In a previous article we discussed common misconceptions on sleeping in today’s culture and delved into the proper mattress that allows for proper support. If you missed that article, click here and read up.
Second to a proper mattress is a proper sleeping position and pillow. While these may seem like two different topics, they are VERY much related. For the purpose of this article, we’ll review sleeping positions and follow up with another article soon on how it relates to which pillow you should be using. There are three primary sleeping position categories: back sleeping, side sleeping, and stomach sleeping.
Of these categories there is one that we HIGHLY suggest to stay away from as it comprises the structural integrity of the neck. To prove a point, imagine the position one assumes when sleeping on their stomach, specifically think about the position of the neck. Now, as you’re reading this, mimic that same motion of the neck. Focus for a moment on the ligaments, muscles, and tendons of your neck. You likely notice that the muscles opposite of the direction you’re turning your neck are activated and may be a bit tight, while the muscles on the same side are loose. For the purpose of making a point, try holding that position for EIGHT straight hours.
It becomes very apparent that maximally rotating the neck for eight hours is not the best idea for the long-term health of the neck (cervical spine). This type of sleeping position, over periods of months or years, can result in a considerable amount of damage and can cause shifting of the structure of the spine. This can lead to pain, muscular spasms, difficulty finding a comfortable sleeping position, and the list goes on and on.
So, stomach sleeping is out. If you’re a stomach sleeper it’s best to fight the urge and form a new habit of sleeping on your back or side. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but there aren’t many other options.
When side sleeping, it’s important to try to maintain a neutral spine when possible. Now what does that entail? Making sure your hips are stacked up on top of each other, many use a pillow between the knees to obtain this. It’s important to not let your hips fall forward and go flat to the mattress, this starts to create rotation in the lower portion of the spine which over an 8 hour span every night can introduce some more permanent changes as you might imagine. In addition, keep your shoulder stacked without having your arm up by your head is key. We have several patients that sleep on their side with their shoulder up by their head and this creates issues within the shoulder joint that starts to affect the spine in the long term. So long story short, if you must be a side sleeper, do it responsibly!
In an ideal world, back sleeping is preferred over side sleeping. Back sleeping is the easiest way to keep the spine in a neutral position with no rotation or translation.
However not to worry, as we don’t always live in the “ideal”—for the purpose of this article—we’re going to give you options. If you prefer side sleeping or back sleeping, it’s important to read up on our next article that discusses which pillow to use, as sleeping on your back with an improper pillow can be just as bad as stomach sleeping.
More information to come in our upcoming article on the proper pillow to have based on your sleeping habits!
Meanwhile, if you’d like to meet with us to find out if our unique approach to Chiropractic care can assist you in achieving optimum spinal health, we’re conveniently located in Shelby Charter Township at 51543 Schoenherr Rd.
Call Us to Schedule a Chiropractic Consultation: 586-991-1505