Your Sleeping Position May Be Hurting You

by Sarah Winfrey on 28 August 2013 3 comments

Are you experiencing discomfort, exhaustion, or pain that doesn't seem to have a cause? You may want to consider changing your sleeping position to see if that helps you feel better.

While we often don't notice discomfort while we're asleep, the fact that we spend so many hours asleep means that our bodies can end up in awkward and uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. And even the positions that are comfortable can lead to chronic problems by unbalancing our bodies and putting them out of alignment for those extended time periods. (See also: 4 Ways to Avoid Sleep Deprivation)

Side Sleeping

While the jury is out as to which sleeping position is the best overall, some experts think that getting your zzz's on your side is the winner. However, this is only true if you have your pillows positioned properly (and have plenty of them!).

First, you'll need a pillow that fills up the space between your head, neck, and shoulder. Otherwise, you could end up with neck and upper back pain, not to mention headaches, over time. You'll also need to place a pillow between your knees. If you don't, the weight of your top leg can pull on your lower back and cause chronic pain there, too.

Finally, only sleep on your side if the possibilities of wrinkles and/or saggy breasts don't bother you. Gravity will pull on your skin, stretching it over time. That may sound silly, but think about how many hours you will sleep over your lifetime. While these side effects probably won't cause you physical pain, they may be more than annoying psychologically. (See also: 4 Easy, Natural DIY Facial Products)

NOTE: The American Pregnancy Association suggests that all pregnant women sleep on their sides, as both back and stomach sleeping can be dangerous for the unborn child.

Back Sleeping

The other sleep position that some experts proclaim as best is sleeping on your back. Not only do you avoid the upper and lower back problems that can come from side sleeping, but you don't have to worry about pillow positioning for support, either.

In fact, one of the only ways you can injure yourself sleeping on your back is by placing your head too high. If you stack pillows so that the angle of your neck is too steep, this can cause misalignment and spasms, both of which are painful.

While sleeping on your back can be, well, good for your back, it's not recommended if you have any problems breathing. Back sleeping can make both snoring and sleep apnea worse. If you've ever suffered from either of those conditions, you may want to find a different sleep position (and even if you don't, your partner may think otherwise!). After all, both snoring and sleep apnea can disrupt your sleep. Even if you don't wake up, you won't feel as rested in the morning and your body won't perform as well. (See also: 5 Effective Sleep Tips You Haven't Tried Yet)

Stomach Sleeping

When it comes to sleep positions, the one thing that experts do agree on is that sleeping on your stomach offers the most chances for injury and other discomfort. Because sleeping this way flattens out the natural curvatures of your spine, over time it can distort your spinal alignment. This can cause pain up and down your back, offering chances for discomfort to develop from your spine to your tailbone. This misalignment can also put pressure on the nerves in your back, which can lead to tingling and numbness anywhere in your body.

In addition, sleeping on your stomach puts stress on your vital organs. They're forced into the most unnatural positions when you're sleeping this way. While this probably won't damage your organs, it can cause discomfort and lead to restless sleep, which won't allow your body to revitalize and heal the way it needs to.

Once again, sleeping on your stomach can also lead to saggy breasts and wrinkles. Gravity will pull on your skin in ways that aren't beneficial, and over time can enhance any problems here that might already exist. It can also make acid reflux worse, which is definitely not a comfortable experience. (See also: 5 Affordable Solutions for Acid Reflux Disease)

In the end, it's worthwhile to change your sleeping position if it's hurting you. While it may take some work, as your body is habituated to sleep in the same position every night, it will be worthwhile if it improves your quality of life. However, if your sleep position is working for you, there's no need to change until it's causing you pain.

What's your favorite sleeping position?

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Guest's picture

My wife and I are both side sleepers. I tend to get into a comfortable position and then lie that way until my muscles and bones start to hurt. Then I'll roll to my other side. My wife flops around like a fish out-of-water, rolling from one side to the other, taking the covers with her. Oh well, that's why I wear sweat pants to bed.

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Guest

I suspect that the majority of people, myself included, sleep side, back, and tummy every night. They just don't know it.

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Chad

Funny you mention this...I just got a "sleeping injury" a month ago. Getting hurt in your sleep...what!! That's when I know I'm getting old. Thanks for sharing this article. Now if I could only find out how to stay put when I sleep. Or maybe I should install security cameras at night to see if my wife is beating me up in my sleep!!