It’s quite certain that at some stage in our lives we have been told to ‘sit up straight’ or ‘don’t slouch’ because of the inferred damage that doing so can inflict upon our backs in the long term.
Much the same can be said for how people ought to walk – head held high, shoulders straight and so on.
What is far less commented upon is the correct posture that people ought to be aiming for when they are asleep in order to keep their spine and supporting muscles in a healthy position.
Why is this important? Surely most of the damage that occurs to peoples backs over the years can be attributed to a huge variety of factors?
To an extent this is true – back pain can stem from industrial or office based sources (just see the health and safety legislation surrounding office chairs) but the precautionary advice is in place in these areas and it’s up to employers and their workforce to enforce it.
The fact is that considering a third of the average individuals lifetime is going to be spent sleeping, it is one of the most important means of controlling the possible onset of long term back damage. During waking hours good practice can prevent the likely onset of such conditions – this is much more difficult when in a state of slumber.
Over the course of the night all but the soundest sleepers will shift position, roll over or otherwise reposition themselves a number of times. It takes practice to be able to stick to one shape all night, but people can, and do, manage it. To understand the best position however, it makes sense to run through a couple of the worst.
Two to avoid:
- The stomach
Often the position of choice when collapsing into bed after a long day and snuggling into the pillow, this is without exception the worst for back health due to the way it inflicts stress upon the muscles and places the spinal column at an unnatural angle. Shifting the head from side to side when asleep in this position places pressure along the whole body and when waking up, it’s common to feel some stiffness in the back when getting out of bed.
- On the side – one leg above the other
Not as bad as the stomach but still pretty poor for back health especially if done more in a foetal position with the spine tightly curved. This poise leaves the lower back unaligned with top half of the body because the higher leg is forcing pressure upon the spine leaving it twisted and uneven.
Two to encourage:
- On the side – legs flat
This is a good option because it keeps the spine straight and has additional benefits such as decreasing the likelihood of snoring. Plus, it is also a good option for those suffering from acid reflux.
To make this ideal try to ensure that the pillow is the perfect match between the head and the shoulder upon the mattress as having too much height can force the neck to become twisted and aimed upwards.
The one drawback from this method is that it’s very easy to lose alignment – not many people will sleep a full night on their side with their legs tight together, the natural impulse is to raise one leg above the other. Putting a pillow between the legs can in some cases subconsciously help prevent this.
- On the back
When done properly this is an excellent option, but it’s not without its flaws. The positives are apparent in that it keeps the spine and pelvis well aligned and supported, leading directly up to the neck.
However this is where potential problems may start. To be ideal this position shouldn’t use any pillows, which is something many people will struggle with, and it is also likely to encourage snoring.
To briefly conclude, the priority when finding a sleeping position that is good for your back is to try and find one that feels natural, but keeps all sections of the back as aligned as possible – neck, upper back, lower back and pelvis.