Sleeping Positions: The Best and Worst for Your Health in Oakland CA
The way we sleep is very personal and ingrained. However, just like sitting at a computer all day is a repetitive stress that is hard on the body, you risk injury by sleeping in the same torqued position all night. Generally, the best sleeping position is the one that allows you to have the most REM sleep because it is the most restorative phase of the sleep cycle. Most people sleep in many different positions throughout the night and everyone has their favorite sleeping position, but which is the best for your body?
From best to worst, the sleeping positions rank as follows:
Why it’s the best: Sleeping on your back puts your spine into a neutral position that is easy to maintain throughout the night, preventing you from waking up with aches and pains associated with other sleeping positions. It also prevents wrinkles since nothing is pushing against your face while you sleep. However, if you tend to snore this position may not be best for you, as snoring tends to be most severe in this position.
When sleeping on your back, make sure that your head isn’t propped up too much - try to keep your head and shoulders aligned and find a pillow that supports the curve of your neck. Down pillows work well, just fold over the area supporting your neck to make it a bit higher. Some people also like more firm buckwheat or memory foam pillows. Pillows are highly individualized so I suggest keeping the plastic on the pillow for a night or two so you can return it if it doesn’t work for you.
Side sleeping is the next runner up. Side sleeping may help prevent neck and back pain, and can reduce acid reflux, improve digestion, and blood flow (if you sleep on the left side).
In order to keep your spine in a neutral position while side sleeping, be sure to invest in a mattress with a little give so your hips and shoulders can sink in a little. Add a pillow between your knees for better hip and knee alignment, and keep your neck in line with the rest of your spinal column by using a denser pillow. Make sure the pillow under your head is as wide as your shoulder so that you’re not leaning your head to one side or the other.
Make sure when you do sleep on your back not to push your head forward or down. You want to sleep with your head in a neutral position, eyes gazing forward. Your ear should be lined up with your shoulder, just like when you’re standing (for instructions on standing, click here). If you have low back issues, you can put a pillow between your knees or sleep with a body pillow to keep you from rotating your hips too much.
While this may be the most comfortable position (mainly because it’s easy to fall asleep this way), stomach sleeping is definitely the worst for your body and is not recommended. In order to sleep on your stomach, you have to turn your head 90 degrees. Imagine standing and turning your head 90 degrees for hours at a time. Holding your neck in that position for an extended period can create neck pain.
Sleeping on your stomach also extends your neck backward, compressing your spine. This can lead to tingling in your arm as blood flow is constricted and nerves are compressed. Stomach sleeping also reduces blood flow to the brain by partially occluding the vertebral arteries (the arteries that go through the spine to the brain), which can lead to less oxygen flowing to the brain and can cause a whole host of other problems.
It’s hard to break the habit of sleeping on your stomach. One technique that works is sleeping with a body pillow. This puts the same comforting pressure on your stomach.
The bottom line is that it’s best to keep your spine and other joints and muscles in neutral alignment, even while you’re sleeping. Holding your body in torqued positions for hours at a time leads to pain and dysfunction. Are you suffering from aches and pains associated with poor sleep habits? Call us at 510-922-1579 or text us at 510-692-9948 to schedule your next appointment.
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