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The Best Sleeping Positions for Your Neck and Back

woman sleeping on her left side with pillow under head and neck

“What are the best sleeping positions for neck and back health?” is a frequent question in our daily practice. Many people wake up during the night due to discomfort in their neck or back.

Getting enough sleep is crucial for our health, and deep REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is vital. This stage of sleep, which makes up around 2 hours of rest, significantly impacts our memory, cognition, and alertness. Additionally, a good night’s sleep is essential for overall well-being, helping to heal and restore various bodily systems such as the immune, neurological, skeletal, and muscular systems. The quality and quantity of our sleep can significantly affect our mood, behaviour, and overall quality of life. Despite this, many people still grapple with sleep-related issues. This blog post highlights the best sleeping positions for maintaining neck and back health, guiding you towards a more rejuvenating and refreshing sleep experience.

Optimizing the Back Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back is beneficial as it supports spinal alignment and evenly spreads your body weight, but it’s not ideal for everyone. This position can intensify snoring and may cause discomfort for those with an exaggerated back curve or neck pain. If your lower back curve, or lordosis, is pronounced, placing a pillow under your knees can help flatten the back, reducing stress on the lower back joints. A pillow that contours to your neck’s natural curve can further improve alignment and comfort. Experimenting with various positions and types of pillows can assist in customizing this sleeping method to your needs.

Side Sleeping: Adopted by Most

Most adults prefer sleeping on their side. However, to protect your spine, avoid allowing your upper leg and knee to touch the mattress, which can twist your spine, a posture known as the semi-prone or “provocative side-lying” position.

Side sleeping may benefit those who snore or have sleep apnea by helping to keep the airways open.

Ensuring spinal health in this position involves maintaining a straight spine. A supportive pillow that aligns your neck with your spine is beneficial, its height should equal the distance between your shoulder and neck. If the pillow is too high or low, it could strain your neck joints and nerves, potentially causing a pins and needles sensation in your hands at night. Placing a firm pillow between your knees can help prevent your upper leg from causing spinal misalignment, thereby reducing stress on your hips and lower back.


Stomach Sleeping: Handle with Care

Sleeping on your stomach may lessen snoring, but it’s often advised against due to its potential harm to spinal health. This position tends to flatten the natural curve of the spine, which can result in lower back pain. Additionally, turning your head to one side to breathe can cause neck strain.

If you find it challenging to avoid this position, consider using a thin or no pillow at all to mitigate neck strain. You might also want to place a pillow under your lower abdomen to help maintain the natural curvature of your spine.

For Pregnant Women: Favoring the Left-side

pregnant woman sleeping on her left side with a body pillow supporting her abdomenPregnancy introduces distinct hurdles to attaining comfortable and restful sleep. The left-side sleeping position is often suggested for pregnant women, as it bolsters blood circulation for both the mother and baby. A full-length body pillow can offer supportive relief, cradling the belly and lower back for enhanced comfort.

Guarding Your Spinal Health

While the right sleeping positions can improve spinal health, it’s equally important to sustain a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and consistently practicing good posture throughout the day. Prolonged periods of looking down at your phone, a common but harmful posture dubbed “text neck,” isn’t what your neck is designed for and could lead to significant strain.

Investing in a high-quality mattress and pillow can profoundly enhance your sleep quality. When shopping, look for options that offer adequate support and align with your body shape. Everyone’s needs are unique, and finding your perfect match might involve some experimenting. Rather than impulsively choosing a mattress after a brief trial in a store, remember the comfortable sleep you had in a hotel or Airbnb and consider the brand of their mattress for your purchase.

In conclusion, it’s crucial to understand how our chosen sleep positions affect our neck and back health. While adjusting to a new sleep position might be difficult at first, your body will appreciate the adjustments in the long run.

Persistent pain is a signal from your body indicating a problem that requires attention. If you’re suffering from continuous neck or back pain, it’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to diagnose and address any underlying issues. Remember, quality sleep isn’t a luxury—it’s a vital element of a healthy lifestyle.