As a chiropractor, I talk to people about proper posture all day. It makes sense to lift with your legs, keep your back straight, and not slump in your chair, but one area where I find that people neglect their posture is during sleep time. It is important to sleep correctly because your body does the majority of its healing and recovering while you are asleep. If you are not getting good, sound sleep, then your body will not have a chance to recover from the day and the negative effects of stress will build up and cause problems.
So let’s talk about the proper way to sleep… First of all, the average person should be getting around 8 hours of sleep per night. For some that is not a problem, others would need a 30-hour day to pull that off. But if you are able to manage 6-8 hours of sleep per night, that means that you are spending 25-33% of your life laying in your bed. Therefore, the posture that you sleep in will greatly impact how you feel on a daily basis. So let’s dive in…
There are 2 proper positions to sleep in, either on your back, or on your side. While sleeping on your back, you will want a single pillow that supports the natural curve in your neck. Too many pillows piled too high will put your neck in a flexed position and cause neck and shoulder problems over time. You will also want to place a pillow under your knees so that your knees are slightly bent, that will help take pressure off of your low back.
The second acceptable position is laying on your side. While on your side, you will again want a single pillow that keeps your neck in a neutral position. Too much pillow, or too little pillow, will not be good for your neck. Further, you must keep your arms by your sides. Placing your arm up above your head so that your pillow is sandwiched between your shoulder and head will cut the blood supply to your arm and lead to neck, and shoulder problems. Also while laying on your side, place a pillow between your slightly bent knees, this will take pressure off of your hips and lower back.
Lastly, I will point out that sleeping on your stomach is NOT on the list of acceptable sleeping postures. Stomach sleeping puts a lot of pressure on both your neck and lower back and will only lead to pain.
Changing sleeping habits can be difficult. Patience and persistence will pay off, though, and making improvements with your sleeping posture will have you sleeping better, healing more efficiently and living a healthier, happier life.