleep with proper posture:
This method of sleeping is the safest and my most recommended. Sleeping face up eliminates a lot of variables that would otherwise put unwanted stress on your body. However, there are still a few tips that you should employ if you choose to sleep face-up:
- Don’t use too much pillow. Some people like to stack pillows behind their head or use very large pillows, and this could lead to neck strain. If your head is propped up too much this places a lot of stress on the muscles in the back of your neck that could cause a neck misalignment and lead to mild to severe headaches.
- Prop your knees up. This tip is situational to those of us who, when sleeping on our back, get a tightness in the small of our back. Not everyone experiences this. A good trick to help with this strain is to sleep with a small pillow underneath your calves or your knees. This props your knees up slightly which relieves the torque that could be put on your lumbar spine when you lay down with legs extended.
- Keep your chin center-line. Make sure to not let your head tilt over to one side or the other while lying face up, so as to not put lots of stress on the muscles in your neck. If you simply turn your head to the right and feel the muscle on the left side of your neck, your sternoclidomastoid (SCM), you can feel just how tight it gets. This is not something that you want to have your neck go through for hours upon hours during your sleep each night. This can lead to neck pain and headaches.
Sleeping on your side may be the only way you can get any decent sleep during the night. Though it has more potential for developing bad sleeping posture, it can still be managed. There are just a couple tips that I would recommend side sleepers to use and a few things that they should avoid:
- Connect the dots. While sleeping on your side, have a friend draw a line on your back connecting the dots on the spinous process ( these are the small bumps that you back bones make down your back side.) The goal is to have the dotted line be parallel to the bed you’re sleeping on. If the line has too much of a curvature then that could be indicative of poor sleeping posture and should be addressed.
- Avoid over rotation of the hips. It’s easy, when sleeping on your side, to swing one leg over the other and over rotate your hips. Make sure to either keep your knees bent and one on top of the other, or to sleep with a small pillow between your knees in order to help keep your hips from over rotating and causing unwanted strain on your low back. If you are a woman with wider hips, sleeping with a pillow between your knees while on your side is even more important for preventing over rotation of the hips.
- Don’t use too much pillow. This is the same tip for face-up sleepers. Avoiding any side bending that could occur from sleeping with too much pillow under your head is vital to preventing severe strain on your spine. You can apply the connect the dots technique to make sure that your cervical spine is aligned properly with the rest of your spine while laying down on your side.
General things to avoid:
- Don’t rest on your arm. Some people find themselves using their arm as a pillow when they sleep on their side. This posture leads to several hours of shoulder pressure and the weight of their head pressing on the nerves and blood vessels in their arm. If you place your left hand on your right shoulder you can see just how tight your shoulder can flex just by raising your arm above your head and laying your head on your arm. Staying in that flexed position all through the night can lead to severe shoulder pain and may cause an impingement.
- Don’t sleep face down. Sleeping face down leads you to have to twist your head one way or another in order to properly breathe. This misalignment of your neck will strain the muscles in your neck and can cause some neck pain and or headaches.
Taking into consideration all of the above sleep posture recommendations, one thing that must be emphasized is the importance of sleep itself. Many people underestimate the amount of sleep they should be getting, and subject their bodies to poor re-cooperation. Find a good mattress, a good pillow, and set aside 6-8 hours a night for good quality sleep. I find in my office that many health problems can be fixed buy just getting enough quality sleep. Quality sleep is vital to good health and should be taken much more seriously, especially in this fast paced age.
If you or a loved one is experiencing trouble achieving quality sleep due to pain you can be helped by chiropractic. I invite you to join the thousands of patients that I have helped over the years that now are enjoying restful, peaceful, invigorating quality sleep. All consultations are free so don’t lose any sleep over it.