Poor sleeping posture can cause chronic back pain and fatigue, which can in turn negatively impact one’s entire waking life. Many people do not realize that the best sleeping posture is not necessarily one which favors a particular side of the body, but rather one which preserves the spine’s natural curves. Whether an individual prefers to sleep on his side, his back, or his stomach, by making a few small adjustments, he can adapt his sleeping position to allow for natural spinal curvature, enabling a more refreshing sleep experience.
The spine has three natural curves. One of these curves is found at the neck, another in the upper back, and the final one in the lower back. Some sleeping positions — lying on the stomach with the head elevated on two or more pillows, for instance — disrupt this natural curvature. When the spine’s curves are strained or disrupted night after night, chronic back pain and fatigue often result.
Most people have a natural preference for sleeping on the side, the back, or the stomach. Contrary to what many believe, the best sleeping posture is not necessarily one which favors a particular bodily plane. Rather, finding the best sleeping posture should involve making a few small adjustments to one’s preferred positioning so that the spine’s natural curvature is preserved.
Those who prefer to sleep on their sides can find their best sleeping posture by first drawing the knees up until they are nearly perpendicular to the torso. They should then place a pillow between the knees, holding it there as they sleep. This position allows for the spine’s natural curvature, and can also help to release tension in the hips and lower back. A head pillow should be used as normal.
Back sleepers can find their best sleeping posture by beginning in their normal position and then placing a thick pillow beneath the knees. This simple adjustment helps tilt the pelvis back, preventing the spine’s lower curve from becoming strained. It should be noted that those with nocturnal breathing conditions such as sleep apnea may wish to avoid sleeping on the back.
Finally, those who prefer to sleep on the stomach should place a pillow beneath the upper thighs. Again, this small adjustment helps to keep the lower spine in a neutral position by tilting the pelvis back. Using a head pillow while sleeping on the stomach can sometimes cause strain to the upper spine. Stomach sleepers who experience pain and stiffness in the neck and upper back region may wish to try using a very thin head pillow, or no pillow at all.