Is There A Perfect Sleep Position?
I often get asked about if there is an ideal sleep position, and if so, what does that look like? We spend an average of a third of our lives laying in our beds, shouldn't we make sure that injuring ourselves while doing so? So, today we're going to discuss best sleeping postures and best practices for each position.
I know that some people can never sleep in certain positions because they are uncomfortable, or they simply cannot fall asleep in that position. These are not laws, you can try whichever one works best for you. What works for one person may not work for another! That's why I'm listing some options in order of most to least effective for the average person.
On Your Back
Sleeping on your back (face up) is typically the recommended sleep position. For those who suffer from low back pain, I recommend to place a pillow under the knees to keep them slightly bent so the low back stays relaxed.
The recommendations for pillow and neck position are always the same: the pillow should place your head in a neutral posture in order to avoid neck pain. That means your head stays in line with the rest of your spine. This will be a different size for everyone! There is no one perfect neck pillow. Depending on the curve of your spine and body size, there will be a varying amount of space your pillow needs to occupy.
On Your Side
Many people prefer side sleeping and for one reason or another cannot sleep on their back. Side sleeping is the second recommended sleep position. For those who suffer from low back pain, placing a pillow between the knees can help alleviate low back pain as well as hip pain.
Pillow position is slightly more complex when side sleeping. Making sure you can get your neck in a neutral position becomes more difficult and may even require a different size pillow than the ideal pillow for you when sleeping on your back.
Often times you will need more support during side sleeping. The space between your shoulder and side of your head is typically larger than the space between the back of your head and the surface of your bed.
This position can also commonly affect people who experience shoulder pain. I don't recommend laying on a shoulder that has a history of shoulder pain. The long hours of compressing the joint with your body weight can cause a lot of soreness. If you experience shoulder pain, lay with the affected shoulder facing upwards. You can also use a pillow between the arms to keep the shoulder from compressing.
Face Down (On Your Stomach)
This is typically not a recommended sleep position. The reason it is not recommended is because maintaining a neutral spine would require you to smother yourself in your pillow, which I definitely do not recommend. Now you are forced to turn your head fully to one side or the other, setting yourself up for the high possibility of one-sided neck pain.
Face down sleeping can also be stressful for the low back. This position may force you to arch your back, which can quickly irritate the lumbar spine.
Now, I understand there are some people who simply can't sleep any other way. They naturally end up face down even if they don't intend to. Well, I have a secret: sometimes, I do that too. For those of you who can't avoid sleeping face down, there are modifications you can may to alleviate discomfort.
Place a pillow under the hips as well as under the feet induces normal curves into the spine, allowing for a more relaxed sleeping position. Face down sleeping also may require a smaller pillow than if you were sleeping face up or on your side.