What's the Best Sleeping Position?

I get a lot of questions about sleeping positions, mattresses and pillows from my myofascial clients.  

I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say, "yea I'm not sure what happened to my neck, I think I slept wrong".  

One of my best friends recently was having severe back spasms during the night and when she told her doctor about it one of the recommendations was a new mattress.  So she got a new one.  And you know what?  It helped.  

We spend about a third of our lifetime in our beds so it's worth making sure you are having the best nights sleep possible.  

In today's blog I will discuss sleeping positions, how to train yourself to sleep on your back, and the best pillows and mattresses.  

(Scroll down for the written version of this video)


Sleeping on your stomach:

I'm sure you've heard it before but sleeping on your stomach should be avoided if possible.  Everyone knows that the main reason is that your spine is out of alignment.  That definitely puts a stress on all of your spinal muscles which are prone to pain and tension already, especially your neck and low back.  To make matters worse there is evidence that when you sleep with your head turned to one side you may be cutting off up to 20% of the blood flow to your brain.  This could cause brain fog, headaches and fatigue.  


Side Sleeping:

Side sleeping is very common and for some people may be the ideal position.  There is actually some evidence that it is better for your brain.  And if you have sleep apnea or you snore then yo are better off on your side and NOT on your back.  However, from a myofascial perspective side sleeping is still not ideal.  When we sleep on our sides we tend to smush our shoulders forward and many of us curl up in a ball.  This only exaggerates tight hip flexors and tight chest muscles.  One way to mitigate this is to make sure your pillow is fully supporting your neck.  You want to feel that your pillow is all the way under your neck until it is touching your shoulders.  Also make sure the pillow is not too thick or thin so that your head and neck are in a neutral position.  If necessary use a pillow between your knees too. 


Back Sleeping: 

As far as muscular and spinal health goes, back sleeping is the gold standard.  Again, if you snore, please roll over onto your side :)  Back sleeping keeps your spine supported and in a neutral position.  It also avoids the problems discussed above that can occur with side sleeping.  But you may be thinking "I've never been able to sleep on my back".  I once too said the same thing.  But I've trained myself to back sleep, at least some of the time.


Train Yourself For Back Sleeping:

-Lie on your back every night before you go to sleep.  Even if you can't fall asleep this way just lie there and practice relaxing all of your muscles.  Notice where you feel tension.  Do this for up to 30 minutes before sleeping each night.  It will train your muscles to be able to relax in this position.  

-Stretch the appropriate areas.  I noticed personally that when lying on my back, my calves felt tight.  So I did some yoga and some stretching.  Lo and behold, that night I was able to sleep on my back again.

-Don't worry if you need to fall asleep on your side.  If you continue doing this you may eventually start waking up on your back.  It takes time though.  Don't give up.  I think it took me years before it really started to happen.  It's a great way to meditate before sleeping and to get in touch with where tension is in your body.  So, even if you don't see back sleeping results there are still many other benefits making this exercise worth the effort.  


Pillows and Mattresses:

I'll never forget shopping for mattresses and seeing a sign that said "firm mattress for side sleepers".  For me, I need a really soft mattress.  Otherwise I get bad shoulder pain from side sleeping.  I was shocked.  But you know what?  Everyone is different.  Nicole likes her mattress so firm I've seen her turn one over so that it feels harder.  I would be in agony sleeping on her mattress.  So the point is, don't listen to what anyone really has to say about this.  Try different things.  If you are going to make a big investment in a mattress see if you can stay somewhere with a similar mattress first.  Or make sure it has a money back guarantee.  And please, please please.  If your mattress is causing you pain, get a new one.  You are worth it.  

As far as pillows go, again you want your head and neck in a neutral position so try finding one that accommodates your sleeping style.  If you neck hurts after a long night's sleep, find a new pillow.  


So as you can see, there is not real right or wrong when it comes to a lot of these things.  But I hope this information has connected a few dots for you and inspired you to put more thought and effort into your sleeping life.  After all, it's where you spend about 8 hours each day.  Better make sure it's good.  




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