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How To Improve Sleeping Posture: Why it Matters

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Sleeping Posture? Why Does This Matter?

Just how we sleep has been the subject of research for decades as scientists tried to discover how the positions we adopt for sleeping affected our well-being. What they discovered is that the position that we sleep in can have profound effects on our health. In this blog we will look at the various effects of a range of sleeping postures and provide advice on how best to mitigate any negative effects. 

These negative effects range from the annoying to the serious. The decidedly unfunny consequences of an incorrect sleeping posture include extreme tiredness, sleep apnea, cramps, impaired circulation, pain in the head, neck, shoulders, and arms. Nerves end up getting pinched. Further consequences include insomnia, mental tiredness, and heartburn. Given the seriousness of some of these conditions, you would be well advised to seek help early. 

There are healthy sleeping positions and not so healthy sleeping positions. The best positions help maintain the natural arc of your lower back. Personally, we suggest two basic positions, both known to help alleviate back problems: 

  • Lying on your back, pillow under knees
  • Lying on your side, with partly bent knees

It’s better to avoid sleeping on your side with knees pulled to your chest (the fetal position). As always, there are exceptions and some back problems may actually be relieved by this sleeping posture. The fact that a sleep position can be healthy or unhealthy depending on the circumstances illustrates the importance of a precise assessment and diagnosis.

Relief from symptoms also vary with the type of intervention chosen: Back pain, the scourge of many a nation’s workforce, can sometimes be relieved using a lumbar roll or special designed cushion. Some sufferers gain comfort from rolling a towel and tying it round their waist. Your health practitioner can help you create a bespoke treatment for your specific condition.

Best not to sleep on your belly, particularly on a mattress that sags in the middle like a failed soufflé. You’ll incur back and neck problems for sure.

 Sleep Positions

By now you can see that it is impossible to recommend one sleep position that will address all ills, solving all your problems in one fell swoop. Unfortunately, it isn’t that straightforward. There are pros and cons to every sleep position. Here’s a short summary of the common sleep positions that might help you determine which are best for you.

Sleeping On Your Back — the Good News

Approximately one in twelve of us sleep on our backs. This position is good for us because it lets our head, neck, and spine rest in a non-stressful position. We are less likely too, to suffer from acid reflux. Use a pillow that supports the head though — your stomach should be below your esophagus to prevent food or acid from coming back up your digestive tract.

Sleeping On Your Back — the Bad News

Sleeping on your back can cause your tongue to block the breathing tube, making it a dangerous position for those who suffer from sleep apnea (a condition that causes periods where the sufferer stops breathing many times a night for up to 90 seconds at a time). This position can also transform your torso into a snore amplifier. 

Sleeping On Your Side — the Good News

This position curtails acid reflux and reduces back and neck pain. You won’t snore so much either. (sleep apnoea sufferers take note) Fifteen percent of adults sleep this way.

Sleeping On Your Side — the Bad News

One of the most peculiar effects of sleeping on your side is that it can cause wrinkles — on half your face — because half your face gets squashed against the pillow.

Sleeping in the Fetal Position — the Good News

Two-fifths of adults sleep like this. The, fetal position is great during pregnancy; it improves the circulation of the mother and the fetus.

 Sleeping in the Fetal Position — the Bad News

Too tight a fetal position may interfere with your diaphragm and hence your breathing. Straighten out as much as you can.

Sleeping face down — the Good News

This position might well restrict snoring, but it has little else to commend it. So if you don’t snore, there’s little to encourage you to adopt this position.

Sleeping face down — the Bad News

Apart from stopping you snore, sleeping face down is just plain bad. Despite this, one in fourteen of us sleep this way, but it has been known to cause a number of unwelcome conditions, such as: 

  • Back and neck pain
  • Pressure on muscles and joints, causing aches, numbness, and tingling

But there are other factors affecting sleeping posture: mattresses and pillows have a role to play too. Even the way in which you get out of bed in the morning can make a difference.

 Mattress Mastery

There’s no need to sleep on a slab of granite, of course, but do opt for a firm mattress. Actually, you can place anything flat and stiff beneath your mattress to increase its rigidity. Another simple hack is to place your mattress on the ground.

Early to bed, Early to rise — But Carefully!

Do not leap straight from bed in the morning. Here’s how to get up properly:

  • Turn on your side
  • Draw up your knees
  • Swing your legs over the side of the bed
  • Push with your hands to sit up
  • Lean forward at the waist 

Pillow Talk

Pillows play an important role is sleep posture health. Most of the time, pillows are benign. They help preserve the curvature of the neck. Yet, stack them too high or too low and the result could be pain.

The neck can be bent out of its natural alignment causing muscles and joints to complain. You might even restrict your air pipe, causing you to breath erratically, make snoring noises or wake with a headache. 

Finding the perfect sleeping position remains a black art. It all depends on your symptoms. Here are some rules of thumb to guide you:

  • Ensure your pillow is under your head, but not your shoulders
  • Pillows should be thick enough to allow your head to rest in a normal position

Experts recommend two sleeping positions that help alleviate neck and back problems:

  • On your side, spine straight
  • On your back, maintaining the natural spinal curvature

Pillows are useful props to mitigate problems caused by bad choice of sleeping posture:

Side sleepers: pillow between the knees to keep hips aligned

Back sleepers: pillow under knees (though not good for sleep apnoea sufferers).

Face down sleepers: This is the worst sleeping position of all. If you can’t help it, try putting a thin pillow beneath your pelvis to take some pressure off your neck.

 

The bottom line is simple, really. Find the right posture for your personal condition, then ensure that you have the best mattress and pillows you can afford. And just remember that if you choose wisely you’ll go a long way to help reduce all manner of aches and pains which arise from a lack of effective sleep.

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