Can’t get a good night's sleep? Maybe your sleeping position has something to do with it. Although there’s no one right way to sleep, it’s important that your sleeping position allows you to sleep comfortably, without aggravating any aches and pains.
Your sleeping position can have a big effect on the quality of your sleep – and consequently, your overall health. Usually, we don’t think about the way we sleep unless we’re struck down with an ailment. Whether it’s physical aches and pains, such as back pain or problems such as sleep apnoea or indigestion, it’s important to address these issues so that we can get enough sleep.
Sleep is important for both our musculoskeletal system and overall health. For the former, we need proteins to return to our muscles, oxygenation of the tissues and overall cellular rejuvenation. For the latter, sleep enables our heart to stay healthy by lowering the “inflammatory markers” linked to heart disease and strokes as well as lowering our stress levels. Sleep also improves our memory as our brain gets to ‘reboot’ overnight and our hormones need to have time to regulate.
Most people sleep on their side, in fact, research indicates that approximately 60% of us start sleeping in this position, while the remainder go to sleep on either their backs or their stomachs. Almost always, sleeping on the stomach is not recommended as it can cause damage to your neck.
We all move around a lot while we sleep, with people moving anywhere between 3 to 36 times per night and the average person switching positions about 12 times. As we get older, we tend to move around less frequently while we sleep.
Bottom line: avoid compressing muscles & joints
Every sleeping position has its pros and cons, so it’s beneficial to change positions throughout the night. For example, lying on the back is wonderful for relieving pressure on the spine. However, it may aggravate digestive or breathing problems (such as snoring or sleep apnoea).
To take care of your body while you sleep, make sure your joints are not being overly compressed or your muscles placed in extreme positions, such as being abnormally shortened or stretched. Sleeping in the same position can cause problems over time. If, for example, you always sleep on your right side, this could start to compress your shoulder and create imbalances in the body – which may lead to pain.
Addressing painful conditions while you sleep
Choosing a mattress that is not too firm and not too hard is, generally speaking, ideal for those with painful conditions. The mattress should support your body in the most neutral position possible so that your spine has a natural curve and your bottom, heels, shoulders and head are nicely supported and aligned. Try to choose something that supports your body without being so firm as to push on the main pressure points.
In addition, don’t hesitate to accessorise your bed! Surround yourself by one or two or more pillows, or even add a rolled towel to support you while sleeping. An extra pillow to lay your arm or leg over can help with different types of pain, and extra pillows are useful for elevating the head and shoulders for those who suffer from reflux. There are all sorts of options for supportive memory foam pillows , gel pillows and latex pillows that will help you to get comfortable at night.
Sleep positions to address common ailments
Not all back pain is the same, so consult your physician for the best advice. Generally speaking, most sufferers of back pain get relief by lying on their backs, providing they are lying on an appropriate mattress. Some sufferers, such as those with spinal stenosis, prefer lying on their side with the knees bent. This helps open up the spine, freeing the nerves.
Do not sleep on your stomach if you have neck pain. This combination of severe rotation and compression is destined to irritate the vertebrae in your neck. Instead, sleep on your side or back.
Avoid sleeping on your painful shoulder. Instead, try sleeping on your back or try to sleep on your side with a small pillow to hug. Pay attention to the pillow you are using. If it is not supportive enough for your body, it could compress a nerve, further aggravating your condition.
Sleeping on your side best helps those with acid reflux, also known as heartburn. Lying supine (on your back) can cause problems as your head is not raised enough in comparison to your stomach. Consequently, gastric contents can bubble their way up the oesophagus, causing pain. Alternatively, elevate your head with pillows or raise the top of the mattress, so it is significantly higher than the feet.
Sleep apnoea and snoring
The number one rule with sleep apnoea or snoring is to stop sleeping on your back. This can dramatically exacerbate your condition, causing breathing interruptions, oxygen deprivation, choking and continual waking throughout the night. Choose a snoring pillow or explore other devices to prohibit yourself from falling back to this default position.
There is clearly no magic answer to resolve the range of sleep issues that people can experience. But to ensure the best chance of a great night’s sleep it’s essential to ensure that you have the best bedding available. At Mattress & Pillow Science, we have a fabulous range of comfortable, high-quality mattresses and pillows, specifically designed to improve the quality of your sleep.
Experience the Mattress & Pillow Science difference for yourself. View our mattresses and pillows online now or visit us in Caulfield South for a free consultation with one of our expert sleep consultants.
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