Sleep Position Tips to Avoid Waking Up in Pain


Your spine is probably the last thing you think about when tucking your sleepy, tired body into your bed. However, your sleeping position is a key determinant in whether you will experience back pain or develop even worse back problems in the future.

Observe the following sleep position tips from renowned physical therapist Marleen Caldwell, PT, MS, to keep your back and spine pain-free.

Keep Your Spine in a Neutral Position

Try to sleep in such a way that your entire torso is flat on the bed and your spine is in a resting, neutral position. This helps to spread the weight and tension and eliminates any potentially problematic pressure points in the tailbone, shoulder blades, and at the back of your neck.

Getting a good, sturdy mattress is key to improving your sleep position. Foam mattresses or quality innerspring ones are pretty good options. You may use pillows to provide additional support and maintain the spine’s neutral position.

Sleep on Your Back

The best and most comfortable sleeping position is on your back. In this position, your body weight is optimally distributed across the widest parts, which not only minimizes the pressure points but also ensures your internal organs are well-positioned.

Avoid sleeping on your stomach by all means, as it puts your neck in an unnatural position and misaligns your internal organs, both of which lead to an uncomfortable morning after experience.

Avoid Sleeping On One Side Every Time

Sleeping on the same side every night may lead to varying levels of muscle imbalance and pain, especially if your mattress is in poor condition. Habitually sleeping on one side suspends the area between your hips and shoulders, which is the widest part of the trunk, creating pressure points in other areas.

So, if you like to sleep on your side, try to alternate sides and place a pillow or two between your knees to keep your spine, hips, and pelvis neutral and well-aligned.

Use Pillows

You probably do this but it’s still worth mentioning.

Whether you sleep on your sides or on your back, it is strongly recommended to place a pillow beneath your head and neck (not your shoulders!) for support. If sleeping on your back, the pillow should ideally cover the gap between your neck and the mattress. If on your side, the pillow should act as the support for the head and neck and should fall under your ear.

Know Your Body Type and Plan Accordingly

The type of support you need while sleeping mainly depends on your body type. For instance, if your hips are wider than your waist, you may want to go for a softer mattress that allows space for the pelvis while still keeping the spine neutral. If your hips and waist are nicely aligned (in a straight line), try sleeping on a more rigid mattress for better support.

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