How Should I Sleep?
As with all complicated questions, the answer is “it depends.” However, the most correct answer is whatever way you will get the most sleep. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t better positions for certain conditions, and if you stick around I’ll go through some of the most common ones.
Stop sleeping on your stomach! Imagine standing against a wall with your face turned to one side. Now imagine doing that for 8 hours. Would you expect your neck would hurt? The same goes for sleeping. Keeping the neck in a neutral position is important if you want to stop waking up with neck pain. That brings us to pillows. Side sleepers would benefit from a thicker pillow (approximately one shoulder width) to keep your head from tilting down to the side. Back sleepers on the other hand may benefit from a thinner pillow, or even one with a curve to encourage the natural curve of the neck. Even going without a pillow may be better than one that pushes the neck into flexion (a position it is in for most of the day).
Have an achy back every time you lay on your back to go to sleep? Next time, try bending your knees, imagine you have a tail, and try to tuck it between your legs. This reduces compression on the joints of the back and may be enough to reduce that pain. Additionally, if you sleep on your side, I recommend the pillow-between-the-legs trick to avoid any unnecessary rotation in the hips and low back.
Hands going numb?
This can have multiple causes, and if it persists even after trying these solutions I would recommend seeing a healthcare practitioner. The easiest solution is lowering your arms below shoulder level. Straightening them may help as well, especially if you notice it happening when your hands are under your head. Nerve flossing may provide additional relief and will be a topic for future blogs.
Sleep is an essential part of recovery and healing, so whatever position can provide the most rest is best. However, for those who spend hours a day hunched over a computer, I do have a favorite position. Rather than on your side hugging a pillow and bringing your shoulders even closer together, I recommend lying on your back with your palms face up. From there, tuck your shoulder blades under your back one at a time. This may not be the most comfortable, but even just starting out in this position may be a start to improving your posture.
- Get your exercise! If the body has not used its energy during the day, it won’t be as ready for a restful sleep at night.
- Breathe. Long deep breaths before bed can help calm the nervous system and tap into the “rest and digest” state of mind.
- Stretch. Getting some gentle movement in before hours of inactivity can help reduce aches and pains. This also provides a great opportunity to practice that deep breathing.
- Limit screen time. Extra screen time can take its toll, especially right before bed. Invest in a pair of blue light blocking glasses or go old school and read a book before bed instead of scrolling through TikTok.
If you are having trouble sleeping and would like additional advice, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sweet dreams.