Got Back Pain? Your Sleep Position Might Be to Blame!

Got Back Pain? Your Sleep Position Might Be to Blame!

Everyone has a favorite position for falling asleep – back, side, or stomach – even if the majority of us (60% of U.S. adults, according to the American Chiropractic Association) end up switching in the night.

Sleep in Motion

During our various sleep cycles, we tend to move from our sides to our backs, and then onto our sides again – even though our bodies are effectively in a temporary state of paralysis while in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. This switching of positions while fast asleep occurs thanks to the innate intelligence of our bodies when it comes to what’s best for our spines.

Sleep and the Lower Back

When we sleep on our sides, the curling of our legs tells our back that we are actually in a seated position, and when we shift onto our backs, our body is sent the message that we’re standing. During the waking day, our body makes efforts to keep us from sitting or standing for too long, in order to make sure that our lower backs are protected – and it’s been discovered that we’re getting the same messages while we are sleeping, as well. Since over 80% of Americans will suffer from some form of lower back pain at some point in their lives, and we spend up to a full third of our time in bed, it makes sense to help our body as much as possible in its mission to keep our back in the best position to avoid developing issues during the night.

Best Sleeping Positions to Avoid Back Pain

First, the bad news – stomach sleeping wreaks havoc on your spine. Laying on your stomach not only places your lower back in the awkward and possibly painful position of hyper-extension, it also forces your neck into rotation all through the night and creates an unhealthy condition for your entire spine. Many sleepers claim to feel safer and more comforted while falling asleep on their stomach, so this is where the good news comes in – you can replicate that same positive emotional reaction while sleeping in the side and back positions that help keep your back healthy and happy. Sleep experts believe that stomach sleeping brings up a feeling of comfort and safety due to the pressure on the “heart center” of the chest area. Sleepers can replicate this state of peace by using the right pillow to apply comforting compression to the chest.

Sleep Positions and Pillow Placement

Stomach sleepers can switch to the healthier side sleeping position while still maintaining the emotional comfort of pressure to the “heart center” by placing a firm pillow against the chest. Side sleepers should use a pillow placed between the knees, about the width of a closed fist. This keeps your pelvis in a more neutral position and minimizes any torquing or twisting to the back joints – a common cause for low back pain. Back sleepers can keep their back free of pain by placing a thick pillow under the knees, which keeps the joints of the lower back flexed – preventing any jamming together of the spinal joints while sleeping. Taking the time to make sure that you are using the proper sleeping position and spinal support throughout the night helps to keep your back healthy and pain-free during your day!
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