A question that I always ask my patients during my first few visits has to do with sleep position. Why does this matter? Well, how you sleep can affect your spine health. A poor sleep position can cause back pain, stiffness in your neck or neck pain, issues with digestion and even premature wrinkles! Below are the 5 best and the 3 worst positions in which to sleep.

5 Best Sleep Positions

These are the five best sleeping positions. Note that there are some negatives associated with these positions; however, the benefits far outweigh the negatives!

Sleeping on your back

When you sleep on your back on a level surface, you can prevent back and neck pain. You can also help resolve acid reflux, and minimize wrinkles!
When you sleep on your back, your neck, head and spine rest in a neutral position. This ensures that no extra curves are forced into your back.  The back sleeping  position fights acid reflux since the stomach is positioned below the esophagus when your head is elevated, preventing acid from backing up. You are able to avoid wrinkles in this position because gravity does not push anything against your face while you are at rest.
Negative: This position is bad for those who snore! If that’s not a problem, go ahead and sleep on your back. Keep your neck and head supported on one fluffy pillow and don’t elevate your head by more than an inch or two. Place a fluffy pillow under your knees as well; this helps reduce pressure on your sciatic nerves which are the long nerves running from your lower back into your legs.

Sleeping On Your Left Side

Sleeping on either side helps you prevent back and neck pain, reduces acid reflux and minimizes snoring.
Sleeping on your left side aids your digestive system by removing stomach acids easily. Sleeping on the left side also helps reduce heartburn if you suffer from this painful condition.
When you sleep on your left side, you can aid your blood circulation, especially if you’re pregnant. For pregnant women, sleeping on the left side keeps the heavy uterus off the liver and at a distance from the large vein that transports blood from the feet to the heart. Sleeping on your left side will increase the amount of blood and nutrients that reach the placenta and your baby. Keep your legs and knees bent and a pillow between your legs.
Negatives: You can create more wrinkles by sleeping in either side position than by sleeping on your back, since your face is crushed into the pillow. Gravity pulls from one side and so the side on which you sleep more will be more prone to wrinkles.

Sleeping On Your Right Side

Sleeping on your right side is recommended over sleeping on your abdomen, but is not as favorable as sleeping on your left side. People with heartburn complain of increased discomfort when they sleep on their right side.

Side Sleeping In The Fetal Position

Sleeping in the fetal position with your knees bent, keeping a soft fluffy pillow tucked between your legs is a comfortable and healthy way to sleep. The spine is not meant to be straight for a long duration, even though sleeping on the back is beneficial. The fetal position accommodates the two natural curve points of the spinal cord. This position takes stress off your back.
Negative: If you have more fat on your abdomen, this position can push your belly against your esophagus, causing acid reflux. You’ll be most comfortable in this position if you have a flat stomach.

Sleeping In Multiple Positions

Changing your sleep positions every now and then prevents your blood circulation from slowing.
As we age and our physical fitness levels lower, sleeping in the same position can cause more problems than just awakening with “cricks” in the neck. Cramps, reduced blood circulation to certain body parts, along with lowered body oxygenation  come from sleeping in a single position.
Negative: Changing your sleep positions often can break your sleep pattern. So unless you’re not a sound sleeper to begin with, it’s better to stick to a recommended sleep position and leave it at that.

3 Worst Sleep Positions

The worst sleep positions you could adopt are referenced only for your information. Try to avoid these by slowly adapting your body to sleep in better positions by intentionally starting the night and ending your sleep pattern in a better position.

Sleeping On Your Stomach

When you sleep on your stomach, your body is unable to maintain a neutral position. The spine is forced to curve to accommodate the press of your abdomen on the bed, causing back pain and progressive spinal issues.  This position also applies great pressure on your joints and muscles.

Sleeping On Your Stomach With A Pillow Under You

When you sleep on your stomach with a pillow under your body, you add to the existing negative aspects of this sleeping position. As with sleeping on your stomach, your spinal curve is exaggerated, potentially causing pain, discomfort and contributing to spinal degeneration. By keeping a pillow under your tummy, you might experience initial comfort, but this changes due to the extreme angles your spine assumes.

Sleeping On Your Stomach With Head To The Side

When you sleep on your stomach with your head turned either left or right, you are creating tension in your neck and shoulders. This might be a cause of dizziness, due to crimping or compression of delicate blood vessels within the vertebra of the neck.  It also can strain the ligaments, muscles and joints of your spine. Your spinal curves are exaggerated in this position.

Spinal health requires vigilance. We take our spinal health for granted for most of our lives, simply because we don’t feel pain and no one ever discusses the importance of maintaining a healthy spine. The dental profession made great strides in the 1960s when the importance of brushing and flossing was stressed in the schools. Dental health for most of the population improved greatly as a result. I am seeing younger and younger people in my practice due to the neglect of spine health education, along with the increase in the use of heavy book bags in the schools along with video gaming and texting.
If you’ve been waking up with stiffness and pain even though you’ve taken this advice about sleep positions, it may be way past time for you to have your spine checked for a condition called vertebral subluxation. Vertebral subluxation (VS) are for the majority of people much like dental cavities, silent and undetected until they become bad enough to impact a nerve. Don’t wait until the pain signals of long-term VS drive you to make an acute care visit to our office. Contact us this week to have your spine checked! A simple check-up visit is relatively quick and painless, and can discover undetected VS before spinal decay and nerve impingement begin.

Image credits: babun / 123RF Stock Photo and twindesign / 123RF Stock Photo