The Best (AND WORST!) Sleep PositionsNovember 22, 2021
If you ever wondered what the best and worst sleeping positions are for your body and health, then you are about to find out. In this video, I will break down the sleep positions that are doing more harm than good for your body. We hit the pillow every night with the intention of getting a restful night to help our bodies recover and to build back stronger. The problem is, when the position you put your body in at night is doing bad things to your body, making rest difficult to get, then you need to figure out a way to make a change.
We start by looking at the major categories of sleeping positions.
Most people are either a stomach sleeper, side sleeper or back sleeper. Within each category there are variations in how you can sleep in regards to the positions of your arms, head and legs.
Of these three however, there is one clear cut worst for almost everyone, and that is the stomach sleeping position. The issue here is that it places the lower back in an inordinate amount of extension at the lumbar spine. Even if you don’t have stenosis or spinal narrowing, this will be a bad position to put your back in for a long period of time.
Beyond the low back pain and sciatica aggravation that you can get here from the position of the low back we also have the thoracic rounding that this position manifests. As we know, rounding of the upper back is a chronic postural issue we see lots these days because of all the time we spend sitting and on our cell phones.
When you hit the gym and try to perform a front squat or any other exercise that demands good thoracic spine mobility, you will be reminded just how bad sleeping on your stomach is for achieving this needed range of motion.
It gets even worse however, since the shoulders and neck are also compromised by this sleep position. The shoulders have to be internally rotated and elevated in order to allow you to grip the pillow and the head has to be turned sideways in order to clear a passage to breathe. Both of these are a recipe for disaster when it comes to avoiding neck and shoulder orthopedic issues long term.
If you are a side sleeper you have three choices of how you want to position your legs.
First, you can keep them out long and stack them on top of each other. Here the downward torque on the top leg can place a strain on the lower back that should be avoided. Simply putting a pillow between your knees can help to create a better hip alignment and relieve the stress this is putting on your low back and body as a whole.
If you sleep with both legs pulled up, as in the fetal position, there is less of a chance for the hip related low back issues and less need for a pillow but you are inviting the risk that you get tighter psoas muscles from chronically sleeping in this way. Add this to the fact that you are essentially “sitting” while you sleep – a position you likely spend a great part of your waking day doing – and you’ll want to straighten those legs out instead.
Putting one leg up and the other down invites lumbar rotation into the mix. This is something that definitely should be avoided despite the fact that as a whole, this is a better sleep position than laying on your stomach.
Finally, the winner when it comes to how to sleep for best rest is the supine or on the back position. Some with already tight hip flexors are going to want to place a pillow under their knees to remove any excessive lumbar lordosis that could come from this position and help flatten the low back against the mattress. The arms can be kept either at your sides or held up behind the head to improve shoulder health.
Most importantly here, you want to fill the cervical lordotic curve with a pillow but still allow for the top of the head to slope down. You can do this by tucking the pillow the way I show you in the video. This allows for optimal airway clearance to not lead to obstructed breathing or apnea.
Bottom line, if you want to be healthy and feel great every day then you must be sure that you’re getting a restful night’s sleep. Use the information in this video to help you make a better more informed decision on what is best for your body and start adopting the changes. Your body will thank you for it.
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