Information On The Ideal Sleep Positions
Get a good night's sleep and wake up looking and feeling better
It's impossible to count how many questions we have gotten from patients over the years regarding proper sleep positions. A common comment in the clinic is, "I think it's just how I sleep that causes my pain." Or something like, "I think I just slept wrong."
So, what then would be the best recommendations when we talk about everything having to do with the topic of 'sleep'? We cannot cover the topic of just sleep positioning without also discussing mattresses and pillows.
Let's start with mattresses. What is the best recommendation for a good mattress?
There are no absolutes. What works great for one isn't ideal for another. Having variability in your mattress is a great option. In general, being too soft is not good and nobody wants to sleep on a brick. When I summarize this discussion, I say get something in the middle. Nice and comfortable but not too soft.
Let's dive in a bit deeper with firmness. Firmness is very subjective. That means that the preference is likely different from one person to the other. If a person has a partner or spouse, the preferences for firmness will most likely be different. This throws a monkey wrench into the mix, of course, and I'm guessing has led to more than one argument over the years.
Firmness can also be different from one person to the other depending on their position of preference. Those that sleep on their stomach usually prefer and stiffer mattress while those sleeping mostly on their sides tend to like a more medium firmness in their mattress. For this reason, I usually recommend a mattress that can be altered to fit the sleeper specifically. That is why I am usually a proponent of a sleep number bed because it can be altered from one side to the other to match the preferences of the individual sleeper.
OK, on to pillows. I have had patients over the years that have spent hundreds of dollars on pillows just to continue being unsatisfied and still on the hunt for the pillow that will get them out of pain. Let's stop the madness on this, folks. Al lyou need is a pillow that will keep your neck straight. When you're on your side, your neck and head should be kept straight. Not too high and not too low. Straight. The same goes for if you are laying on your back. DO NOT SLEEP WITH MORE THAN ONE PILLOW.
Sleeping on the stomach
I want to go ahead and take ‘On the stomach’ out of the mix. For most people, sleeping on the stomach is not recommended. If sleeping on the stomach is something that cannot be ruled out, then it may be helpful to put a small pillow under the pelvis and/or lower abdomen to keep there from being too much extension in the lower back over the course of a night’s sleep.
In addition to placing too much extension and strain on the low back, sleeping on the stomach tends to cause a ‘squished’ face and leads to deeper and more numerous wrinkles in the face. I don’t know of anyone that wants more wrinkles in their face!
Sleeping on the back
Sleeping on the back, in the opinion of many experts, is the ideal position to sleep. It is an excellent position for keeping the low back nice and straight throughout the night. Not only do you avoid a ‘squished’ face and more wrinkles, but sleeping on the back also helps with muscle pains and heartburn.
However, for those that are overweight, sleeping on the back can be a source of more snoring. That is not always ideal for your spouse’s quality of sleep as you may imagine.
In general, sleeping on the back with a pillow under the knees is the best way to begin a restful night’s sleep. I say ‘begin’ because we are all likely to change positions throughout the night. All we have to do when we are awakened in a different position is get back into the correct position before drifting back off to sleep.
Sleeping on the side
Sleeping on the side is likely the second-best way to sleep at night. It is an excellent position for maintaining a nice, straight low back and decreasing common muscle pain. Sleeping on the side is also great for decreasing the amount of snoring. One drawback of sleeping on the side is the ‘squish’ face wrinkles that commonly occur.
The best way to sleep on your side is in the fetal position with a pillow between the knees. The pillow between the knees helps to straighten and reduce and stress or strain on the hips and/or pelvis while sleeping.
One other position I have yet to mention is a hybrid of sleeping on the stomach and sleeping on the side. It is sleeping with one leg hiked up, partly on the stomach, partly on the side. This pure hybrid position is not recommended due to the twisting and stress it places on the low back and pelvis.
However, a suitable technique to maintain this position could be achieved by placing a body pillow or a fat pillow under the hiked-up knee to remove the twisting of the low back and pelvis and to lay in a more straight position.
This is a very common way to sleep for so many people. It can be done but a pillow under the knee and hiked-up leg is vital to long-term restful sleep and waking up with a pain-free back.
So there you have it; sleep is incredibly important. Not only for our frame of mind and our relationships with others, but sleep is also very impactful on the intensity of chronic pain and controlling chronic, long-lasting pain.
Speaking of chronic pain, we can help. I specialize in chronic pain and coming up with a plan to get you out of it. Call us at 806-355-3000 and let us get you started on the path to feeling better and getting more done.
Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM is a Fellow in Neuromusculoskeletal Medicine and Orthopedics as well as a Fellow in Chiropractic Forensics, and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast (https://www.chiropracticforward.com). Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected] Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at https://www.amarillochiropractor.com.
Dr. Williams was voted Best Chiropractor In Amarillo in the Best of Amarillo 2020. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Care at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109. If you are searching for a chiropractor near me, Dr. Williams is your Amarillo Chiropractor.
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