Updated: Jun 25
Sleeping is healthy and the best way for recovery, but do we always do it right?
Everyone develops their own techniques to sleep and not really thinking about the correct positions. Being comfortable is great but it's important for the spine to stay in a neutral position.
Everyone talks about being mindful in day to day situations but being mindful before you fall asleep is just as important. What I mean by mindful sleeping is being aware of how you turn your body and moving it as one unit. Not having your hips sticking out one way and neck twisted the other.
Are there days when you wake up stiff? Or say, "I slept funny and can not move my neck properly," and it seems to be a recurring issue? It is possible that there is something wrong with the way you are sleeping and what you are sleeping on is not right for you.
Which sleeping poses work best for your posture and what improvements can be made.
People have their set ways on how they sleep and try out different positions but are most likely to fall into their comfortable one. There are four different types of sleepers,
Here are the two best-proven ways to sleep:
Side Sleepers: According to Healthy habits 57% sleep this way or fall asleep in this position. Sleeping on your side can help improve blood circulation and reduce snoring. There is a lot of studies online saying the left side is better than the right but is that entirely true? According to a study from Medical daily, "Sleeping on the ride side can worsen heartburn. However, sleeping on the left side can put a strain on internal organs like the liver, lungs, and stomach, but also while reducing acid reflux. Pregnant women are advised to sleep on their left side for optimal blood flow."
Improvements: The best way to improve a side sleepers position is to recognise your alignment. For example, how are you placing your arms, your shoulders and neck? The best way to align the shoulders and arms is by placing pillow next to you and spooning it. This can help to create a ninety-degree angle and decrease strain on the joints and muscles.
The neck needs the correct support and sometimes it is the pillow that is not right for you. If the pillow is too high or too low it can cause a crick in the neck. Also, people sometimes lift the chin up which pulls on the muscles, so if you find yourself doing this tuck the chin in towards your neck.
The hips and the lumbar spine is also affected and can create long term effects if not corrected. If you find that your mattress springs do not support you enough then it is a great time to change or think about using pillow/support cushions to help your alignment. The best place is directly underneath your side to help straighten the lower back and in between your thighs to create alignment on the hips.
Back Sleepers: Sleeping on your back benefits your body as it aligns your spine and keeps your neck and head in a neutral position. Sleeping on your back can also decrease joint and muscle strain. According to a study from Healthy habits, "only 17% sleep this way and people tend to snore more on their back." It is better for people who snore or worse people who suffer from sleep apnoea to sleep on their side.
Improvements: There can be a few problems sleeping on your back due to your mattress or the height of your pillow. If the mattress is old, the springs do not support you properly, lower back and hips dip into a curved position and can cause the pelvis to tilt leading to an arched lower back. A lot of people suffer from lower back pain because of the tight muscle tension caused by poor posture.
For better alignment and support place a rolled-up towel or pillow under the knees which will encourage a neutral pelvic position. Most people find it difficult to keep a towel or a normal pillow underneath the knees in the same position all night, so I would recommend a supportive knee pillow that creates the right curve and holds you better throughout the night. Also correct the pillow underneath your head and neck without it being pushed too far forward or falling too far back. The best is to have a neutral spine and have a supportive pillow that will help realign your spine.
The two sleeping poses that are not good for your posture are:
Stomach sleepers: According to the study of Healthy habits only 11% of people sleep on their stomach. If you do any other research online on sleeping habits, most of the articles will say that you should avoid sleeping on your stomach. If you sleep on your stomach you should not use a pillow as it will put so much pressure on your neck muscles. However, this position should be avoided overall especially if you suffer from back and neck pain. Very well health writes a study on sleeping potions and states, "It creates stress on back muscles by accentuating your low back curve—and not in a way that's harmonious with good posture. Rather, it puts too much arch there, which may lead to unnecessary tension in the nearby muscles."
Fetal sleepers: A very common sleeping position that people find most comfortable out of all but not the best for your posture. A study from Medical daily explains, "The fetal position may be comforting at the moment, but this can lead to neck and back pain, wrinkles, and saggy breasts. Sleeping in the fetal position can cause a strain on your back and joints, especially when your knees and chin are tucked into your chest."
The best way is to slowly practice methods on being a side sleeper and using the supportive tools,suggest above, to help with your alignment.
How certain sleeping positions cause harmful effects to your body.
A lot of you will be reading this because you suffer from neck, back pain, hip pain or have trouble sleeping. The biggest problem is finding the correct position and staying that way. Often the pain increases due to sleepless nights and can be very frustrating when it is happening a lot. A lack of sleep due to the pain can only affect your sleeping patterns and your brain starts to lose a synchronise pattern to sleep. What is more important is as you age sleeping has more a significant impact on how well you sleep. So correcting your sleeping positions now will put less strain and discomfort on your body in the future.
Bad sleeping positions can cause chronic and harmful effects such as:
Flexibility and mobility issues as you age
Tightening of the lower back muscles and pain
Effects natural curve in the spine
Tightens the hips
Neck and shoulder tension
Want to make a change?
Change takes time but implementing mindful practice will help with stress and tension in the body. How you feel in the morning is a good way to know that your making progress.
Here are a few tips:
Assess your current sleeping posture
Change your mattress every 8 years.
Improve your posture during the day with exercise
Research some videos on YouTube to help you visualise and improve your sleeping positions. Tone-Tighten is a great YouTube channel that provides effective content on posture and tips that create the best sleep possible.
I have created a shop with handpicked items that I have used or has great reviews to help you through your journey to improve your posture. Click here to check out the essentials.
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