How Sleep Position Affects The Spine
If you have back or neck pain, it can be hard to get to sleep. But what you may not know is that some very common sleeping habits will negatively affect the spine. In turn, improper mattress support and poor sleeping positions contribute to a vicious cycle of pain and lack of quality sleep. Back or neck pain are the results of many different causes, but if a recent injury is out of the question, one of the simplest steps you can take toward relief is proper sleeping technique.
“Sleep on a cloud”
One common mistake is replacing pillows and mattresses too infrequently. If your pillows have seen too much use, they won’t provide the support that your neck needs. Fluff them up frequently so that your head can remain in a neutral position, meaning your neck doesn’t bend when lying down. For instance, using multiple pillows may be comfortable in the moment, but if your neck is bent upward for 8 hours a night, it takes a toll on the spine. The same is true if your pillows aren’t sufficiently fluffed and your neck bends downward during sleep.
Additionally, mattresses should be replaced far more frequently than most people bother — about every 6 or 7 years. A sagging mattress is a surefire way to get on the fast track to back issues, so flip it every few months. Or more frequently if sagging is visible.
Set yourself up for success…
Alright, so you now have brand-new bedding. You tested the pillows and mattresses in the store and you’re sure it’s exactly what you need. Before you get too excited, it’s also crucial to try different sleeping positions to ensure that your spine settles properly during your nightly slumber.
The best way to sleep is on your side, with a pillow between your knees. Add another pillow between your waist and the mattress if there’s a gap there. It keeps your spine stretched and uncurved. This position has also been proven to reduce acid reflux and snoring — good news for your significant other.
If you absolutely can’t stand sleeping on your side, then try sleeping on your back with a pillow underneath your knees. This way, your weight is evenly distributed as you sleep, putting less stress on sensitive areas of the spine.
…but you can’t stomach it.
The absolute WORST position you can sleep in is on your stomach. It adds stress to your neck and lower back. If you absolutely cannot sleep unless you’re lying on your stomach, add a pillow between your pelvis and the mattress to relieve some stress.
These techniques aren’t exclusive to people that suffer pain — everyone should employ these successful sleep systems to help prevent pain in the future. However, a word to the wise: if you already suffer from back and/or neck pain, these techniques won’t fix everything overnight (pun very intended), so give it some time. If the pain persists, there may be a deeper issue at play, so schedule a consultation with a chiropractor. In the meantime, sleep tight and don’t let the pain bugs bite!