Just because you are asleep does not mean your body is not suffering from poor ergonomics. During the day we all try to be conscious of how we sit or pick things up, but what if you could make sure that your body was properly resting all night long? Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation with work productivity taking a hit from yawning employees that can’t stay alert, make good decisions, focus on tasks or even manage a friendly mood at the office. A good night sleep can work wonders to solve those problems and can even improve your metabolism (see the working man’s weight loss tips).
Common Sleeping Postures
There are many different ways people choose to sleep, not all of them are bad, but there are ways to improve whatever position it is you prefer. Take a look at the specific position of your neck while you sleep. Depending on the position you sleep in, the height and density of your pillow will differ for the most comfort. Poor pillow support can also cause narrowing of the air pipe, resulting in obstructed breathing, and sometimes snoring, which can hinder sleep.
The Spine and Sleep
The spine is broken down into several different components: the cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral spine. Between each vertebra, there is an intervertebral disc that requires nutrients and space to recover from the days actions. Each segment designates areas of different curves, but they all come together to function as a unit to absorb shock, support the weight of the body and head, and allow movement in many planes. During sleep, your spine should maintain a neutral position to allow the intervertebral discs the opportunity to re-hydrate and decompress. Research has shown that we are around 1 cm or 1/2 inch taller in the morning due to changes in disc height.
Improve Your Sleep Posture
The key to a better night’s sleep is simple. By modifying the position you already sleep most comfortably, you can rest easy knowing that your body is resting peacefully as well. The best lying or sleeping position may vary, depending on your symptoms. No matter what position you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position. Follow these guidelines for body pillow placements according to your sleep posture.
- Side sleepers: Foetus, Log, & Yearner.
- 1. Your pillow should rest comfortably taking up the space between your shoulder, neck, head and the bed. When your pillow is the right size, your head should rest comfortably allowing your neck muscles to fully relax. Your cervical spine will thank you if there is no rotation or lateral shearing happening in your neck from having a pillow that is too flat or too fluffy.
- 2. To keep your lower back happy, place a pillow between your knees, aiming to keep your knees about hip distance apart and slightly bent. The best would be to have a pillow that supported your ankles as well to keep neutral rotation of the hips in sidelying.
- 3. If you have a narrow waist, try rolling up a towel to place in the space between your waist and the bed. You can also hug a pillow to support your shoulder.
Do double up a flat pillow, and put it in the case folded so that it stays in this shape and you don’t have to struggle with your pillow at night.
- Prone sleepers: Freefaller.
- 1. Try not to sleep completely on your tummy with your head rotated to one side. This is very hard for your neck and puts extension forces all the way through your lumbar spine. Instead, try a partial prone position with a pillow supporting your upper shoulder and your upper hip and knee.
- 2. Use a very flat pillow in this position with your head near the edge so that your neck can avoid being in severe rotation.
- Back Sleepers: Solider & Starfish.
- 1. Use a pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck. Try not to use a pillow that is too fluffy or raises your head too high unless you are experiencing symptoms of snoring or sinus blockage. Temporary elevation of the head may help these symptoms, but may cause neck pain or stiffness as a trade off.
- 2. Place a pillow under your knees. Supported bent knees helps decrease the amount of extension forces on your low back and keeps your lumbar spine in neutral.
- 3. Place a small, flat pillow under your low back to support your lumbar curve. You can use a rolled up towel for this as well. If you tend to switch positions throughout the night from sleeping on your back to on your side, leaving a medium sized towel rolled up across the middle of your bed may be helpful so that there is support under your waist when you are on your side, and support under your low back when you are on your back.