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Sleep Position – 3 Keys to Better Sleep, Part 1

General

  1. Sleep Position – 3 Keys to Better Sleep, Part 1
  2. Choosing the Best Mattress – 3 Keys to Better Sleep, Part 2
  3. Finding the Best Pillow – 3 Keys to Better Sleep, Part 3

Sleep quality is one of the most important keys to longevity and quality of life. I am often asked about mattresses, sleep position, pillows, and just about everything else involved in getting a good night’s sleep. Making a few important adjustments in your sleep position, mattress, and pillow can have a dramatic effect on how well you sleep.

spine curvature illustration for sleep position

Understanding Your spine

Your spine has 3 natural curves:

  • a forward curve in the neck
  • a forward curve in the low back
  • a reverse curve in the rib area

Optimally, you should sleep in a position that helps to support these curves. That’s right, face down sleeping would support your neck curve and low back curve the best. Unfortunately for most of us, that position would be rather short-lived as we have the inconvenient need to breathe throughout the night!

Stomach sleepers have figured this out and turn their heads to breathe. Unfortunately, putting your head in a maximally-rotated position all night creates a great deal of stress at the base of the neck. This position will almost certainly cause problems over time in the form of joint, muscle, and nerve issues. So, unless you happen to have a massage table with a face cradle as your bed, sleeping face down is out.

Your Best Sleep Positions

Sleeping on your back is probably best, since you support your middle spinal curve. This position also generally puts your weight-bearing postural muscles in a symmetric rest position. Some people have difficulty falling asleep on their back, but if possible this position is definitely preferable.

A second best but totally acceptable sleep position is sidelying. In general, with a proper mattress, this is a very comfortable and supported option for the spine. I prefer having the knees bent as this unloads the low back muscles that work so hard for you during the day. A small pillow between your knees takes stress off the hip joints as well.

Lastly, I tell my patients to keep their head in a neutral position instead of tucking their chin as this alleviates stress on the neck area.

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