How Sleeping Positions Affect You
Sleeping positions can be helpful or harmful. In addition to the type of pillow and mattress that a patient uses, their sleeping position plays an important role in physical health. Some sleeping positions are better than others. Patients who sleep in a good position will wake up feeling well rested. Meanwhile, patients who sleep in poor positions are more likely to wake up feeling less rested. Additionally, poor sleeping positions contribute to back and neck pain. A sleeping position that feels comfortable when the patient is falling asleep can still be harmful. Sleeping positions comes with pros and cons, and there are ways to maximize the benefits of every position. The most common position is the fetal position.1
Positions for Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common issues in the world. Patients who suffer from lower back pain can ease some of their discomfort at night. First, patients can try to sleep on their side with a pillow between their legs. The pillow provides back support and keeps the lower body in alignment. Next, patients might try to sleep on their side in the fetal position. Patients who sleep on their sides should switch sides regularly. Usually, sleeping on the stomach is discouraged. However, patients who suffer from degenerative disc disease may benefit from sleeping on their stomach with a pillow under their lower abdomen. On the other hand, patients who want to sleep on their back should keep a pillow under their knees. Everyone has different needs, and patients might have to try multiple positions to find the right one.2
What is the Best Sleeping Position?
Finding the right sleeping position can be difficult. Every body is different, and everybody has different conditions. For example, somebody who is pregnant may have to find a new sleeping position often. Various health conditions play a role in the patient’s choice of sleeping positions, and age is another factor. Some sleeping positions contribute to sleep apnea, snoring, pain, and insomnia, and other sleeping positions combat the troublesome conditions. Often, the body will change sleeping positions throughout the night. The patient is not always conscious of the position changes, and sometimes the changes lead to further discomfort. The best sleeping positions promote musculoskeletal support, reduce sleep apnea, and provide comfort. Patients might consult their doctor or chiropractor for advice on finding the right sleeping positions. Additionally, some people will find that their optimal sleeping position changes over time.3
Sleeping on Your Back
Patients who sleep in the supine position may sleep flat on the bed or at an incline. Patients who already breathe well during sleep might favor back sleeping. In this position, the body is fully supported by the mattress. Back sleeping may relieve chronic pain and sciatica. Adding a pillow under the knees can relieve peripheral edema and reduce the risk of congestive heart failure. However, patients who have difficulty with breathing may not benefit from back sleeping. In fact, sleeping in the supine position can increase snoring. It can also contribute to nasal obstruction and mouth breathing in those who have trouble breathing. Furthermore, back sleeping can aggravate sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition that produces symptoms which range from insomnia to diabetes. On the other hand, back sleeping in an upright position can reduce the effects of sleep apnea.4
Patients who side sleep may sleep on their left or right side. Sleeping on each side comes with different pros and cons. Both sides combat the negative breathing effects of back sleeping. In fact, patients may experience optimal breathing by sleeping on their left side. Further, patients who are experiencing pain on their right side may be more comfortable sleeping on their left side. Of course, the same is true if the patient is experiencing left side pain and they sleep on their right side. The cons of each side are different. A patient who sleeps on their left side may cause the lungs to impact the heart. Conversely, a patient who sleeps on their right side may cause the heart to weigh on the right lung. Moreover, side sleeping puts pressure on one side of the body. By extension, the nerves could develop compression injuries or neuropathy.5
What is the Worst Sleeping Position?
In most cases, stomach sleeping is discouraged. It is often considered to be the worst sleeping position. Stomach sleeping often leads to neck pain because the head is turned to the side the whole night. Additionally, it can lead to upper back and shoulder strain. Furthermore, breathing becomes more difficult because the body’s weight is restricting rib cage movement. However, there are some advantages to stomach sleeping. When the patient is sleeping on an uncomfortable surface, the body acts as a cushion. Stomach sleeping can also conserve heat, and it can provide psychological comfort.6 In order to relieve some of the pressure, patients should avoid stiff pillows. A softer pillow can allow for easier breathing. Patients who regularly experience neck and lower back pain should pay attention to their sleeping position. Of course, stomach sleeping should still be avoided in most cases.7
Pros of Using a Cervical Pillow
In addition to sleeping positions, patients can maximize their bedtime experience with the proper equipment. Cervical pillows are designed to ergonomically support the neck. Patients who prefer different sleeping positions have to find the right style of cervical pillow. The Coop Home Goods pillow uses memory foam and comes in a variety of sizes. The Xtreme Comforts pillow is filled with shredded memory foam, and the shredded foam shifts inside the pillow to fit the head. There is also the Waterbase pillow from Mediflow. As a water-based pillow, it is less likely to move around at night. The Contour Memory Foam pillow from Sleep Innovations features a curved design that keeps the head in an ergonomic positon. Patients should talk to their healthcare provider if they are unsure about which style of pillow to choose. The right pillow and sleeping position make a difference.8
1, 7 https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/best-sleep-positions#1
3, 4, 5, 6 https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-and-worst-sleep-positions-for-health-conditions-4158271
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