How Does Your Sleeping Position Affect Your Back?

by | Oct 27, 2022 | colorado spine doctor

It is well known that quality sleep is essential to energy, mental clarity, and overall health. Aside from the way you feel all day when you don’t get enough quality sleep, research has proven a direct link between sleep and physical, mental, and emotional well-being. In other words, sleep is important in almost every way—including the state of your back.

When considering poor posture, people’s minds tend to drift to seated and standing positions. While both of these are important to posture and back health, there is a third factor that is often overlooked—the position in which you sleep. Most people spend around one-third of their day in bed. This prolonged period means the position in which you sleep can have a tremendous impact on your back, for better or worse.

To set your body up for success and limit the aches and pains your sleeping position may be causing, it is important to know the pros and cons of each position, as well as how to improve them.

Sleeping on Your Back

The best sleeping position for back health is on your back. There are a number of reasons for this, including the dispersion of pressure over a wider surface area and a more natural alignment of the spine than other sleeping positions. To maximize the effectiveness of this position, it is important to invest in a mattress that provides the right amount of support and a pillow that is of the right height and firmness. If your pillow is too tall or too short, your neck will be out of alignment. This could create new neck and back issues or worsen pre-existing problems.

Some people may also benefit from placing a pillow beneath their knees. This further aids in keeping the spine properly aligned, thereby reducing the potential for back pain, stiffness, and other negative effects.

Advice for Side Sleepers

While not as advisable as sleeping on your back, side sleeping is another popular and healthy position in which to sleep. That being said, it is more likely to cause back pain and misalignment than back sleeping. If you find side sleeping to be a comfortable, go-to sleeping position, you will want to keep a few key pieces of advice in mind.

First, it’s important to focus on keeping your legs relatively extended. This helps the spine remain neutral. Next, choose a pillow that keeps your neck straight and in line with the rest of your spine. Place a pillow between your legs to maintain proper alignment. Finally, don’t forget to switch sides every so often to help prevent imbalances from developing.

Sleeping on Your Stomach – a Position to Avoid

Stomach sleeping is likely the worst position for your back regardless of your personal factors. It puts pressure in the wrong places, forces your neck and feet into unnatural positions for hours at a time, and puts the spine out of alignment. Stomach sleepers are more prone to neck problems, muscle strains, and back soreness. It is best to avoid this sleeping position.

No matter what your preferred sleeping position may be, you can count on it affecting your back and your health. Thankfully, you can choose to have that impact be a positive one rather than a negative one. You can teach yourself to sleep in healthier positions, tweak certain positions with pillows and subtle changes to how you arrange your body, and invest in the right mattress and pillows for you.

To learn more about the best sleeping positions for back pain, be sure to speak to your doctor. They can help evaluate your back health, current sleeping habits, and unique physical factors that play a role in the type of mattress, pillows, and positions from which you might benefit.


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