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 . 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 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).
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.
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.
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 .
Sleeping while pregnant
Sleeping on your left side is said to increase circulation to your heart, which is better for mom and baby . 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.
 Soong, Jennifer. “How Your Sleep Position Affects Your Sleep Quality.” WebMD. WebMD, 22 June 2011. Web. 29 Aug. 2013.
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