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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Effective Sleep Positions for Restorative Sleep

Nov 29, 2016 10:45AM
by Vishal Verma, DC
Did you know that the position you sleep in can affect your overall health and well-being? Poor sleep posture can result in neck pain, back pain, headaches, wrinkles, reduced circulation, muscle cramps, fatigue, digestive issues and even sleep apnea. With some simple guidance and a bit of information about the best sleep positions as well as tips to help relieve back, shoulder and neck pain, it is possible to have a restorative sleep.

Back Sleepers

According to the National Sleep Foundation only 8 percent of Americans sleep on their back. This position allows the spine, neck and head remain in a neutral position, which prevents pressure on the spine and minimizes pain. Back sleeping is also best for those who suffer from acid reflux. However, if you snore or suffer from sleep apnea, you should avoid sleeping on your back as it causes the tongue to block your airways.

To help the spine maintain its natural curve, place a pillow under your knees. A pillow for back sleepers should be fairly low to ensure the neck is not craned during sleep. A small roll pillow or rolled towel can be positioned under the neck. Another option is to tuck the pillow under the shoulders so the head is further up the pillow. This ensures the neck is not bent forward. Placing your pillow under the shoulders helps to extend the neck and may help relieve muscle pain in the neck.

Side Sleepers

Approximately 15 percent of Americans sleep on their side. This position, with the torso and legs straight, can help prevent back and neck pain and may decrease acid reflux. If you snore or suffer from sleep apnea, this position can help as airways are kept open. Because half of your face is pressed into a pillow, it can lead to premature wrinkling.

According to spine health, you should use a higher pillow when sleeping on your side. This will help ensure that your neck and head are properly aligned with the shoulders. If supplemental support is needed for the neck, place a rolled-up towel or roll pillow under the neck. You can further support the spine by resting one arm on your pillow and placing a pillow between the knees, which pressure off the spine and can help relieve the pain associated with sciatica and back pain.

Fetal Position Sleepers

Forty-one percent of Americans sleep in the fetal position. When sleeping in this position, it is best to keep your knees slightly bent and sleep on your left side. This improves circulation in the body, opens airways and helps prevent the uterus from pressing on the liver in pregnant women. Sleeping curled up tightly can cause soreness and breathing difficulties; so, stretch out as far as possible.

Those sleeping in the fetal position require a firmer, thicker pillow to support the spine. The height of the pillow should elevate the head so that it is in a straight line with the shoulders and back. Keep your knees slightly bent and place a pillow between the knees to relieve pressure off the lower back to help relieve and prevent muscle pain. 

Stomach sleepers

Only 7 percent of Americans sleep on their stomach. This position is good for snorers; however, it can lead to back pain, neck pain and place pressure on the joints and muscles, leading to tingling, numbness and irritated nerves. If you sleep on your stomach, lie face down and prop your forehead on a pillow to make it easier to breathe.

The Mayo Clinic recommends placing a pillow under your pelvis to reduce back strain. Use only a low loft, flat pillow for your head. If a pillow under your head places too much strain on your neck, try sleeping without one.

If you have ever slept in the wrong position, you know how painful it can be. You may wake up with a stiff neck, aching back muscle and feeling unrested. The best sleep position is on your back; however, if you have sleep apnea or suffer from snoring, a side position may be better. The key is to support your spine by choosing the right pillow and placement of the pillow, no matter which sleeping position you prefer.

Dr. Vishal Verma specializes in functional chiropractic care at Rose Wellness Center in Oakton, Virginia. He focuses on treating root causes using gentle chiropractic, physical therapy, cold laser therapy, and rehabilitation for fast effective results. Dr. Verma treats various chronic and acute pain conditions including back, neck, spine and joint pain, sciatica, fibromyalgia and sports injuries.


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