Are you waking up with aches and pains every morning? Maybe your lower back is tight or, your neck or shoulder feels like you “slept on it wrong.” If this is happening to you, chances are you are overworking muscles when your body should be at rest.
Sleep is supposed to be a state of healing. You should be completely comfortable and relaxed while your system repairs and replenishes itself. Sleep is an important part of healthy living. So when your sleep habits are out of whack, it can cause problems both mentally and physically.
But having a great pillow or getting plenty of sleep might not always be enough. If you are in an awkward sleeping position, it can put stress and strain on your body. And that means you are likely to wake up with aches, pains, and sometimes even injuries, like a stiff neck, sore shoulders, or back pain. Some people can experience major injuries like spinal compression or a bulging disc.
Why Your Sleeping Position Matters
Our bodies take a serious beating every day because we are putting tension on ligaments, muscles, joints, and tissue. When we are asleep, our bodies get the chance to recover and reset for the next day.
But if you are sleeping in a position that keeps tension on certain parts of your body, it can’t recover as it should. This problem only gets worse as you get older because the cartilage that cushions your joints starts to wear down.
Your sleep position is incredibly important because a neutral posture will allow your body to rest properly.
Good Posture Is Important While You Sleep
If you’re like me, your mom taught you about the importance of good posture and would often tell you to “stand up straight” or put your “shoulders back.” But good posture while sleeping is just as important as good posture while sitting at your desk.
Good posture while sleeping is achieved by aligning your head, shoulders, and hips so your body is in a neutral position that eases stress. The goal when you lie down at night should be to find a position that supports and maintains the natural curves in your neck and back.
This Is The Position You Should Be Sleeping In
If you want to avoid waking up with aches and pains–especially back pain–you should be sleeping on your back. If you can train your body to do so, fall asleep in a straight position with your arms by your sides.
Sleeping on your back will help alleviate neck, shoulder, and back pain. And, you’re less likely to pull a muscle or do something more serious like displace a rib.
When sleeping on your back, you should consider putting a small pillow under your knees (we love this memory foam option from amazon.com). This small lift will work with the natural curve of your spine and take some pressure off of your back.
For your pillow, you want something with the proper height that will reduce strain on your neck and keep your head in a neutral position. If your pillow is too thin and low, your neck will be strained and your jaw will be pointing toward the ceiling. If your pillow is too high, it will cause your chin to tuck toward your chest.
Finding one with the proper shape and fill, like this Therapedic Classic Conture Memory Foam Pillow (bedbathandbeyond.com, $44.99), will ensure everything is supported and aligned.
To avoid shoulder pain, avoid letting your shoulder dip down to meet the bed. For support, you can rest your arm on a low-lying pillow or a folded blanket to keep your shoulder aligned with your body and take some of the pressure off.
Side-Sleeping Works, Too
Another great sleeping position is on your side, which is known as the lateral position. Sleeping on your side enables the spine to stay in a neutral position. And that definitely helps with shoulder, neck, and back pain.
However, side-sleeping gives you a lot of opportunities to get your body out of a neutral position. Once again, a proper head pillow is vital so you can maintain the natural curve of your neck.
You want your pillow to be the proper thickness so it will support your head and neck without any strain. It’s also a fantastic idea to put a small pillow (like this one from amazon.com) between your knees. This will help keep your hips and spine aligned while preventing your upper leg from pulling forward and twisting your torso.
Stretching out and keeping your thighs aligned with your torso, while bending your knees slightly, can help reduce pressure on the lower back.
On the flip side, you want to avoid the fetal position because that extreme curvature of the spine can cause some serious discomfort in both the back and neck. Sleeping in the fetal position can also restrict breathing.
Avoid Sleeping On Your Stomach
The one sleeping position you want to avoid is on your stomach. Sleeping this way for a long period of time will put pressure on your neck and lower back. It can also cause more tossing, turning, and restlessness while you sleep.
Sleeping with your arm above your head or on your shoulder is also a bad idea because those positions can cause painful injuries.
You don’t have to wake up every morning with aches and pains. Finding the proper sleep position will make a huge difference and allow your body to truly rest and recover every night.
If you are waking up regularly in pain, try sleeping on your back or side. You should experiment with different positions and pillow placement to find what works best for you.