Despite the fact that most people change sleep positions 10-40 times each night most people do have a preferred sleep position. Sleeping allows your body healing time and in order to function maximally during the day we want to strive for the best quality sleep we can achieve. Sleep position plays a big role in sleep quality.
When looking at sleep position there are three main positions our bodies will fall into:
For natural spine support sleeping on your back is not only a great choice but the second most common sleep position. Back sleeping is a great option to help reduce chronic pain. For extra support in the back sleeping position try placing a pillow under your keeps to help reduce the space between your low back and the mattress. This position with the correct supportive pillow (stay tuned for a follow up blog on pillow selection) can also help maintain a neutral position for the neck which can alleviate neck aches and pains as well.
This position, which can reduce both pain and sleep disturbing behaviours such as snoring, is easily the most preferred sleep position. Depending on your back pain a bent-knee side position with a pillow between your knees to help maintain proper spine alignment might be a good way to reduce your back pain at night. However, if you suffer from shoulder pain sleeping on your side should be avoided to reduce pressure on the painful shoulder. Similarly, those with jaw pain and TMJ issues could exacerbate their pain by sleeping on their side and should also choose the back sleeping position.
This is the least popular sleep position and also the least suggested position amongst the experts. There is minimal spine support when sleeping on your stomach as your hips and stomach tend to sink into the mattress which can increase low back pain. Also, sleeping on your stomach throws your neck out of alignment by having to maintain a rotated head/neck position for the duration of your sleep which can lead to increased neck pain over time.
If you are currently a stomach sleeper all is not lost! You can train yourself to sleep in a new position it just takes practice. Start by changing to a side sleeping position or maybe an angled 45degree sleep position halfway between your stomach and your side while you learn to get more comfortable in a new more favourable position.
Dr. Livia Chiarelli
Doctor of Chiropractic
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