What is the best position to sleep in?

Sleeping is one of the most important activities we can do for our body and yet none of us put much thought into it as it just comes naturally.  It is not until we have pain or develop a problem do we start to ask questions about sleep and even then most of us are hesitant to change our sleeping positions.  The truth of the matter is that when we sleep, this is the only real time for our body to recover and if you sleep in the wrong position you are not allowing your body to recover and can actually spend hours injuring it as opposed to letting it heal.

Ok, now I will get on my soap box.  Stomach sleeping – yes it is bad for you.  YES it is bad for you!  I know stomach sleepers are addicted and many of them tell me they cannot sleep any other way.  I am not a stomach sleeper, so I don’t understand the addiction.  In fact I am unable to lay on my stomach in bed it causes me such back pain.  I have had many friends of mine argue points of stomach sleeping as if it was personal vendetta that I was telling them not to stomach sleep.  So yes I have heard all the excuses, all the reasoning behind it and unfortunately the conclusion is still the same, stomach sleeping is still bad for you.  Like I said earlier, when you sleep you want your body to recover and be in the best position possible and that position is having your spine in neutral.

The above picture is how your spine looks in its ideal position or what is referred to in the medical community as spinal neutral.  If you were to take a picture of your spine when you were standing in perfect posture, this is what it would look like and this is how you want it to look when you lay down to go to sleep.  If you lay on your stomach, the curve that you see in the lower part of your spine becomes even more of a “c” placing your discs in a position to bulge and putting stress on the ligaments of your spine.  For a more complete description of your lumbar anatomy click here.

Besides the stress that stomach sleeping puts on your low back, it places a tremendous amount of stress on your neck or cervical spine.  In order for you to lay on your stomach you must turn your head to one side or the other.  This locks up your neck and does not allow blood to flow to the proper places while you sleep, thus not allowing your body to recover from the stresses it placed on it throughout the day.

For those die hard stomach sleepers, yes you can buy many pillows to put under your stomach in order to minimize the exaggerated curve in your lumbar spine.  You can also buy a face pillow to place your face in so you don’t turn your neck and then yes, you will be in a good sleeping position.  However, what I have found from people who have done this is two things.  The first thing, it’s not the cheapest option.  All of the special and specific pillows cost a lot of money.  Secondly, people who do invest the money, generally find it is too cumbersome to sleep with all of the pillows and also do not feel comfortable sleeping face down into a pillow.

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.

There done with my soap box.  I just hope you grasped the importance of changing sleeping positions from your stomach.  The best way to sleep is on your back.  Now when I say that people usually say that they can’t sleep on their back because it hurts too much.  However, if you lay on your back with your legs straight out, you are correct, you are putting just as much curve in your low back as if you were to sleep on your stomach.  When you sleep on your back you need to place pillows underneath your knees, multiple pillows.  You knees should be significantly elevated, almost to 90 degrees.  Most people find that they get comfortable in this position so it is not a big inconvenience for them to sleep like this.

However, if you still find that you are unable to sleep on your back, your side is also acceptable to sleep on.  When you sleep on your side, you need two pillows, one that goes in between your knees and your ankles and one that you hug.  Placing a pillow in between your knees and ankles will allow your hips to remain in neutral.  This will allow maximum blood flow to your hips, knees and ankles in order for those body parts to recover from the days abuse.  The other pillow the one that you hug is to put your shoulder in correct position.  The way the blood flow and blood vessels are positioned in your shoulder, having your shoulder fall too far forward or back will occlude the blood supply making it difficulty for your shoulder to rest properly.  The pillow should be thick enough for your head to rest without any dropping, so it should be at least the height of your shoulder.

Now I will also say that sometimes, depending on the age of your mattress, it does not matter how you position yourself, you will not be able to have a good night’s sleep.  Most mattresses, except for very high end ones, have a shelf life of 10 years at most, yet most of us have had ours for way more than that.  If yours is over 10 years old, it is definitely time for a replacement.  Is there is a type I would recommend?  Yes, however, it is very costly.  The best mattress out there is Tempurpedic.  That is the actual brand name, not a type of mattress as it seems like ever manufacturer has added a ‘tempurpedic’ line.  I’m talking about the one where you can jump on the bed with a wine glass on one side and the wine glass doesn’t spill.  Now, these are insanely expensive but if you can afford it well worth the money.  Beyond that I don’t have any that I truly recommend.  You need to find one that is comfortable for you.

Sleep habits for people are hard to change and probably one of the things fight me the most on.  I’m not trying to battle with anyone.  You just need to understand that every day we injure our bodies whether we feel it or not and sleep allows us to recover from those injuries.  If you do not sleep in the correct position you are not allowing your body a chance to heal and may actually be doing more damage while you are doing nothing but sleeping.  Sweet dreams!

For more information on physical therapy services head to www.totalperformancept.com.