For most of us, the hours we spend sleeping are simply a time for rest and recovery. However, you might be surprised to learn that your sleeping position can have a significant impact on your body, particularly if you already have an injury. You might wonder, “What is the best sleeping position?” Here are some tips from your physiotherapist to help you stay pain-free overnight, from the best sleeping position to ideas on how to improve comfort while in dreamland.
Back Pain Tips
For sufferers of back pain, finding a comfortable position at night can be difficult. Ideally, the natural curves of the spine should be maintained and supported throughout the night. Your body should be held in a position of minimal stress while sleeping. This means that all your joints and muscles are resting in a neutral position.
A mattress that is too soft might feel comfortable, to begin with, but over time will let you sink too much, meaning the curve of the lower spine will be lost. Waking up with a stiff spine could be a sign that you are using the wrong mattress. A mattress that is too firm can also mean your spine is held in a flattened position throughout the night, which is both uncomfortable during the night and when you wake up.
For many people, sleeping on their side is the best sleeping position for back pain since it keeps the spine in a more natural alignment than when sleeping on their back. If you do sleep on your back, placing a pillow under your knees can help maintain your lumbar spinal curve throughout the night. This can also help to reduce hip and knee pain.
Neck Pain Tips
The neck is often the most vulnerable part of the body if your sleeping setup is not ideal. Side sleepers may let their neck fall excessively to the side with a pillow that is too low or have their neck elevated too much by having their pillows too high.
If you find yourself putting your arm under your pillow while you sleep, it is likely that your pillow is too low. Having your shoulder in this position overnight can put unnecessary stress on the structures in the shoulder joint and should be avoided if possible. This is not the best position to sleep for neck pain. Similarly, stomach sleeping can also put additional pressure on your neck as it is turned to the side for long periods.
So, what’s the best sleeping position for neck pain? Sleeping on your side or your back are the two most comfortable positions for your neck. If you prefer to sleep on your back, pick a circular pillow to support the contour of your neck and a flatter pillow for your head support.
Hip Pain Tip
Side sleepers often spend their nights with one leg crossed over their body. This can place extra pressure on the structures on the side of the hip, such as tendons and bursa and can impact the health of these tissues as the compression can reduce the blood flow to the area. Placing a pillow under your knee while sleeping on your side can help to maintain a neutral alignment of your hip. This is the best sleeping position for hip pain if you have an existing hip injury.
Speak to your physiotherapist for more advice on how to improve your sleeping posture, find out more about the best sleeping position, and if your current sleeping setup is right for you.
Blog by Brittany Romas – Physiotherapist, PhysioChoice Hampton.
Brittany holds a Bachelor of Applied Science and a Master of Physiotherapy from La Trobe University. She is currently studying for her Masters of Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy at La Trobe University. She is an avid powerlifter and has a strong interest in strength conditioning, acute sports injuries, and occupational-related conditions. Brittany has spent time in South East Asia working with paediatric patients with a large range of neurological disorders; she has developed a keen interest in providing disability support in conjunction with the NDIS. Brittany believes in a holistic approach to her client’s rehabilitation and treatments, including Hydrotherapy, Dry Needling and Clinical Pilates.