We know that a good night’s sleep is essential to our health in so many ways. We aim for a minimum of 8 hours of sleep each night, and if we are getting this amount of sleep that means we are spending about a third of our lives sleeping!
One aspect we don’t really think much about is the position we are sleeping in, but this can have a huge impact on our bodies and impact the health of our spines. This is because improper alignment of our neck and spine during sleep can cause a lot of strain and stress on our bodies resulting in problems with your neck, shoulders, back, hips, and jaw. It’s happened to all of us – we wake up in the morning feeling like we slept on a bed of rocks or were attacked in the middle of the night – we start scrambling to figure out what went wrong and what happened. The answer is that we were likely not sleeping in a proper position that kept our neck and spine well aligned.
So what impacts do specific sleeping positions have on our bodies and which one is right for you?
SLEEPING ON YOUR BACK
Although this is one of the least popular of all sleeping positions – only about 8% of people – sleeping on your back is the BEST position for you to sleep in. This sleeping position allows your head, neck, and spine to align in a natural and neutral position throughout the night, which means no extra stress in those areas and a reduction in the likelihood of experiencing pain. Another plus to sleeping on your back is that it can help reduce acid reflux and even helps prevent wrinkles! If you sleep in this position the use of pillows is important. You want to make sure you are using a pillow under your head that properly supports your neck without lifting your head up and place a pillow under your knees to keep stress and strain off your lower back.
The bad news about back sleeping is that it is not a great position for people who have problems with snoring and can be a dangerous position for individuals suffering from sleep apnea.
SLEEPING ON YOUR SIDE
Sleeping on your side can come in two forms – sleeping relatively straight like a log with your legs stretched out and arms down to the side or sleeping in the fetal position with your legs bent upward. Sleeping on your side is the most popular sleeping position with 15% of adults sleeping straight on their sides and 41% of adults sleeping on their sides in the fetal position.
Sleeping on your side in a straight position is considered the second-best position to sleep in since your spine is elongated, which will help reduce strain and stress on your neck and back and will ward off pain. This position also helps keep your airways open which means it helps reduce snoring and is also the best position for those individuals suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleeping on your side in the fetal position is by far the most popular sleeping position out of them all. This position, particularly done on the left side, is a great position for pregnant women as it improves circulation in your body and the fetus and prevents your uterus from pressing against your liver. This position is also good for snorers. However, beware, scrunched up too tightly in this position can restrict your breathing and leave you feeling sore in the morning, especially if you suffer from arthritis in your joints or back.
When sleeping on your side, whether you choose the straight position or the fetal position, it is still also important to utilize pillows to help keep a neutral positioning of the neck and spine. You will want a pillow that will support your neck well and should also use a pillow in between your knees to help keep your hips in line.
The one downside to sleeping on your side is that it can lead to wrinkles on your face since one side of your face is smashed into a pillow.
SLEEPING ON YOUR STOMACH
The only thing stomach sleeping seems to be good for is reducing snoring, since it keeps your airways open more easily. Unfortunately, it’s bad for almost everything else. Sleeping on your stomach is the WORST position you can choose from a chiropractic viewpoint. Because sleeping on your stomach forces you to twist your neck to the side so you can breathe and makes it difficult to maintain a neutral position of your spine, a lot of stress is placed on your back and neck. Sleeping on your stomach also puts pressure on your muscles, nerves, and joints and that can further irritate your spinal nerves. This position will almost inevitably cause pain and discomfort upon wakening.