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What’s Really the Best Sleeping Posture?

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Having good posture and maintaining a good stance may seem like a job as it is, but is your sleeping posture at night ruining all that hard work you put into sitting up straight during the day?  Practicing good posture yields many health benefits, but what most people tend to forget about is maintaining those good posture habits while you sleep.  There are several positions you can sleep in throughout the night, and some are more beneficial than others.

Stomach Sleeping – A Posture No-No

Sleeping on your stomach is typically referred to as the worst sleeping posture.  Not only is it bad for your back and spine, but it’s also harmful to your internal organs.  Your body weight puts unnecessary strain and pressure on your lungs, stomach, and intestines.  Many doctors suggest that stomach sleeping should not be practiced long term.

Stomach sleeping is horrible for your back because the spine flattens instead of having a natural curve.  The natural curve of the spine is there for a reason – to balance and hold the weight of your body.   If it flattens over time from sleeping on your stomach, many back issues can start to present themselves, as the spine loses the ability to evenly disperse your body weight and will become strained.

Since your body is naturally curved, you can stress your spine and knock it out of a good posture alignment if you consistently sleep on your stomach.  Sleeping face down can also negatively strain the neck because you have to look to one side in order to breathe.  The combination of a flat spine and strained neck does not do anything good for your back or your posture.  If you are able to sleep on your side or your back, you will experience many more posture benefits than sleeping on your stomach.

Side sleeping

Side sleeping is recomended by most doctors as the most ideal sleeping position for your internal organs as they are not overly stressed by side sleeping.  Side sleeping is also good during pregnancy in that it’s the most comfortable sleeping position.  As for side sleeping and posture, it’s not the worst position, but also not the best.  Side sleeping does not stress your spine like sleeping on your belly, but if you do not have a pillow inbetween your legs, your spine will not be aligned properly.  Doctors suggest inserting a pillow just above the knee in order to maintain the natural curve of your spine.

Side sleeping can also negatively impact your neck and shoulders.  When you sleep on your side, you are allocating all of your body weight to one shoulder – this could pose problems for people who have shoulder issues to begin with.  Also, when you sleep on your side, you need to adjust your pillow just right so that your neck is not strained.  It can become hyper-extended and strained if it’s not supported by a pillow.  Side sleeping can also cause your arm to go numb overnight since your body weight will also be forced on your arm.

Side sleeping may not be the most comfortable position to sleep on, but it’s 2nd best for your sleeping posture.

Sleeping on Your Back

By far the best sleeping posture is sleeping on your back.  Back sleeping keeps your back straight while allowing the mattress to do it’s job by supporting the natural curve of your spine.  Back sleeping relaxes your spine, especially when you have the proper pillow supporting your neck.  When you have the support of a pillow, the neck remains in a neutral position throughout the night.  This promotes proper blood flow and enables the body to completely rest and relax, resulting in a peaceful night’s sleep.

When and Where to Use a Pillow

Since we’ve determined that sleeping on your back is the most ideal position for sleeping posture, you need to remember that supporting your neck is also key.  Placing a pillow under your head will support the natural curve in your neck and will prevent any straining or stiffness that may occur from not using a pillow.

Achieving the proper pillow elevation can be tricky – you don’t want it too high nor too low either.  The correct pillow elevation can be achieved by using the pillow as a support instead of as an elevator.  You want your neck and spine to maintain their natural curve throughout the night, so adjust your pillow so that you have support under your neck.

Some of us also use a pillow under the knees, as this can also support your lower back.  It really depends on the type of mattress you have as well.  If you have more of a soft mattress, you may need additional support under your knees and neck from a pillow than those people with a firm mattress that provides more support.

Sleeping Posture Conclusion

Regardless of your sleeping position, it’s wise to keep your hips, shoulders, and ears aligned, as this is a good rule of thumb to maintain good posture.  If you remember to do this, you will maintain a healthy posture throughout the entire night.  This will result in a healthy spine.  It’s key to remember to maintain a good sleeping posture, especially if you try so hard during the day to practice good posture habits.  It would be a shame to upset your good posture by not choosing a healthy sleeping posture at night, as 6-8 hours of poor posture at night can significantly impact your long term posture goals.


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