Sleep Posture

Sleep Posture ~ IT MATTERS!

Did you know that one third of our lives we spend asleep in bed?!  The position we are in as we sleep is often referred to as sleep posture and is very important for a quality, pain free sleep. Some of us tend to shift in the night, starting on our sides or backs and ending on our stomachs.  Other people don’t seem to move at all. But how we sleep affects everything including our body’s aches and pains, our moods, even our morning pre-coffee smile!

Poor sleep posture often becomes habitual and can seriously affect the degree of body aches and pains that we wake up to in the mornings.  A simple fix starts with becoming aware of what’s not working and improving our sleep posture. When we adopt a quality sleep posture we literally slink out of bed. Yes, ‘slinking’ out of bed as opposed to ‘creaking’ out of bed makes for a better outlook on the day.

For example, I used to be a stomach sleeper and I would wake up occasionally with a neck ache as I had spent the majority of the night with my head crooked to one side or another.  Ouch! Stomach sleeping can give you a bad case of Torticollis, otherwise known as ‘wry neck’. A few days not being able to move your head side to side will have you reaching for advil or calling for a massage.  As I became aware that stomach sleeping was not a good position for the neck, I changed my sleep posture. I started sleeping on my back with my knees over a BIG pillow and arms up in a football ‘goal post’ position on either side of my head.  This posture allows the low back to lay flat to the bed resulting in less low back pain. While on your back, the arms bent and up in this ‘goal post’ position puts the shoulder/rotator cuff into a neutral alignment which results in less shoulder, arm pain and numbness going down into the hands and fingers.  No longer a stomach sleeper, my neck is happier for the change!

With pregnancy, I discovered another sleep posture that has served well ~ side sleeping.   I had to force myself to sleep on my left side instead of on my back. In this side lying posture if you support the top (ceiling side) arm and leg with BIG pillows to decrease the angle of collapse, your shoulders and hips will LOVE YOU in the morning.  (A partner can take the place of a BIG pillow too, just swing your top arm and leg over them!). The important thing to remember with side sleeping is to keep the chest open with enough pillow support between the arms. This eliminates your arms collapsing towards each other, caving in the chest and tightening the shoulder muscles and the neck.  You will wake with less shoulder ~ arm pain and numbness. (Thoracic Outlet Syndrome; TOS…more on this in a future blog)

Same theory goes for the legs and hips. In the side lying sleep position, support the top, bent knee with enough pillows to separate the knees (or knee from bed) and decrease the collapse of the hips.  This puts less strain on the Piriformis muscle (part of our butt muscle area) which can be associated with sending pain, numbness, tingling down the legs into the feet. Have you ever heard of Sciatica?  What I’m describing here is ‘false sciatica’ aka ~ pain down the legs. (That’s next month’s blog so stay tuned for details.) Sleeping with proper shoulder, knee and hip support can eliminate pain.

So I’ve spent years thinking and testing out different sleep postures. Some would say it doesn’t matter how you sleep but I believe it matters a lot!  The best sleep posture puts the body, joints and muscles into alignment. Finding balance while we sleep will put a smile on your face and a spring in your morning rituals!   

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