Learning about optimal sleep positions to ensure a good night's rest can help you feel rejuvenated and help relieve aches and pains. You may not think a lot about the best ways of sleeping, but knowledge is power. If you frequently toss and turn in your sleep, wake up feeling achy, sore, and stiff, or often wake throughout the night, it may be because you're not taking advantage of the best positions for sleep.
At ChiroCare of Florida, we frequently see patients with symptoms of pain in the back, neck, shoulders, and hips. Many report that they feel tired throughout the day or have trouble sleeping at night. This is quite common. More than 70% of adults in America report that they experience poor sleep at least one night a month, while 11% say that they struggle with the experience nightly.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now refers to insufficient sleep as a public epidemic. However, consistently getting a good night's sleep is essential to promoting overall health and wellness. It can impact your performance at work, your ability to concentrate, your level of happiness and satisfaction with life, and so much more.
Keep reading to learn more about the best positions for sleep and how they can affect your quality of rest. Additionally, learn about specific sleep positions as they may relate to your unique health concerns and the relation to chiropractic care.
What Is the Optimal Sleeping Position?
The two best ways of sleeping will boost your energy levels and help minimize pain upon waking and throughout the day. The two best sleep positions are widely considered flat on your back or your side. We require sleep for several reasons, the most paramount being that sleep allows your body to restore and repair itself from the daily wear and tear we place on our bones, joints, and muscles. It's also essential for brain health and mental clarity.
If you sleep in a position that cramps your body or puts pressure on specific points, such as your shoulders, hips, and spine, you're more likely to struggle with pain in those areas. Additionally, you're more likely to frequently wake throughout the night and feel foggy throughout the day. Instead, when you start focusing on the best positions for sleep, you can wake feeling energized and ready to go. To do this, you need to focus on sleep positions that adequately support your spine for optimal body alignment.
Sleeping On Your Back
Sleeping on your back is an excellent way to support your spine and ensure that it remains aligned from your hips up through your neck. Yet only about 10% of people cite this as their primary sleep position. Sleeping on your back can help relieve pressure from your joints, promote healthy circulation, and even help you breathe better.
Sleeping on your back reduces pressure on your diaphragm and can help your sinus cavities to drain better. This means that your body can take natural deep breaths as you sleep, and you're less likely to experience daily congestion.
Some people also report that their back is the optimal sleeping position to help relieve tension headaches. These headaches are rooted in the cervical spine and begin in the neck. Allowing your spine to receive the proper nightly support by sleeping on your back can help alleviate the problem.
One exception for back sleeping is for pregnant women. If you're in your second or third trimester, sleeping on your back allows the entire weight of your uterus and baby to rest on your back, increasing pressure on the spine and leading to pain. It can also put pressure on your vena cava, the vein that carries blood to your heart from the lower body. Some pregnant women report feeling dizzy and faint when lying on their backs throughout these stages of pregnancy.
Sleeping On Your Side
If you're a side sleeper, you're with the majority of adults in the United States. Nearly 75% of adults surveyed report that this is their position of choice for their nightly slumber. That's good news since it's another one of the best positions for sleeping. It's even better if you tend to sleep on your left side.
Sleeping on your side also promotes a healthy spine alignment. Additionally, it improves blood flow without placing pressure on your diaphragm or internal organs. Many find that side sleeping significantly helps with lower back pain and can improve symptoms associated with sleep apnea. Even those who struggle with minor ailments such as heartburn can receive relief by sleeping in this position.
Side sleeping also minimizes snoring and can aid healthy digestion. However, there's a clear distinction regarding sleeping on your side. Experts generally agree that to receive the most significant benefits that the position has to offer, sleeping on your left side is best. Many people also tend to curl their legs upwards into a fetal position during the night. Try to avoid this as best as possible to get the most out of this optimal sleep position.
How Does Sleep Position Affect Your Sleep Quality and Health?
While we know the many benefits of both back and side sleeping, there's more to learn about sleep position and overall health. Additionally, various positions can affect your sleep quality, leading to that tired, achy, foggy feeling in the morning.
Stomach sleeping, for example, is generally the worst position to choose. While less than 10% of the population reports sleeping on their stomach as their primary position, it's important to know the facts about what it can cause. If you suffer from back problems specifically, stomach sleeping is by far the worst.
Sleeping on your stomach flattens the natural curve of your spine, placing pressure on your vertebrae and causing pain in your lower back and neck. It can cause a misalignment in your hips and cervical spine and stiffness in the neck as you keep your head turned in one position all night long. Stomach sleeping also places pressure on your internal organs and can worsen symptoms of acid reflux and G.I. problems. The importance of posture while you sleep directly relates to how you feel when you're awake.
Not only does poor sleep position affect your health, but it can also affect your quality of sleep. Sleeping in a less-than-optimal position may cause you to wake frequently throughout the night. Common causes are pressure on your joints, which can lead to pins and needles or numbness in the extremities. Side sleeping in the fetal position may lead to restless legs, causing you to wake frequently with the need to stretch and reposition yourself.
Waking frequently throughout the night disrupts the most crucial cycle of sleep, REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement sleep). It's the deepest cycle of sleep we enter and is what helps us to feel well-rested the next day. Deep REM sleep plays a central role in your physical and mental well-being. It helps boost memory, improves the processing of emotions during the day, and encourages healthy brain development.
If you feel groggy in the morning on some, or most, days and wake lots during the night, it's likely due to this disruption of REM sleep. The best way of sleeping, on your back or side, can promote positive REM sleep and allow you to avoid these unpleasant feelings.
Different Sleep Positions
While back, side and stomach sleeping are the three main sleep positions, there are variations in each that are important to consider. Avoid keeping your legs curled up, sleeping with your arms tucked under you, or with your head turned in one direction for the duration of the night.
Other variations you should avoid include holding a pillow over your head, which can over-extend your shoulder joint and lead to poor circulation. Similarly, sleeping on your back with your arms outstretched over your head can cause shoulder problems too.
Try to sleep in a supine position with your arms either gently resting at your side or on your belly. If you're sleeping on your side, keep your arms below your face and neck, gently tucked parallel to your body. Keeping your arms folded under your pillow can have the same effect as raising them above your head, restricting proper circulation.
How Sleep Relates to Chiropractic
The best positions for sleep are all about proper spine alignment and support–which is the primary goal of chiropractic care. Chiropractors specialize in the muscular-skeletal system, which includes your bones, muscles, joints, and other soft tissue in the body. Chiropractic care promotes a healthy spine and optimal circulation and improves patients' daily lives by minimizing pain and discomfort. Healthy sleep is essential to all of this.
If you're struggling with poor sleep quality, frequent waking, pain upon waking, or grogginess throughout the day, it may be because you aren't utilizing optimal sleeping positions. Contact ChiroCare of Florida today to schedule an appointment where we'll review all aspects of your spine, help you find the optimal sleep position for your unique needs, and start your journey to a pain-free, energized life.