Different Sleeping Positions

by Martin Hughes

About Martin Hughes

Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.

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Overview

You might claim to have a favorite sleeping position, but according to SleepDisordersGuide.com, you probably change your position at least several times each night. It's important to find a comfortable sleeping position, but you also should choose a position that promotes optimal spine health. Terri Trespicio, senior editor of "Body+Soul" magazine, says different ailments respond better or worse to certain sleeping positions and that choosing the most appropriate position for you can alleviate or prevent sleep-related pains.

Sleeping On Your Back

Dr. Scott D. Boden, director of the Emory Spine Institute, believes lying flat on your back forces your spine into an unnatural position, which places undue stress on your muscles, joints and nerves. "Your spine isn't meant to be straight," Boden says. "It has three natural curves: one in your lower back, one in the middle of your back and one near your neck." To reduce the strain on your spine while sleeping your your back, Boden suggests that you place a fluffy pillow under your knees. With your knees bent, pressure on your sciatic nerve is lessened. Boden also suggests placing a small pillow or a rolled-up towel under your neck, as long as it doesn't cause your chin to jut too far forward.

Sleeping On Your Stomach

Trespicio believes that sleeping on your stomach is the worst position, as it can provoke existing neck and lower-back complaints. "Sleeping on your stomach flattens the natural curve in the lower back and keeps your head turned to one side all night, which distorts the alignment of the spine in your neck," she says. Although sleeping on the stomach isn't the most spine-healthy position, some people with lower-back problems, especially those with disc-related problems, often find relief when sleeping on the stomach. This position puts your spine into extension, which helps relieve pressure on your disc spaces, according to BackPainHelpSite.com.

Sleeping On Your Side

Sleeping on your side is touted by many, including Boden, as the best position. Boden says lying on your side in the fetal position, with your knees bent and a pillow positioned between your legs, takes the most stress off your back. If you're a side sleeper, though, make sure your pillow is long enough to keep your head and neck in a neutral position. If your pillow is too short, your head and neck will sag toward your bed, placing unnecessary strain on the muscles and ligaments in your neck. If your pillow is too long, your held and neck will be held off-center, causing an imbalance to develop in your neck muscles and contributing to poor neck posture.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.