We often talk about how to get to sleep and the side effects of not sleeping well, but what about how we sleep in bed - and the best positions for optimum sleep and what works best for the back as well.
Several years ago I had a real dilemma, my back was killing me and I was convinced it was my fifteen year old bed.
Off we went to a department store and carefully selected a new expensive big bed.
After several months of not sleeping any better at all, it dawned on me in the middle of the night, that it actually was not the bed that was killing my back, but the way I was sleeping.
Often with arms above my head, or my body twisted and curved when I woke up, I would even sometimes wake up and find scratch marks on my shoulders and was completely unaware as to how they got there.(Freud would have a field day!)
My partner managed to sleep heavily with very little movement, but night after night I was tossing and turning trying to get comfortable and often up during the night and having to shake the duvet around and re arrange pillows - it was a really tough time and it showed on my face - waking up with deep creases was not an attractive look!
It was after undertaking physio, getting fit, starting yoga, meditation and wearing Homebody for the first time, that my back slowly began to improve and with it my sleep habits.
I began to control the way in which I slept at night - it does take time and perseverance to break lifelong habits but it is possible.
So here is a bit of an insight into what our sleep position says about us and our back pain:
Sleeping on your back
Some people who sleep on their backs may experience low back pain from this sleep position. It can also make existing back pain worse. So this is not the best sleep position for lower back pain. If you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, sleeping on your back may aggravate these conditions. There are upsides to sleeping on your back. Your head, neck, and spine are in a neutral position so you're less likely to experience neck pain. Sleeping on your back with your head slightly elevated is also the best sleep position for heartburn and its great for wrinkles as our faces are not pressed into pillows.
Sleeping on your stomach
Approximately 7% of people sleep on their stomach. It may help ease snoring, but sleeping in this position may aggravate other medical conditions. Your neck and spine are not in a neutral position when you sleep on your stomach. This may cause neck and back pain. Stomach sleeping can put pressure on nerves and cause numbness, tingling, and nerve pain. It's best to choose another sleep position if you are stomach sleeper. If you can't break the habit, prop your forehead up on a pillow so your head and spine remain in a neutral position and you have room to breathe.
About 7% of people sleep on their stomachs with their heads turned to the side. People who sleep this way have their arms wrapped around a pillow or tucked under a pillow. One sleep researcher discovered people who sleep this way may be more likely to be outspoken, outgoing, and sociable. They may also be more likely to not take criticism well.
In this position, the sleepers lie on their backs and their arms are down and close to the body. Approximately 8% of people sleep like this. Research has shown that people who sleep in this position may have quiet and reserved personalities. They may also have high standards both for themselves and others. This is not one of the best sleep positions for snoring and may prevent you from getting a restful night's sleep. Talk to your doctor if snoring keeps you from getting enough rest and it is good if you are sharing a small bed!
The most popular sleep position by far is side sleeping. Approximately 41% of people sleep this way, curled up on their sides with their knees bent. This is also called the fetal position. More women than men sleep in this position. This position is good for pregnant women because it facilitates circulation to both mom and the fetus. The position may be good for those who snore. If you have arthritis, sleeping in this position may make you sore. Curling up may also prevent you from breathing deeply because your diaphragm is restricted.
This is a position that I often adopt during the night and curling around a pillow or stuffing a pillow in between the knees can help maintain a good stable position that supports the back and prevents any strain
Side sleepers who sleep with their legs bent and curled toward their torsos are sleeping in the so called foetal position. Women are twice as likely to sleep in the fetal position as men. Researchers have found that people who sleep in the fetal position have warm and friendly personalities. They may be more likely to be sensitive on the inside and have a tough, protective exterior. If sleeping this way hurts your hips, placing a pillow between your knees may help relieve the pressure. This is a position that I often adopt during the night and curling around a pillow or stuffing a pillow in between the knees has helped my back a lot as I maintain a good stable position through the night and it prevents any strain. (often I keep a spare pillow nearby just in case - you can never have too many pillows !)
According to Nick Littlehales, Foetal is the best position for sleep as long as its on your non-dominant side (right handers should sleep on their left and vice versa)
People who sleep in the log position sleep on their sides with their arms down next to their bodies. This sleep position may be good for you if you snore. If you have arthritis, you may wake up in pain. Approximately 15% of people sleep like a log. Researchers have found that people who sleep this way easygoing and social. They are more likely to be trusting, perhaps even gullible.
People who sleep in the yearner position sleep on their sides with their arms outstretched in front of the body. The position may be good for you if you snore, but bad if you suffer from arthritis. Approximately 13% of people sleep in this position. In a study, a researcher found that people who sleep in the yearner position are stubborn. They are open-minded, but also suspicious and cynical. They tend to stick to a decision once they've made up their minds.
Spooning is a side sleeping position for couples where the person in the back holds the one in the front close to their body. Couples may wake up more frequently sleeping this way, but cuddling stimulates the release of oxytocin. This is a hormone that promotes bonding, decreases stress, and may help you get to sleep more quickly. Cuddling for as little as 10 minutes is enough to trigger the release of oxytocin.Even as a starting position to get to sleep, spooning is worth trying and if you have no partner to spoon with I have found a couple of pillows works equally effectively if not better!
Finally wearing nightwear that allows the body maximum movement when you are trying to sleep is so important and ensures you can adopt any position that works for you and keep you relaxed and comfortable in the process. Being oblivious to what you are wearing on your journey to sleep is key, in addition to maintaining a stable temperature throughout the night and wearing Homebody provides this experience every time.