We spend nearly one-third of our lives sleeping and it is vital to our health. You recharge your batteries with sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep or sleep wrong, it can affect you by making you tired or creating some sort of pain in your body and back. According to the National Sleep Institute, nearly one-half of Americans have complained about their sleep at some time in their lifetime, stating symptoms of fatigue, achy muscles, and sleeplessness.
So what is the best way to sleep, you might ask? Well, there are 3 main types of sleeping positions: back, side and stomach sleeper. The best position depends on the person but there are better positions than others.
The best (within reason): Sleeping on your back.
Long story short, sleeping on your back allows your body to put water in your vertebral discs. This is why we are actually taller in the morning. You may have more of a change of snoring when sleeping on your back. Other people can’t sleep on their back due to a deviated septum or sleep apnea as your tongue and neck create a smaller airway for breathing and you stop breathing. Back sleeping helps those who have neck pain as it limits rotation and lateral flexion of your neck and allows neck muscles to relax, keeping the natural curve of your spine. When sleeping on your back, place a wedge or roll/pillow under your legs, with knees bent; this helps to reduce the pressure on the lower back and relax the muscles. If you have sleep apnae, consider sleeping on your side to help reduce the chance of snoring or difficulty breathing.
Better: Sleeping on your side
With side sleeping, the great debate is to sleep on your left or your right. This depends on the comfort of the patient. Sometimes it might be better to lay on your left side as it can relieve heart burn symptoms or for pregnancy. The thing that we always recommend with side sleepers is to make sure your pillow is just right for your head. If you have a big fluffy pillow, it can make your head tilt upward whereas vice versa if the pillow is too soft so your head tilts downward. You want to have a pillow height that supports you from the tip of your shoulder to the start of your neck. The other thing is to put a pillow between your legs at your knees or hug a body pillow, so you do not put stress on your legs and pelvis and limit hip rotation. However, if you have shoulder or hip problems, side sleeping can increase pressure on them and make pain worse. The fetal position would be the only side lying position to avoid as it brings your body into flexion which mimics sitting. Increased flexion brings stress to the lower back and lumbar spine.
Worst: Sleeping on your stomach
Belly or stomach sleeping is the worst way to sleep. It provides no support for your back and spine. It also put your body in awkward positions. In order to breath, your neck must rotate 90 degrees to one side or the other so that you can breath. This rotation means that your muscles are not allowed to relax during sleep and they can develop into trigger points or spasms as you continue to feed into that particular muscle pattern.
The best tip to try is to do what is natural to you,but hopefully it is sleeping on your side or your back. A lot of people say they move around to all sorts of positions but try to sleep on your back or side; it is the healthy thing to do. The other tip I can suggest is to make sure your mattress is not older than you. I know a lot of people have really old mattresses, which break down after time. You should get a new mattress every 8 to 10 years.
Sleeping is where we spend 1/3 of our lives so why not make it the best time. Follow this tips for a better night’s sleep which can lead to a better day. All of us here at Fletcher Chiropractic follow this advice and are ready to help if you have any questions. Stay tuned for a follow up blog on what type of mattress is best. Have a great day and a better night’s sleep.