It’s no secret that good posture and good sleep are both critical elements of optimal health and function. But did you know that good posture while you sleep is also important for your overall well-being? Research indicates a strong connection between good sleeping positions and good sleep quality.
Proper Sleeping Positions Starts with your Pillow
A vital component of ensuring you have proper posture when sleeping is your pillow. Regardless of shape and size, what matters most when it comes to pillow selection is that your pillow promotes a neutral posture for your cervical spine. This allows your ears to line-up with the center of your shoulders and keep your head from tilting to one side or the other.
How to Pick the Right Pillow
Choosing the correct pillow depends on your sleeping position.
If you sleep on your side you should use a thicker/firmer pillow, or even two pillows if necessary, to maintain good alignment of your neck; some pillows are specifically made and labeled for side-sleepers.
A soft towel roll (approximately two inches in diameter) placed inside your pillowcase along the “bottom” edge of your pillow can also be used to optimize support of your cervical spine.
A good check for proper alignment is to lay down and verify that your pillow allows you to:
- Keep your chin level and tuck your head back
- Your spine should be straight from neck to tail bone with no awkward curves
- Another pillow can be positioned between your knees to help align your lower spine, hips, and pelvis.
If you sleep on your back, it is essential that your pillow does not tilt your head forward. To help assure this, use a thinner/softer pillow positioned under both your shoulders and your head.
Using a soft, two-inch towel roll underneath your neck just, below the base of your skull, will help to maintain the neutral arch of your neck. An alternative to this is sleeping without a pillow and just using the 2” towel roll underneath your neck. Another pillow can be positioned under your knees to help your low back to relax.
Supporting Your Lower Spine
Whether you sleep on your back or your side, using a soft but supportive towel roll (approximately 3 inches in diameter) positioned across your bed at your waistline will help you maintain a neutral spinal posture. If you sleep on your back it will help to support the natural arch in your low back; it further assists in encouraging a neutral position of your neck. If you sleep on your side, it will help to prevent your spine from sagging laterally.
While these general guidelines are helpful for most individuals, everyone’s sleeping positions and needs are unique. If you find you are having difficulty finding a comfortable position for sleeping, or if you are waking up with neck or back pain, consult with your doctor or an industrial sports medicine professional for guidance.