How to sleep your best!

Sleep is vital to our everyday life.  How many times have you said something similar to “My arm hurts; I think I slept on it funny?” Or maybe you wake up with your arm or leg that is still “asleep” with the numbness and tingling feelings. Lack of sleep can hurt you emotionally and physically.  Without a good nights sleep, you may be grumpy and less alert.  Therefore, you need to make sure that you are sleeping in the correct posture (in addition to sleeping on a good mattress).

Your sleep position could potentially cause a variety of problems.  Improper sleep positions can cause pain on your back, hips, and knees.  If you sleep with your arms above your head, you can exacerbate thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). TOS is compression on the nerve or artery in the thoracic outlet (the space between your ribs and collar bone), causing numbness and tingling in your hand, potentially along with a weak grip.  Some research suggests that sleeping on your left can alleviate heartburn and sleeping on the right makes it worse [1].  However, if you do not have aches and pains and you are getting a restful night’s sleep, keep doing what you are doing.  Changing your sleeping position can cause some initial restless nights of sleep.

Pillows

Sleeping on your side with too much pillow could potentially cause some neck pain or chronically tight muscles. Note the spinal alignment in the neck.

Sleeping on your side with too much pillow could potentially cause some neck pain or chronically tight muscles. Note the spinal alignment in the neck.

Too much pillow while sleeping on your back can cause chronically tight muscles on the front of your neck, leading to a forward head posture.

Too much pillow while sleeping on your back can cause chronically tight muscles on the front of your neck, leading to a forward head posture.

Pillows are great to support your head while sleeping.  However, too much pillow can cause pain in your neck in the morning, and can lead to tight muscles and forward head posture.  Try to sleep with your spine in as neutrally as possible (your ears in line with your shoulders in line with your hips).


Stomach sleeping

Sleeping on your stomach can cause a kink in your neck and flatten the natural curves of your back

Sleeping on your stomach can cause a kink in your neck and flatten the natural curves of your back

Sleeping on your stomach can be comfortable for some; however biomechanically it is not great.  Sleeping on your stomach causes the natural curves of your spine to deform and flatten.  Because you have to breathe while sleeping on your stomach, your head is usually cricked to one side, causing more problems.  If stomach sleeping is the only position you are comfortable sleeping in, consider the following adaptations.  First, place a pillow directly under your torso.  This reduces the torsion on your neck when you turn your head for breathing purposes. The other option would be to place a pillow under your torso and to the side, supporting your chest and allowing you to breathe easier.  Bringing your leg up to help support your hips will reduce torsion on your spine.  Some could argue this position would be more of a half stomach and half side sleeping.

Torso support while sleeping on your stomach

Torso support while sleeping on your stomach

Half stomach and half side sleeping

Half stomach and half side sleeping


Side sleeping

Note the knee to hip angle. Support between your legs is needed when sleeping on your side

Note the knee to hip angle. Support between your legs is needed when sleeping on your side

Huggy pillow and knee pillow support the body during side sleeping.

Huggy pillow and knee pillow support the body during side sleeping.

Huggy pillow, knee pillow, and lower leg pillow support the body in a side sleeping position

Huggy pillow, knee pillow, and lower leg pillow support the body in a side sleeping position

Side sleeping is an excellent position for your spine.  However, your legs need to be supported, otherwise side sleeping can cause knee and hip pain.  You can see in the pictures the angle between the knee and the hip is fairly severe.  Support your legs by putting a pillow between your legs, ideally the length of the leg.  Additionally, adding a pillow to hug (aka huggy pillow) will help to keep the chest supported.


Back sleeping

Sleeping on your back can flatten the natural curve of your lower back

Sleeping on your back can flatten the natural curve of your lower back

Back sleeping with knees slightly raised restores the natural curve of your lower back.

Back sleeping with knees slightly raised restores the natural curve of your lower back.

Sleeping on your back is great, but can cause pain in people that already are prone to back pain.  Keeping a pillow under your knees while sleeping can alleviate pressure on your lumbar vertebrae (your lower back).  If you snore or have sleep apnea, sleeping on your back may not be the best as it could constrict your airway a bit [1].


Sleeping while pregnant

Side sleeping while pregnant can cause belly discomfort, and hip, knee, ankle pain.

Side sleeping while pregnant can cause belly discomfort, and hip, knee, ankle pain.

The Wedge pillow would be ideal in this situation to support the belly.

The Wedge pillow would be ideal in this situation to support the belly.

Side sleeping with belly support, chest support from the huggy pillow, knee support and ankle support.

Side sleeping with belly support, chest support from the huggy pillow, knee support and ankle support.

Sleeping on your left side is said to increase circulation to your heart, which is better for mom and baby [1].  Make sure your chest, stomach, hips, knees, and ankles are adequately supported.  You can use The Wedge to support your growing belly.  Hips, ankles, and knees need to be properly supported with pillows.  Relaxin is a hormone that is normally produced, but peaks during the first trimester of pregnancy and during delivery to relax your ligaments and to make pregnancy and birthing easier.  However, relaxin also relaxes all the ligaments (not just hips).  Supporting your ankles and knees will help to keep those in alignment during pregnancy. Additionally, a “huggy” pillow helps to support your chest and shoulders.

The wedge (image courtesy of www.ebay.com), a pillow used to support the pregnant belly.

The wedge (image courtesy of www.ebay.com), a pillow used to support the pregnant belly.


References

[1]    Soong, Jennifer. “How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Sleep Quality.” WebMD. WebMD, 22 June 2011. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.


 

Disclaimer
This website and information contained herein is meant for informational purposes only. You assume full responsibility and risk for the appropriate use of this information.

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