Position For a Good Night’s Sleep

August 15, 2008 by Jane O'Brien  
Filed under Personal Training

For A Good Night’s sleep… According to one Physical Therapists perspective

Have you ever awoken from a long night of sleep feeling sore, stiff, or in pain? Sleep is supposed to be the body’s way of recovering, resting and rejuvenating the body. Many people find that the 6-8 hours they spend sleeping is anything but restful.

As a physical therapist, I inquire of my client’s sleep position. I find that they are often sleeping in the wrong position. I rarely advocate sleeping on one’s stomach due to the extreme neck rotation combined with extension required in order to achieve this position. This small change in sleep position from the stomach to the side or back can relieve a tremendous amount of neck pain. If you must rest on your stomach to fall asleep, put a pillow under the chest to lift the trunk and allow for the neck to drop into flexion and rotation. One should also remove the pillow from under the head.

Pillows can be used to support the spine during sleep. Side sleepers can place a pillow between the knees to keep the hips from rolling forward and to keep the pelvis level. Back sleepers can place a pillow under the knees. This will allow the back to rest flat against the bed. A rolled towel can be placed inside of the pillow case to support the neck arch just as a contoured pillow would do. Lastly, one can buy pillows designed for side sleepers or for back sleepers in bedding stores. The firmness of these pillows differs to provide the proper amount of support for the cervical spine.

The mattress is an important component of a proper nights sleep. Imagine if you had to stand for 6 hours on a pair of shoes such as flip flops which do not support your arches. Later that day, you may have foot, leg or low back pain. If you had to sit on a chair for work all day that was leaning to one side and too tall for you, your body would ache after the work day. Now, think of sleeping on an old bed that is sinking in the middle or perhaps it is too soft. This bed cannot support the curves of your spine. Your muscles must work all night to give you that support. If you have not replaced your mattress in 4 or 5 years, it may be time to consider a change. Also, remember to flip the mattress as directed by the manufacturer to promote proper wear of the mattress. Firmness of a mattress is dependent upon taste to a degree. A mattress that is too firm may cause a backache while one that is too soft will not provide support. It is up to the sleeper to determine the density that will both create comfort and support.

-Jane O’Brien, MSPT