Secrets To Improved Sleep
Here at my clinic in Amarillo, TX, (Creek Stone Integrated Care) we get a lot of questions each week. One of the most common of those questions is, “What’s the best position to sleep in at night?”
While that is a great question, the answer is not necessarily straight forward as you might think. One of the main reasons is that we move and change positions regularly throughout the night. How can you battle against doing something that occurs unconsciously? I would suggest that practice makes perfect and at least trying to sleep correctly is better than doing nothing at all.
So, the old excuse that a person cannot control what they do in their sleep does not hold as much water as the excuse-maker might hope.
Now, there are four main ways to sleep for most humans. They include:
- On the stomach
- On the back
- On the side
Sleeping on the stomach
I want to go ahead and take ‘On the stomach’ out of the mix. For most people, sleeping on the stomach is not recommended. If sleeping on the stomach is something that cannot be ruled out, then it may be helpful to put a small pillow under the pelvis and/or lower abdomen to keep there from being too much extension in the lower back over the course of a night’s sleep.
In addition to placing too much extension and strain on the low back, sleeping on the stomach tends to cause a ‘squished’ face and leads to deeper and more numerous wrinkles in the face. I don’t know of anyone that wants more wrinkles in their face!
Sleeping on the back
Sleeping on the back, in the opinion of many experts, is the ideal position to sleep. It is an excellent position for keeping the low back nice and straight throughout the night. Not only do you avoid a ‘squished’ face and more wrinkles, but sleeping on the back also helps with muscle pains and heartburn.
However, for those that are overweight, sleeping on the back can be a source of more snoring. That is not always ideal for your spouse’s quality of sleep as you may imagine.
In general, sleeping on the back with a pillow under the knees is the best way to begin a restful night’s sleep. I say ‘begin’ because we are all likely to change positions throughout the night. All we have to do when we are awakened in a different position is get back into the correct position before drifting back off to sleep.
Sleeping on the side
Sleeping on the side is likely the second-best way to sleep at night. It is an excellent position for maintaining a nice, straight low back and decreasing common muscle pain. Sleeping on the side is also great for decreasing the amount of snoring. One drawback of sleeping on the side is the ‘squish’ face wrinkles that commonly occur.
The best way to sleep on your side is in the fetal position with a pillow between the knees. The pillow between the knees helps to straighten and reduce and stress or strain on the hips and/or pelvis while sleeping.
One other position I have yet to mention is a hybrid of sleeping on the stomach and sleeping on the side. It is sleeping with one leg hiked up, partly on the stomach, partly on the side. This pure hybrid position is not recommended due to the twisting and stress it places on the low back and pelvis.
However, a suitable technique to maintain this position could be achieved by placing a body pillow or a fat pillow under the hiked up knee to remove the twisting of the low back and pelvis and to lay in a more straight position.
This is a very common way to sleep for so many people. It can be done but a pillow under the knee and hiked up leg is vital to long term restful sleep and waking up with a pain-free back.
What about the neck?
We have talked a lot so far about back pain but what about pillows? The best way to use a pillow is to only have one of them. Only one pillow! That one pillow should have just enough support or bulkiness to keep the neck in a straight position when laying on the back or the side. No more and no less. Fat pillows cause your neck to bend. Pillows that are too skinny cause the neck to bend. For a restful sleep, the straightness of the neck should be maintained as much as possible through the night.
It is common to hear patients tell me about all of the pillows they have tried or all of the mattresses they have purchased trying to get better sleep and trying to wake up with less pain in the mornings. In all honesty though, with the correct attention, effort, and planning, a restful night’s sleep is typically right around the corner with little to no extra expense.
Dr. Jeff Williams, DC, FIANM is a Fellowship-trained Neuromusculoskeletal specialist and chiropractor in Amarillo, TX. As an Amarillo chiropractor, Dr. Williams treats chronic pain, disc pain, low back pain, neck pain, whiplash injuries, and more. Dr. Williams is also the host of The Chiropractic Forward Podcast. Through the podcast, Dr. Williams teaches fellow chiropractors and advocates weekly for evidence-based, patient-centered practice through current and relevant research. If you have any questions for Dr. Williams, feel free to email at [email protected]
Learn more about Dr. Williams and his practice at https://www.amarillochiropractor.com. Dr. Williams's full-time Amarillo chiropractic practice is Creek Stone Integrated Care at 3501 SW 45th St., Ste. T, Amarillo, TX 79109
Jeff S Williams, DC, FIANM, DABFP