Do you ever find that no matter how hard you try, you can't seem to get comfortable sleeping? Perhaps you have bought countless sleep aids and you still find that you are waking up with a stiff neck, lower back pain, numbness in your hands or legs, headaches, or even sinus congestion? Since we spend close to a third of our lives sleeping, and another ten percent of our lives lying in bed, that is a staggering number of time not to feel comfortable. Poor posture while sleeping can lead to a variety of secondary conditions, most notably musculoskeletal pain and numbness.
Sleeping in poor spinal positions for extended periods of time can lead to arthrosis of the neck, degenerative disc disease, and neurological impairment of the upper limbs. Research shows that a whopping 65% of the US population that is experiencing chronic neck and back pain report disrupted sleep on a consistent basis, and that 62% of the population report awakening earlier than their desired time due to neck and back pain. In fact, pain is the number one cause of insomnia. While it is important to have a comfortable mattress, the posture you sleep needs to be a priority to prevent further discomfort.
Lying on your side: Ultimately your spine should be as straight as possible on its side without any twisting or rotation. Lay on your side with two long pillows, one on each side of you, and place one between your knees & hug round the top of it to keep your spine aligned to avoid twisting. Place the other pillow behind your spine, so when you roll over you can use that pillow instead of wrestling your pillow across the bed. Arms should be bent 90 degrees around the pillow, to avoid jamming the shoulder and wrist underneath the pillow. A specialized contoured pillow is preferred, and the head should be in exact alignment with the sternum. Be sure to make sure the glabella (center point between the eyes) the filtrum, (center of upper lip), and sternum are in a straight line when lying on your side. If the pillow is too large or small, it can cause the neck to misalign and become shifted, leading to muscle spasms and pain.
Lying on your back: Use a contoured pillow that accentuates the natural curve of your neck, such as a tempurpedic pillow. The skull should be posterior as a pillow is placed under the neck. Avoid pushing up the shoulders, and thick pillows that push the head forward. Attempt to avoid stomach sleeping, as it causes rotational stress and pressure on discs and nerves. In fact, snoring can occur if the head is pushed too far forward, or if there is a lack of the natural circular curve in the neck.
Reading and screen use in bed: The most preferred method for reading and other screen use in bed is to lay on a pillow on your stomach, with your head up, like a prone cobra position in yoga. This will cause the natural curve in the neck to extend, which helps remediate anterior head syndrome. Anterior head syndrome is one of the leading causes of neck, shoulder, upper back, and hand pain and numbness, due to the increased activities of looking down during our regular lifestyles.
It is important to be checked by a chiropractor or other health professional that specializes in correcting spinal structure to attempt to correct the primary condition. In our office, we do a thorough exam to see what the spinal structure looks like and then design an action plan to correct the cause of most cases of neck and back pain, and shoulder and arm pain. The quality of sleep is one of the important parts of health, and by changing subtle sleeping habits and postures; one may find more energy, a better mood, and less pain throughout your lifetime.