Sleeping Posture

Sleeping posture better be something you pay attention to. After all, you spend one third of your life in bed.

Do you wake-up in the morning with backache that seems to ease once you are up and about?

Why is that?

Don't you think that sleep, which is your body's time for rest and recuperation, should cause you to wake up feeling refreshed and energized and painless?

Awakening with pain and that pain easing or going away during activity is a common sign of chronic lower back pain.

Obviously, your pain is not from lifting, work, sports or other activities; otherwise, your lower back would feel better in the morning and get worse with those activities.

Morning Lower Back Pain

There are several reasons why you have pain in the morning that eases during activity. Here are the more common reasons.

  • Poor sleeping posture or position
  • Poor or broken down mattress or the wrong type of sleeping support
  • You have myofascial pain syndrome or trigger points
  • You are sleeping too long or spending too much time in bed

Your spine should be in a neutral position or posture as much as possible and that includes when lying in bed.

When you assume a sleeping position that is wrong or one that, even if it is correct, doesn't support your spine's normal curves and alignment then you can pretty much expect awakening with discomfort and pain.

Three Sleeping Positions

There are three main sleeping postures and variations of.

They are...

  1. Sleeping on your side
  2. Sleeping on your stomach
  3. Sleeping on your back

These are the three main sleeping postures that we all assume. We spend, on average, eight hours in one or a combination of any two or three positions each night.

Let's briefly talk about each.

Sleeping On Your Side

This position seems to be the number one choice but it is not the number one desired posture. Your spine, when viewed from the back or front, should have a straight alignment. When lying on your side it should be parallel to the floor or bed.

The pelvis is a large broad set of bones. When assuming a side sleeping posture the firm unyielding pelvis contacts the mattress and forces the spine to curve toward the mattress. Now your spine is no longer in a straight alignment but resembles a scoliosis or lateral curvature.

This will cause...

The same problem occurs when you have a leg length inequality. The only difference is that you are now in a recumbent position as opposed to standing...

...the effect is the same.

It may even be worse than standing if you force an already tilted pelvis and abnormally curved spine into a more extreme position by sleeping on the short leg side. Now instead of your back resting and recuperating during the night it is sustaining additional damage and increasing pain.

Maybe you have to revert to some type of pain reliever in order to sleep at all. Or you may even awaken during the night with worsening pain. What is your back telling you? Listening to your back will help you discover answers.

There is only one reason why you should sleep on your side. Here it is:

If you have a short leg and your spine is curved to the short leg side it may be okay for you to sleep on your long leg side.

Even in this scenario it is not advisable to sleep on your side.

If your spine curves away from your short leg side or toward your long leg side then you should avoid sleeping on your long leg side.

Stomach Sleeping

Probably the least utilized position or one that is only used for short periods of time during your sleep is stomach sleeping.

The problem with this position is that it tends to increase the lumbar forward curvature or lordosis and creates a hyper-lordosis or extreme forward curvature.

This will cause your facet joints to glide excessively together. These joints have a lot of pain nerve endings in them and they will become activated and sensitized that can cause lower back pain. This is a potentially painful position to be in while sleeping or resting especially if you already have facet syndrome, facet arthritis or lumbar stenosis.

That rules out number two position and leaves the number three or supine position (back sleeping).

Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back, or the supine sleeping position, is the most ideal. It keeps your spine aligned in a straight manner and will not cause facet joint glide or jamming.

It actually will reduce facet joint jamming by causing the spine to flatten somewhat thereby allowing the facet surfaces to glide apart. However, in a normal spine with no facet problems this gliding apart should be avoided as well.

When assuming a supine, or back sleeping, posture there are three things that you can do that will position or maintain a neutral spine or neutral alignment. This neutral spine allows for less joint, muscle and disc irritation and aids in rest and recuperation.

Sleeping Posture Suggestions

  1. Place a pillow under your knees. This will take tension off the muscles and promote relaxation.
  2. Use a cervical pillow or cervical sleep support for your neck. It too has a lordosis and needs to be supported and allowed to remain in a neutral position during sleep. An abnormal cervical lordosis or lack of can contribute to lower back problems. If you have disc degeneration, stenosis and/or spurring in your cervical spine (neck) you may not be a good candidate for a cervical pillow. Ask your chiropractor if your neck will accept a cervical sleep support.
  3. Place a small pillow under your low back. This prevents excessive flattening of your back (hypolordosis), which is abnormal, and it will help to maintain a normal lordosis. If the pillow is too thick it will create hyperlordosis which is not desired either.
  4. By all means, make sure you are using a good quality supporting bed.

A lordosis in the neck and low back is what you should try to maintain provided there is no stenosis or boney spurring that would be aggravated by a normal curvature or lordosis.

With stenosis and boney spurring a lordosis can often create further narrowing and compression which will cause pain and aggravation of an already existing condition.

Supine sleeping will in almost every case be your best sleeping posture.

If you snore this may be a problem if you have a sleeping partner. Then I would suggest you see a physician to see if they can treat your snoring problem.

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