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Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Sleeping Posture

Posted by Eileen Pelletier on February 15, 2016. 0 Comments

Most of us spend a third of our lives in bed, yet many of us sleep in positions that hurt us. We spend money on exercising and improving our health, but when it comes to the position we sleep in, we tend to disregard it.

As a Stott Pilates instructor, I think a lot about posture throughout the day and work to improve my- and my students’ posture. Working on my posture during sleep was more difficult. I tend to be a very deep sleeper, so when it came to my sleeping posture I felt that I wouldn’t be able to control it.

I’d always been a side sleeper. When I tried to sleep on my back, it didn’t feel as comfortable. Even though I knew this wasn’t a good position to sleep in, I fell asleep easily and wanted to keep it that way. However, more recently, I’ve been doing physical therapy for my shoulder. It was improving but stopped making as much progress after a while. I was still having the pain even though I was doing the exercises and stretching I was supposed to do.

I started to realize that when I woke up, I was in more pain than I was at the end of the day. To me, this made sense. I knew I wasn’t controlling my posture during sleep even though I was controlling it during the day and working out six days a week.

I found that my shoulders rolled forward way too far, and my upper thoracic spine had excessive curvature when I slept. I also found that I couldn’t get my neck into the right position. So I decided to start researching good sleeping posture.

I found a lot of what I’d heard before along with some new insights. Here I’m going to share 10 ways I feel help the most to improve your sleeping posture.

1. Invest in a firm enough bed or mattress. If your mattress doesn’t have enough support, your body can’t maintain its positions as well.

2. Set yourself up for the night. What I mean by this is lie in the best posture you can that is still comfortable. You can try deep breathing or meditating … whatever feels good to help you drift off to sleep. If you start in a good position, you’re more likely to stay in it for longer. The more often you use this position when you sleep, the more comfortable it will become.

3. Decide what kind of sleeper you are. If you can get in good posture in the position you’re most comfortable, it’s fine to stick with that. If you’re like me and are comfortable in a position but can’t get your posture right, you might want to try a different position. The best ways to sleep are on your back or side. Sleeping on your stomach is the worst for your posture because it puts your lumbar spine (otherwise known as your lower back) in excessive curvature.

4. Use the proper size pillow. If you sleep on your back, a lot of researchers now say not to use a pillow. If you can’t be comfortable without a pillow, try to use the thinnest pillow you can. If you sleep on your side, you can use a bigger pillow than you can on your back. Try to get the right size so there’s not too much pressure on your shoulder and not too much strain on your neck.

5. Use a towel. If you sleep on your back, you can use this instead of a pillow to help your natural neck curvature. If you sleep on your side, you can put the towel by the base of your neck just below the pillow for a more gradual incline. This can help if you’re a side sleeper and have neck pain.

6. Help your back. Provide support for your back by placing a pillow underneath your knees if you’re a back sleeper or in between your knees if you’re a side sleeper. It’ll help your spine to be in a much more natural position. Plus, it can help avoid back pain from sleeping, which is a common problem for adults.

7. Tuck yourself in loosely. If your sheets are too tight, it can cause you to sleep with your feet in a pointed position (plantar flexed).

8. If you are a side sleeper, don’t sleep on your hands. Your head weighs 8-10 pounds, and it can cut off circulation, which is not beneficial.

9. If you’re a back sleeper and your elbows hurt or you can’t get your arm(s) in a good position while you’re lying flat, elevate your arm(s) with a pillow.

10. Be ready for bed without placing undue strain on your posture. If you watch TV or read in bed, the best thing is if you have a bed that moves into different positions. Otherwise, you can prop yourself up with pillows. If you’re reading a book, it’s often helpful to place a pillow or pillows on your lap so that your book is at eye level without straining your arms. Your elbows should be in line with your waist at the height of their natural bend. This will help you be ready for bed without having undue strain on your posture to begin with.

I’ve started sleeping on my back now. It wasn’t the most comfortable position to start out with, but it’s becoming more comfortable. I’ve been using a towel and no pillow underneath my neck. It’s really helped my neck and shoulder feel better. Surprisingly, I found I stayed in that position for most of the night. I’m going to keep trying it!

If you’re having pain caused from your sleep, wanting to prevent pain, or wanting better posture, I hope you try out some of these tips!  by Christina Chitwood

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