How your sleeping style affects your spine
When you think about protecting your spine, things like exercising your core to build strength, avoiding lifting heavy objects incorrectly, and improving posture throughout the day are what likely come to mind. An aspect that people usually don’t consider is taking time to work on improving your sleeping posture.
As it turns out, your sleeping posture is just as vital as your sitting/standing posture. The average person sleeps seven to nine hours each night. If you’re sleeping incorrectly and putting pressure on your spine for this long, you will inevitably suffer from the effects. These can include back and neck pain, muscle cramping, heartburn, headaches, fatigue, sleep apnea, and more.
Every sleeping style is not the same. Learn how your sleeping style could be impacting your spine health and back pain so you can work to improve your sleeping posture and eliminate pain.
Sleeping on your side
With nearly 41% of adults sleeping in the fetal position and an additional 15% on their side in an elongated position, the side position is the most popular for sleeping.
While this may seem like a comfortable position to fall asleep in, it can cause you to wake up in pain in the morning. When you lie on your side, it’s difficult for your body weight to be evenly distributed. This can create pain in the pressure points like your hips, shoulders, and knees. This can also contribute to back pain due to improper spinal alignment as your mid-section sinks into the bed. When your spine is in proper alignment, it allows the muscles and ligaments in your back to heal and regenerate, so having support for your spine is vital for better and more restorative sleep.
The mattress you sleep on plays a huge role in providing proper support for correct spinal alignment. Memory foam blends are known to evenly distribute weight as opposed to the innerspring mattresses with coils that work individually instead of cohesively. A bed that is responsive and supportive with also allowing for contour will be the best combination for side sleepers. It is also recommended to try to keep your legs and torso straight rather than curled inwards in the fetal position to minimize back and neck pain.
Sleeping on your stomach
Only 7% of adults sleep on their stomachs, making this position the most rare for sleeping. Perhaps people stay away from this position because they are aware of the drawbacks.
Although it’s a good position for reducing snoring and sleep apnea, sleeping on your stomach is not ideal for the sake of your spine. As we as unconscious, the main acting force on our body is gravity. Our weight tends to be focused in the mid-section of our bodies, so when we sleep on our stomach a lot of the pressure goes on our back.
This can have even worse secondary effects since our spine is connected to other nerves that cause neck pain or a numb, tingling sensation. Not to mention the pain your neck will face due to being fully rotated to one side for prolonged periods in order to breath. From a musculoskeletal point of view, sleeping on your stomach is by far the worst.
If you must sleep on your stomach, try to use a thin pillow or abandon using a pillow at all. A thick pillow will force your neck back and create an uncomfortable position for your spine. You could also consider finding a firmer mattress that provides more support for your spine instead of letting your torso sink in while you sleep.
Sleeping on your back
Sleeping on your back is best position for maintaining proper sleeping posture. When you lie on your side, your body has to deal with the weight of your torso, arms, and legs. On your stomach, your neck will likely be raised from a pillow and your lower back with be put under pressure. But on your back, you can maintain a better spinal alignment and avoid tension in your shoulders and other pressure points.
If you take out the pillows, you’re in an even better position. This leaves your spine and neck in a neutral position. Unfortunately, this position also has its downfalls and may enhance symptoms of sleep apnea, but otherwise you’re in a pretty great spot for your spine.
If you find yourself waking up often with pain in your neck, back, or other areas, you may want to consult a licensed professional in order to get the best advice for how to improve your sleeping posture.
Author’s bio: Laurie Larson is a writer based in Durham, NC. She writes to promote better health practices.