By Dr Ernst
May 3, 2021

Getting a full night of proper sleep is essential for your overall health not only in providing your body a physical recharge in energy but also in helping your body to heal. When you sleep the majority of your body systems go into a “hibernation” state while your brain and nerve system become more active-activating what could be called a total body cleaning / healing scan while you sleep.

Most sleep experts recommend adults allocate between 7-8 hours for sleep each night and yet many admit to getting fewer hours of restful sleep each night. One common reason for disrupted sleep is back or neck pain or discomfort in a joint (hip/shoulder) at night, which can make getting a night of restful sleep even more challenging.

Did you know the position you sleep in can have a major impact on your quality of sleep and the amount of “sleep-healing” you can achieve each night? The BEST sleep position is one that is going to support the natural curves of your neck, back and spine keeping it in proper alignment-to maximize the heightened nervous system activity that only occurs at night. The WORST sleeping positions are those that put stress/strain on your spine, hips, back/neck and organs while sleeping.

The Best Sleeping Positions For “Sleep-Healing”

Sleeping Flat On Your Back – Sleeping on your back is by far the best position for optimum sleep. Surprisingly only 10% of Americans say they prefer to sleep on their back! Before you say “I can’t sleep on my back” remember you need to support yourself for proper back sleeping. This is why we recommend using a spinal support roll (not a pillow-see below) under your neck and also one under your low back. These support rolls will encourage your spine to stay in its naturally curved position while you sleep-opening the spinal cord and spinal nerves to allow for proper communication between your nerve system and organs. If you use a pillow while sleeping on your back it elevates your head off the mattress, which decreases your neck curvature while also creating forward head posturing of your neck-which can decrease oxygenation efficiency and also strain the spinal discs/nerves in your neck. To make back sleeping even more comfortable place a small pillow under your knees.

Side Sleeping – Sleeping on your side is another healthy way to help keep your spine aligned, so that you alleviate unnecessary pressure in the back, and its the most popular according to a national sleep study (74% of Americans say this is their preferred position). However, it is important to remember there is aright way, and a wrong way to sleep on your side. To maximize side sleeping it’s best to measure the distance between your neck and shoulder and ensure your pillow matches that exact distance. Most pillows are much to small for proper side sleeping and you end up sleeping with your neck tilted towards one side. Don’t forget to also put a firm pillow between the knees to help keep your hips stay in alignment.

The Worst Sleeping Positions For “Sleep-Healing”

It is just as important to know the worst sleeping positions for optimal sleep, as it is to know the best positions. If you have been dealing with chronic back pain, particularly in the morning, or if you are struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep, then you may be sleeping in one of these patterns.

Sleeping On Your Stomach – According to a national health survey, an alarming 16% of Americans say they prefer sleeping on their stomach-are you one of them? Stomach sleeping places a tremendous amount of pressure on your neck muscles, discs and nerves as your head must be turned to one side in-order to breathe. This constant pressure can cause headaches, numbness/tingling and even disc issues over time. Breathing is also difficult and total oxygen is reduced when you sleep on your stomach as your diaphragm has to push extra hard to elevate your body against gravity when you stomach sleep.

Sleeping With Awkward Leg/Arm Positions – Do you sleep with one leg higher than the other? Or perhaps one arm over your head and the other to your side? Each of these positions can cause your hips/pelvis or shoulders to get out of alignment and stay in an aggravated position that may be causing strain in your muscles ort rigger older injuries.

If you find yourself waking up with stiff joints, numbness in your fingers or toes or you have neck, back or joint pain in the morning consider giving your sleep position an upgrade.

Also consider looking into your mattress age (most manufacturers recommend replacing your mattress every 6-8 years yet most Americans admit to sleeping on a bet that is much older. Also consider upgrading your traditional box spring mattress for the newer sleep technology beds. For example, I currently use and recommend highly BIOPOSTURE ( mattress is designed with your sleep health in mind as they are organic, non-toxic (produced without flame retardants by prescription) and also contain Celli ant-a patented technology that converts your body’s natural heat and into infrared therapy while you sleep! If you are in the market for a new mattress don’t forget to let them know you are a patient of Dr. Aaron Ernst, D.C. as you also get a discount on your new bed when you call them directly.

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