As a Doctor of Chiropractic, a spinal expert, it is very common for people to ask me the question: “What’s the best sleeping position?” The short answer is to sleep on your back with some right and left side sleeping but never on your stomach.
Then I hear things like: “Babies sleep on their stomach and so it must be natural to do so,” or “I just can’t sleep on my back, so I sleep on my side.” It is understandable that we migrate to one position or another for a number of reasons. Prior injuries may have forced you into a sleeping pattern; obesity causes sleep apnea, or pregnancy related changes that just become habit. Habits are just things we do unconsciously that can be replaced with a better habit over just a few weeks effort.
Firstly, babies have supple undeveloped spinal bones and muscles and until the age of seven or eight there is still enough flexibility in the spine to absorb the stresses of sleeping on their stomach. When we start to build muscles and get taller the night-time should be a time of regeneration and its best to influence development by sleeping in as neutral a position as possible; that’s on your back. Once we have finished growing we regenerate and maintain our bodies when we sleep, so it’s important that we get an excellent night’s sleep.
Pressure points develop on the body as we sleep therefore we still need to shift to one side or another by changing position since it’s only natural to shift the burden of positional stress to different parts of the body. But if we always turn to the same side, then there is the chance of asymmetrical stress on the body’s frame.
Things we don’t know can hurt us but even more dangerous are the things we believe to be true but are not actually true; these can really hurt you. Apply this truth to the question of sleeping and be ready to reconsider the way you sleep tonight.
For adults and even teenagers:
1. Never sleep on your stomach
2. Start off sleeping on your back* and return to that position if you wake during the night
3. It’s ok to sleep on either right or left side but just not always on the same side
* One secret to training yourself to sleep on the back is to place a pillow or two under the knees (like training wheels); then just put the pillow between the knees when you shift to either side. It takes 3 days to 3 weeks to train yourself to sleeping on your back, but it is very doable. Next time we will look at proper beds beds and pillows.
Yours in Health,