Support yourself for better sleep and a healthy spine.
A lot of people complain about waking up with pain that they didn’t have when they went to bed, saying that “they slept wrong”. As someone who truly appreciates the value of a good night’s sleep, I don’t believe that there is a “wrong” way to sleep. However, there are ways that you can support your spine in a neutral position by using pillows at night to decrease the incidence of waking up with musculoskeletal pain that you didn’t have when you went to bed. Here are a few suggestions:
1) If you sleep on your back.
Use a pillow under your knees to support your low back in a neutral position. Play with different sizes until you find the one that is the most comfortable for you. Be sure that the pillow you use under your head is the correct size to support your head in a comfortable position.
2) If you sleep on your side.
Place a large pillow between your knees. This eliminates the strain on your low back and hips by putting your lumbar spine (low back) and pelvis in a neutral position. You may want to support your legs all the way to your ankles. Put another pillow in front of your chest and let your arm rest on top of it. This takes stress off of your shoulders and puts your cervical spine (neck) in a neutral position. Again, make sure that the pillow for your head is properly supporting you in a comfortable position.
3) If you sleep on your stomach.
Body pillows are great for stomach sleepers. Place the pillow in front of you so you can position yourself over the pillow as if you were lying completely on your front. You have the sense of being on your stomach, but your spine is being supported in a more neutral position. This eliminates the strain and pressure to your low back caused by excessive extension as well as neck strain from lying on your stomach for prolonged periods of time.
I recommend using traditional pillows that you already have in your home. You can spend a lot of money on special therapeutic pillows and be disappointed in the results. You already have pillows in your home, so put them to good use and save your money.
Don’t worry if you position your pillows and wake up to find them on the floor or thrown across the room. It takes a while to get used to the pillows, and we all move around and re-position ourselves a lot during the night. Your body will become accustomed to the pillows and you will subconsciously readjust them in your sleep as you move.
Wishing you good nights, good sleep, and good health!
Cheryl Ilov, PT, GCFP