Imagine sitting at your computer for six to eight hours with your head twisted sideways and your pelvis contorted. If it sounds like a sure-fire way to invite neck and back pain into your life for a long stay, you’re right. But most of us think nothing of lying in those same postures night after night – and we have the chronic aches and pains to prove it.
To find out how your sleep posture may be affecting your body, take a fresh look at the way you usually lie in bed. Whether you sleep on your back, side or curled in a ball, the bottom line is the same: If you want to lose that neck and/or back pain, it’s important to keep your body in alignment while you sleep.
10 tips for improved sleep posture
- Try using a down pillow – they’re great for molding into the perfect shape for maximum comfort. For a super-cozy effect, lie on your back with your head on the pillow, grab the two bottom corners and pull upward to curve the pillow snugly around your head.
- For optimal body alignment, sleep on your back with your head straight. It evenly distributes your weight and ensures proper alignment. It also minimizes teeth-grinding.
- When lying on your back, keep your pillow under your head and neck, not your shoulders. It should fill the space between your neck and the mattress to keep your head in a neutral position. Use a thicker pillow when you lie on your side, so your head isn’t tilted downward. (Sleeping on your side with a too-thin pillow is like holding a phone to your ear with your shoulder for hours on end. Ouch!)
- If you habitually sleep with your arms under the pillow, your head may need to be higher. Try sleeping with two pillows.
- If your back aches when you lie on your back, place a pillow, bolster or higher wedge beneath your knees, to flatten out your back.
- If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep your hips, pelvis and spine aligned, rather than pointing downward.
- When lying on your side, don’t turn your body so that your top leg crosses over your lower leg – it creates a twist in the lower back and may cause chronic backache.
- Twisting your shoulder downward as you sleep can cause ongoing neck pain. If you’re a side sleeper, try draping your arm over a pillow to keep your shoulder up and back.
- Avoid pointing your toes in bed. Loosen the sheets so your toes aren’t pressed downward to avoid getting cramps in your feet – pointing your toes while you sleep can also exacerbate restless leg syndrome.
- If you wake feeling stiff, stretch before you get up: Bring your knees to your chest, and/or put your legs in the air, and point and flex your feet.
Once you take a good look at how you sleep, you may be amazed at the stress your neck and back are under night after night. Straighten and support your shoulders, back and neck, and you’ll remove the conditions that cause chronic pain and sleep sounder. Your body will thank you.