Physical Stress
April 11, 2022

The Best Sleeping Position For Your Spine

The Best Sleeping Position For Your Spine
by
Dr. Ariel Thorpe
The Best Sleeping Position For Your Spine

One of the most common questions for chiropractors is, what is the best sleeping posture to support my spine? To determine the best position for you, specifically, you first must understand what posture in general does for you. The position of your spine at any time should support the three major curves: cervical (neck), thoracic (upper back), and lumbar (lower back). The reason these curves are so important is that they form the shape that supports our spinal cord. When our spinal cord can sit in these curves, it is at ease. When these curves are distorted for prolonged periods, it puts tension into this vital nervous system tissue and can result in dysfunction in our organs and tissues. So, we want to support this structure at all times, even when we lie down to sleep.

The best way to think about sleeping posture is to think about standing posture first. If you are standing, you generally want to keep your head in line with your spine. The same is true for when you are lying in bed. So, if you are a stomach sleeper, imagine keeping yourself in a position such that your face is looking forward directly in front of your body, without turning your head. You would literally have to suffocate in your pillow in order to maintain this posture. To look at it from another perspective, if you sleep on your stomach, you have to turn your head to one side in order to keep breathing. Now imagine your body in that position but standing. You would be standing such that you would be looking in one direction for hours on end. Doesn't sound too fun for your neck, does it? So, stomach sleeping is not an option.

Back sleeping and side sleeping are better options. However, we have to consider maintaining the curves of the spine. If you are a back sleeper, it is important not to use a pillow that unnaturally wedges your head up. Again, think about that position while standing. Your head would be pushed forward and put strain into the muscles and ligaments of your neck and upper back. The better option is a small cylindrical pillow or a rolled up towel under your neck for support such that the back of your head still touches the mattress but your cervical curve remains intact.

Side sleeping takes a bit of consideration as well. You want your neck to remain in line with the rest of your spine but you don't want your head to be pushed up to one side or drop down too far. This would be like standing with one ear leaning down toward one shoulder. Again, not a very comfortable or ergonomic position. Check the distance between your neck and the edge of your shoulder to find the right size for a pillow.

If you are a back-to-side mover in the night, there is also a solution for you. The Therapeutica sleeping pillow is shaped such that it supports your head on the sides but also your cervical spine in the center. You can find it for sale online but make sure you measure yourself for the correct size before you purchase.

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