How Do You Sleep?

By Tessa Brooks

Have you ever woken up with a “crick” in your neck or try to stand up out of bed and have to grab your back and straighten up slowly? Both of these scenarios and many more aches and pains can be attributed to not only the way you sleep but also what you sleep with…

We all know that sleeping on your stomach is “bad” for you, but have you ever wondered why? According to Health Magazine, “Stomach-sleeping makes it difficult to maintain a neutral position with your spine,” (Ken Shannon, a physical therapist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston) putting “pressure on joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling.” It can also force lengthening of the muscles in one side of your neck and shortening on the other causing pain when turning your neck. *Forcing yourself to sleep the next night with your neck in the opposite direction (the one that hurts) will relax the muscles and voila! No pain!

So what’s the best position? Sleeping on your back is the best. It helps to align your spine, and with the proper pillow to support your head and neck, can ease the physical aches and pains of the day. There is of course one tiny draw back to sleeping in such a position…snoring! That age old debate amongst married couples! Snoring occurs the most when people sleep on their backs.

But let’s face it, how many people actually sleep on their back? Most people chose to sleep in a side-lying position. (The next best thing to back sleeping.) Unfortunately, for most people they do not know how to do so properly. When sleeping on your side it is always a good idea to use pillows between your knees and hugging one. (Body pillows work best!) This helps to align your spine throughout the night allowing your body to truly relax. Without the use of said pillows, gravity pulls down on the higher hip which can cause low back and hip pain by over stretching it and twisting your spine slightly. Your shoulders can experience the same pains in your rotator cuff and shoulder blade, causing those “all of a sudden” sharp pains when your turn your neck.

So how does all of this affect your everyday life?  Not being able to properly align your spine while sleeping over time can cause the muscles on one side to be over(hyper)extended while shortening the same muscles on the other side. This, in turn, leads to compensation and “mystery” pains.

Long story short:

Sleeping on your stomach, BAD…

Sleeping on your side with proper pillows, GOOD…

Sleeping on your back with the proper pillow, GREAT!!!


In what position do you sleep?  And do you think that position could be causing you pain?

33 thoughts on “How Do You Sleep?”

  1. I’m very blessed in that, when I (finally) go to sleep, I sleep deep & well. Can’t imagine trying to sleep on my stomach though; yuck! I like the illustrations you used here.

  2. I am a stomach sleeper and I actually tried to sleep on my back last night and I woke up on my stomach in the normal position that I always sleep in. Looks like I gotta retrain my body to sleep on my back :v)

  3. I sleep on my side. This does cause me problems. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night with a numb hand.
    It’s very hard to retrain yourself on how to sleep.

  4. I sleep on my side and my stomach, never on my back. I sleep very good when I sleep on my side. My pillow gives me great support on my side. When I’m on my stomach I sleep a little bit more better. Either way I sleep really good.

  5. I sleep on my tummy. I think it is ok for me b/c I put pillows under my hips to avoid the curve, sink in, of the back. I also hike one leg up making the number 4 shape and place a pillow under the knee that is bent. I cant sleep on my back b/c it gives me headaches and my back hurts more. I get frigidity on my sides and toss and turn. I am sound a sleep on my tummy….

  6. I normally either sleep on my side or my back, but when I do sleep on my side, I haven’t been using pillows… which is probably one of the reasons I have so much low back pain! There have been several nights where I lay on my stomach like last night and I, of course, woke up with a neck ache that brought along a headache. 🙁 Usually when I try to sleep on my back, I can’t stay still all night and wind up rolling over either on my stomach or side. I actually have a body pillow that I never keep in bed, so I definitely will try it out!
    I really enjoyed this weeks blog Tessa! Thanks!

  7. I normally start out on my back, but throughout the night I turn and shift throughout different positions trying and going through all of those all night. Like a dream roller coaster or something. I’ve always had dreams 70{dd4fd4792e0eb33cfcd896730531ad5ee27f408bd2ce28da7f8125f8188131a8} of nights. Anyhow, it really depends on my subconscious and how my sleep is as to what position I will be going into for the most of the night. However I’ve always try to sleep with a pillow in between my knees for some reason even prior to knowing any article that said it was good for me. Guess my body knew best huh?

  8. This is a great blog! I have actually been wondering about this lately, so thank you for answering my questions. I usually sleep on my back and switch to my side when I need to. I am going to start using a body pillow to see if it helps my random pains. Thank you!


  9. I try to sleep on my back, but I usually end up rolling over to my belly or side at some point during the night. This blog brought me to the realization that I need to invest in some good pillows. I usually buy cheap pillows and over use them. I think I’ll buy some new pillows.

  10. I sleep on my side without the use of pillows for my joints. Lately tho I have been waking up on my back after falling asleep on my side. I guess my body is telling me what I have been doing wrong for years. The last blog that talked about sleeping position helped me with some of my pains, but without having extra pillows I can only do so much. I didn’t know that sleeping on my side could cause problems for my shoulders tho. No wonder I have about 7 knots between them.

  11. I love to lay on my side in a fetal position but without the body pillow I will have to get on but I lay like this though out the night. I am sure I am not helping my body get the proper circulation it needs through out the night and I am not stretch out like I am supposed to be. After, reading this blog and because I love this position so much I will get a body pillow.

  12. I prefer to sleep on my side and when doing so I am prone to hug a pillow or even yet I like to cocoon myself with my blanket usually grasping the blanket and creating a taunt security with my back and shoulders. Most pain that I do experience is in my back possibly because the lack of a cushion for my knees. Thank you for this blog it has been very informative and I look forward to the next one.

  13. I sleep pretty good at night i sleep all three ways but i mostly sleep on my stomach but i also sleep with a pillow underneth me so my back is real strait if i don’t have a pillow under me then my back does hurt the next day.

  14. I am a side sleeper. I cannot get comfortable enough to fall asleep in any other position. I have tried to sleep with a pillow between my knees, but it makes it difficult with the sheets covering me, to be able to switch from one side to the other. I have seen infomercials that advertise a specialized pillow that is only as wide as your legs that goes in between your knees. I would probably love that pillow!

  15. I generally sleep on my left side. This position is very comfortable for me, much more so than sleeping on my back or right side. If I sleep on my back, I wake up in the mornings with neck pain and headaches. I feel groggy and slow all day long. When I sleep on my right side my arms, one under my pillow, and one across my body, fall asleep and tingle. It is a very uncomfortable sensation that causes me to frequently wake up during the night. So my preference is sleeping on my left side.

  16. I sleep on my side like the lady in the picture with the pillows only the bottom leg is straight and the top leg is out more, plus I don’t use a pillow. I don’t bother with a pillow because I get tired of laying on one side and turn over to much in the night. Maybe if I used a pillow I wouldn’t need to do that.

  17. I am a side lying sleeper. Since the week we had pregnancy massage and I had to buy a body pillow I have been using pillows in between my knees when I sleep and I have noticed I have less lower back pain. I also noticed that I usually wake up with neck pain and have started to use only one pillow instead of two under my head and it has reduced my neck pain.

  18. I am a side-sleeper. I do “hug” an extra pillow, and used to sleep with an additional pillow between my knees, but decided I was becoming a “pillow freak” and gave up the third pillow! Rats! I like the idea of a body pillow.

  19. I prefer to sleep on my right side with one leg bent (left leg) and the other one straight. However, we had a demonstration in class one day and now I try to sleep on both sides (trading out) and on my back, I do have trouble with my right rotator cuff and I don’t like that, hence the reason I decided I needed to start changing positions throughout the night!

  20. I sleep on my side at all times, note with way too many pillows. I use two thick pillows for my head, which is comfortable when I’m falling asleep but by the time I wake up the next morning I have headaches and a really intense crick in my neck. I sleep with one pillow between my knees to help my hips from hurting, and one body pillow in front of me to half way lean on. After reading this I think It’s time to start changing my sleeping habits!

  21. I have never found it comfortable to sleep on my stomach. I have a hard time breathing and my neck tends to stiffen up rather quickly. I sleep best on either side with a semi firm pillow under my head and a body pillow to hold onto. I have never been a fan of sleeping on my back. I cant seem to find complete comfort that way. Sometimes I will go for weeks sleeping on only one side either my left or my right. I have never found out why but I seem to sleep more soundly for some reason. Then other times I will rotate each night or fall asleep more randomly on my left or my right. I think I favor sleeping on my left side more than my right side though.

  22. I sleep on my side or stomach and I have a difficult time going to sleep and staying asleep. I try to sleep on different sides to help stretch my neck muscles but one side of my neck is usually stiffer than the other. I will try sleeping on my back from now on, if I can fall asleep that way.

  23. I generally fall asleep on my back but sometimes wake up on my side. However, tend to use too many pillows, causing the occasional “crick”. I’ve tried getting rid of them in the past but had more trouble getting to sleep. It’s likely time to try it again! Great post!!!

  24. I sleep in all positions at night. I’m constantly changing from one side to another and to my back. I do sleep on my stomach, but I don’t do it as often. I know the way I sleep causes me a lot of pain. When I’m trying to get comfortable when I sleep I don’t think about the long term affects that it is making on my body.

  25. I always toss and turn when I sleep. With that being said I normally fall asleep on my side or my stomach and I wake up on my side or my back. I think the way I sleep could be causing me some of my pain but I have tried sleeping with additional pillows (like between my legs) and they wind up on the floor because of my tossing and turning. I have pretty much just learned to deal with my pain because I know that even though sleeping incorrectly may be one of my issues it is far from being the ONLY issue.

  26. I have always sleeping on my side. I find it to be the most comfortable position. I have tried sleeping in the other positions but neither one of them are as comfortable. I haven’t experienced any pain from sleeping on my side.

  27. I always sleep on my side if I wake up and I’m hurting I just roll to the other side. I sometimes sleep on my back because it feels really good to lay straight, but I always wake up in more pain than when I wen to sleep. I find that no matter what position I sleep in I always wake up hurting, But I find that if I stretch before I go to sleep about 50{dd4fd4792e0eb33cfcd896730531ad5ee27f408bd2ce28da7f8125f8188131a8} of my pain is gone and I also stretch in the morning when I wake up and even less pain after the morning stretch.

  28. Interesting to know that sleeping on my stomach is bad for me, it is the most comfortable way for me to sleep and have a complete nights rest. Sleeping on my back or any other way gives me a very restless night ahead. However sometimes the body pillow does work for a few hours but I always wake up on my stomach.

  29. I sleep on my side with a pillow. I usually flip to my back and then to the other side. I can only sleep on my stomach for a little while and that’s only when I can’t fall asleep in the first three positions.

  30. I have always slept on my back. Its the most comfortable to me. I just need to buy better pillows and I think my sleep would improve. Thanks for this Blog good info!

  31. I’ve heard about sleeping and the effects before. I tend to sleep on my stomach. I have tried to fall asleep on my back but I end up waking up on my stomach. I have tried using pillows but they end up in the floor. It’s hard to break habits especially when I’m sleeping. 🙂

  32. I am usually a side sleeper or stomach sleeper. I do occasionally get a crink in my neck but its usually when I don’t use my normal pillow.

  33. I love to sleep on my side having pillows at my back and cuddling with two or three pillows on my front. I rarely have back or other bodies pains