Last updated on August 25th, 2021
You must have shared a bed with another person at some point in your life. It may have been a sibling, a friend, or a spouse. What is always notable is the different sleeping positions they have. Some stretch out, occupying the entire space, others, sleep on their sides, while some can only have a sound sleep if they lie on their stomachs.
How we sleep has an impact on our health, especially the neck and the back. It is therefore not surprising that 99 percent of the people have woken up at least once in their lifetime with neck and back pain induced by a wrong sleeping position. This quick guide looks into various sleeping positions and their effect on your back.
Why is your sleeping position important?
A sleeping position is considered as the alignment of your spine, neck, hips, and shoulders while you sleep. It is crucial to your health because it determines the stress on the neck and spine. It also has an impact on your breathing capability and the pumping function of the heart.
Sleeping positions that are good for your health
Below are the most basic sleeping positions that improve your health:
Sleeping on your back
Sleep experts consider it the best sleeping position. It leads to an even distribution of weight throughout the body. It as well helps you avoid unnatural curving of the spine and the neck during these hours of unconsciousness. For proper alignment, use a small pillow to support your neck. Your shoulders should not be on the pillow, as it will again put the head in a lower position creating a strain on the neck.
It is important to note, however, that this sleeping position might induce snoring. In such a case, try the next sleeping position.
Sleeping on your side with stretched legs
If you have a snoring issue or know someone who does, this position can help. Again, the focus is on keeping the spine, the neck, and the hips in their natural position. Therefore, unless, you have lower back pain, the legs should be stretched out. It is still essential to have a pillow on the head and under the neck for proper alignment.
The side you sleep on also matters. Several studies have shown that sleeping on your left side boosts the functionality of the heart. Unlike sleeping on your right side, it does not put pressure on the main arteries and veins. Sleeping on the right side, on the other hand, makes the heart work harder than usual. It is the main reason why doctors advise expectant women to sleep on their left side.
However, restricting your sleeping position to only one side of the body is not advisable. It might cause muscle imbalance, and in extreme cases, scoliosis (the curvature of the spine sideways).
Unhealthy sleeping positions
Curled sleeping position
It is also known as the fetal sleeping position. It can be helpful in alleviating back pains. However, it is not a good choice if you have a healthy spine. This is because it puts the spine in an unnatural position. It is the leading cause of morning back pans.
Sleeping on the stomach
It is the most unnatural sleeping position, and consequently the worst. First, it does not provide any alignment of the neck or the spine, which leads to a lot of stress on these joints. The neck, for example, is always 90 degrees out of alignment with the body.
It also makes breathing difficult. You may wake up feeling dizzy or tired due to an insufficient oxygen supply. The particles in the pillow, bed cover, or mattress can also be harmful to your respiratory system.
Best sleeping positions for neck pain
Waking up with a painful neck is not right on any day, but sleeping with one can be a nightmare. Below are some of the sleeping positions that always help in alleviating neck pains.
- Sleep on your back with on your neck and head on a pillow. The ideal pillow size varies from person to person. A great way of picking the right one is having a friend check if your neck is in its natural position.
- Sleep on the side with a pillow under the neck: The choice of the pillow, in this case, should be thicker than the one used when sleeping on the back. However, the thickness depends on the width and height of the shoulders.
Please note: Avoid sleeping on your stomach when you have a painful neck.
Best sleeping positions for back pains
It is rough living with back pain. Besides the inability to do all your daily duties efficiently, sleeping is always a painful task Here are four sleeping positions that can help relieve lower back pains and other spinal vertebrae pains.
- The fetal position: It involves sleeping on your side and curling your legs upwards, like a fetus in the womb. It is an excellent way of dealing with pains resulting from a herniated disc (a disc pushed out position). It creates spaces between the vertebrae hence the misaligned disc can slide back to its location.
- On your side with pillows between the legs: Sleep on your side with the legs slightly pulled up. Then slip a pillow between your thighs. The pillow is the main item in this position. It keeps the hips, pelvis, and the spine in proper alignment.
- On your back with pillows under the knees: It works because it improves weight distribution throughout the body.
- Pillow under the stomach: It is an option for those who still find it hard to give up sleeping on their tummy. Having a pillow below the abdomen keeps the spine in its natural shape.
- Sleep on a recliner: Recliners are excellent at maintaining spinal alignment while you sleep. Investing in a reclined chair or an adjustable bed will do your lower back much good. This article “Best Recliners for Sleeping” may help you.
It is no doubt that your sleeping position is affecting your joints, especially the spine and neck joints. You can improve and safeguard the health of these crucial parts by taking the right sleeping position. Start training on how to sleep on your back. If your partner or roommate cannot stand the snoring, try sleeping on your side. However, ensure you do not coil up as it may trigger back pains.
Some of the sleeping positions to avoid at all costs include having your shoulders on the pillow, sleeping on your stomach, and sleeping on one side always. All these create unnecessary stress on the neck and the spinal code.