The position in which you sleep is a major factor in the quality of your rest. The wrong position can cause muscle cramping, hinder circulation, and leave you hurting upon waking. For the millions of people with preexisting aches (such as back pain) a bad sleep pose can spark a vicious cycle; It can exacerbate pain, which can lead to insomnia, which can lead to more health woes, which can lead to even more sleepless nights. Obviously, those with more serious cases should consider seeking medical attention, sleeping on your back can help alleviate the symptoms of everyday aches and pains or simply negate their cause.
Neck pain is discomfort in any of the structures in the neck. These include the muscles, nerves, bones (vertebrae), and the disks between the bones. When your neck is sore, you may have difficulty moving it, especially turning to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere.A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Usually, everyday activities are to blame. Such activities include:
- Bending over a desk for hours
- Poor posture while watching TV or reading
- Having your computer monitor positioned too high or too low
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position
- Twisting and turning the neck in a jarring manner while exercising
Most people with neck pain benefit from sleeping on their back with their neck in a neutral (read: straight) position, which involves finding a pillow that supports that alignment.
“A pillow that puts your head on an upward or downward slope can compress the cervical spine, strain neck muscles, and cause soreness—especially if you’re lying on your stomach or side.”
Laelle Martin, D.C. – Chiropractor in Tacoma, Washington
Bruxism, also known simply as teeth grinding is a genetic condition that affects about 1 out of every 12 adults and has been linked to stress, anxiety and sleep disorders; not to mention the pain it can cause your teeth and jaw. Because grinding often occurs during sleep, most people are unaware that they grind their teeth. However, a dull, constant headache or sore jaw is a telltale symptom. Many times people learn that they grind their teeth by their loved one who hears the grinding at night.
“I tell my patients to sleep on their back with their lips closed but teeth open. If you suspect you grind at night, lie on your back and face the ceiling. This allows the lower jaw to fall into a natural position and the facial muscles to relax.”
Carolyn Taggart-Burns – D.D.S., of the Academy of General Dentistry
Acid reflux is a very common symptom of burning pain felt internally around the lower chest area, caused by stomach acid flowing back up into the food pipe. There are many ways to alleviate the discomfort of acid reflux or heartburn, some are:
- Eat your food more slowly and cut fat intake
- Wear loose fitting clothing
- Quit smoking
- Don’t lie down right after eating
- Sleep on your back with your head above your heart
“Sleeping on your back is ideal for fighting acid reflux; if the head is elevated, your stomach will be below your esophagus so acid or food can’t come back up.”
Eric Olson, M.D., Co-Director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota
Back pain is a common complaint. Most people will experience back pain at least once during their lives. Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work. On the bright side, you can take measures to prevent or lessen most back pain episodes. If prevention fails, simple home treatment and proper body mechanics will often heal your back within a few weeks and keep it functional for the long haul. Surgery is rarely needed to treat back pain.
Symptoms of back pain may include:
- Muscle ache
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Pain that radiates down your leg
- Limited flexibility or range of motion of the back
- Inability to stand up straight
“Sleeping on your back makes it easy for your head, neck, and spine to maintain a neutral position. You’re not forcing any extra curves into your back.”
Steven Diamant – Chiropractor in New York City
Whenever you use the hip (for example, by going for a run), a cushion of cartilage helps prevent friction as the hip bone moves in its socket. Despite its durability, the hip joint isn’t indestructible. With age and use, the cartilage can wear down or become damaged. Muscles and tendons in the hip can get overused. The hip bone itself can be fractured during a fall or other injury. Any of these conditions can lead to hip pain. What’s the #1 solution to stop night time hip pain? Get off your side.
“Sleeping on your injured side is the last thing you want to do. Side-lying poses put undue pressure on your hips, pushing them into the mattress. Sleeping on your back gives your hips a break from the stress of walking and sitting all day. If it feels good, prop a pillow under your knees for added support.”
Dr. Surinder Yadav – Internal Medicine Springfield, MA
When you’re moody, bloated, and crampy, avoid curling up in a ball in bed—or passing out on your stomach. Lying on your side lets gravity tug on already-tender breast ligaments (ouch!); lying face-down puts excess weight and pressure on your uterus, causing irritation and more cramping. Get your best PMS shut-eye on your back. Place a pillow under your knees to keep your lower spine from arching too much, which could amp up soreness in the lower back. Keep your arms neutral at your sides. (If you’re still sore, try putting another pillow under your knees for even more lower-body support.)