Some say sleep is overrated. They work 20-hour days and wear it like a badge of honor, not realizing how a lack of sleep can wear down the body.
When you’re sleeping, all your systems calm down, physically and mentally. This allows your body to repair, recover and rejuvenate in a calm, restful state. Eight hours of sleep would be best, although six hours might be more realistic depending on your lifestyle. Just remember that if you’re sacrificing quantity, you need better quality.
To get better quality sleep and support the repairs, recovery and rejuvenation that happen overnight, it’s important to keep your spine in line. Good posture while you sleep is just as important as good posture while you stand, walk or sit.
The Best Sleep Position: On Your Back
Sleeping on your back makes it easier to maintain the natural curve of your spine with as little stress and pressure as possible.
Most people think of their pillow as a place to rest their head, but the most important job of the pillow is actually to support your neck. When you sleep on your back, your upper back and head should be on the bed, with your neck resting on a pillow to maintain that curve.
You can use an orthopedic pillow or cervical pillow with a “hill and valley” shape, but you have to make sure it’s the right size. Sometimes the hill under your neck is too high or the valley isn’t big enough for your head.
I also recommend placing a pillow under your knees, which creates a little tilt in your pelvis and takes pressure off your lower back.
The Next Best Sleep Position: On Your Side
The key to sleeping on your side is keeping your spine in a straight line. You don’t want your head tilted up or down, so you need the right size pillow. Again, make sure the pillow is supporting your neck. Unlike when you’re sleeping your back, the goal is to maintain that straight line from your head to your tailbone.
Put a pillow between your knees to reduce compression at the pelvis. If you have shoulder pain, you might want to try hugging a pillow. This will keep your top shoulder from leaning over and compressing the nerves in your shoulder.
The Worst Sleep Position: On Your Stomach
Sleeping on your stomach is bad for your spine. It forces you to keep your head turned to one side, which twists your entire spine and affects the muscles up and down your back. If you’re sleeping on a pillow, your head will probably tilt up in an unnatural position.
What Else Can I Do to Sleep Better?
Here are some basic tips to help you get into sleeping mode:
- Control your sleeping environment. Set your thermostat to a comfortable temperature and use room-darkening shades or curtains that block light. You may find that soft sounds, like gentle ocean waves or simply the white noise you hear when you crack a window, help you relax.
- Lose the electronics. Keep the TV, laptop, tablet and smartphone out of your bedroom. At the very least, stop using them an hour before you try to sleep so your mind can calm down.
- Use essential oils. Lavender is very soothing. Essential oils can be diffused or applied to the bottom of the feet or wrists so the oils can get into the cells of your body and help them relax.
- Try a weighted blanket. If your mind is always racing and you have trouble shutting down, a weighted blanket can help to calm your nerve endings. It almost makes you feel like you’re in a cocoon, which can be comforting and keep you from moving.
Remember, chiropractic care doesn’t just help you function better while you’re awake. It can help you get a better night’s sleep so you feel better throughout the day. If you’re having trouble sleeping, work on your sleep posture, and schedule an appointment so we can determine if misalignment in your spine is part of the problem.