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?

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