Best Sleep Positions for Back Health

All of us can be particular about the position in which we like to sleep. Stomach, side, or back – not to mention all the other rituals we need to go through before we can drift off – all of us have a preference. Sometimes it’s as though we can’t get to sleep any other way.

But the way in which we go to sleep is not merely a matter of personal preference; there are better and worse ways of doing it. Dr. Daniel Hubbell gives the following (some might say particularly fussy) details:

When you are sleeping, you are (trying to be) in a relaxed state for a long time. This means that your body position is really important. You can put unwelcome strain and pressure on your back when your positioning is off.

This isn’t about rallying behind your team, whether you be a back, side, or stomach sleeper. It’s about optimal health. Keep that in mind as you read the next sentence.

Back sleep position demonstrationSide position sleeping demonstrationBack sleep position demonstration

Sleeping on your back is bar-none the best position to sleep in.

When on your back, every part of your body is properly supported, and you can fully relax without consequence. Laying on your side puts too much pressure on your shoulder, even in the best-case scenario. Stomach sleeping is terrible for your neck and should always be avoided.

Here are 6 steps to achieving optimal sleep position for your back:

1. Lay on Your Back

This may take quite a bit of getting used to, but it will be worth it in the long run. You spend a good portion of your life in bed – might as well not get hurt by it.

2. Tilt your head

Your pillow should be comfortable enough to support your neck in the proper position throughout the night.

Demonstration - good neck position
Good head positioning
Demonstration - bad neck position
Not-so-good positioning – head elevated too high

3. Relax

Relax your neck and shoulders, and consciously release the tension in your upper back. If it helps, this is where you can count some sheep.

4. Breathe

…but don’t just breathe: belly breathe. This will require coordination – here’s how to practice:

Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Breathe in in such a way that the hand on your stomach rises before the hand on your chest. Breathe slowly and deeply to help you relax. If you can’t get it working, ask us for help.

Demonstration of hand positioning for belly beathing

5. Squeeze

Squeeze your shoulder blades together slightly, to avoid getting scrunched up in bed. This helps to counter bad sitting posture which you may battle during the day.

Demonstration - shoulders back

6. Prop Your Legs

This may be the most surprising piece of advice in this article, so brace yourselves. To relieve your back the most, your legs should be bent at a 90 degree angle. Use a large pillow to achieve this, such as a couch pillow or a folded body pillow.

Example of propping legs properly

These are the most ideal things you can do for your back at night. You may have to modify them if you have a disability. Feel free to come in and ask us how.

Note that all of these recommendations are independent of mattress type – that will have to be another article for another day. But for now, know that you don’t need to go out and invest in an expensive new mattress that promises to save your back – there are six simple things you can try first.

If you suspect that your sleep may be messing with your health and would like to go deeper, please don’t hesitate to give us a call to set up a consultation.

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