This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Good sleep is an absolutely vital component to good health. Many individuals go to bed with very little pain but wake up finding that they are stiff and sore in the morning. Others cannot even make it through the night due to intense back and neck pain that awakes them. Optimal sleeping postures protect your spine and allow your body to rest effectively and maximize the rejuvenating benefits of sleep.
The posture patterns we carry during the day and overnight will play a very large role in the health of our spine and nervous system. Bad posture leads to problems with the spine which can cause health challenges such as headaches, neck pain and back pain. Additionally, these spinal abnormalities disrupt neurological function in the body causing poor healing, organ malfunctions and challenges with the immune system.
The Worst Sleeping Postures
There are several different sleeping postures that are to be avoided. Sleeping face-down requires an individual to have their head turned to a side. This causes a long stretching response in the ligaments and leads to plastic ligamentous deformity and spinal damage.
Sleeping face up with a large pillow underneath your head will cause a hyperflexion and protraction of the neck. This will again cause a plastic deformity that will lead to increased forward head posture and loss of the cervical curve.
This is extremely dangerous as forward head posture has been shown to decrease lung capacity; it prevents the body from effectively oxygenating cells. This can lead to asthmatic conditions, sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. Forward head posture also affects the digestive system leading to lowered nutrient absorption, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome. Lowered oxygen states decrease endorphin production leading to lowered pain thresholds and heightened states of pain.
The Best Sleeping Postures
There are several sleeping postures that are beneficial to the body. One of the best is sleeping on your back with a specific posture pillow customized to help improve the cervical curve. When sleeping face up on this customized posture pillow, it is important to also put a normal pillow underneath the knees to create hip and knee flexion that will take pressure off of the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints.
Another great sleeping posture is lying on your side in a fetal-like position with hips and knees flexed about 45 degrees. It is important to have pillow support under the neck that keeps the head level and face in a neutral position. It is also critical to have a pillow between the knees which assists the body in keeping proper pelvic integrity. If the pillow is not there, it will lead to a torqueing position in the pelvic region.
If the pillow under the neck is too big and firm, it can cause the individual to be placed in a lateral flexion position away from the sleeping side shoulder. If the pillow is too small and fluffy, it can cause the lateral flexion position towards the sleeping side shoulder. Both of these positions are very dangerous for the spine and nervous system.
Back and Forth Sleepers
When going from back to side, it is important to transition the pillow under the knees to in between the knees and position the head to where it is not in a lateral flexion position. When going from side to back, it is important to slide the pillow in between the knees to under the knees. Additionally, be sure to position a larger head pillow further down on the torso so it flexes the body at the pelvic and lumbar region and does not just push the cervical spine forward.