We sleep for about 9,000 days or 210,000 hours throughout our lifetime, and guess what? Many of us do it wrong!
Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to sleep. Sleeping in the wrong position can cause everything from lower back pain and frozen shoulder to wrinkles, neck pain and a stiff jaw.
Here are 7 of the most common ailments caused by sleeping in the wrong position and the best way to sleep.
1. Lower Back Pain
If your lower back is bothering you when you wake up in the morning, your sleep position may have something to do with it.
The first thing the Cleveland Clinic suggests you do is to get yourself a firm mattress that doesn’t sag, with a firm box spring.
Next, choose a position that best mimics the natural curvature in your spine. Positions to try include sleeping on your back with a lumbar roll under the small of your back and a pillow under your knees.
Another position to try is sleeping on your side with your knees slightly bent. When sleeping on your side you may also want to try putting a pillow between your knees. You do not want to pull your knees all the way up to your chest in the fetal position.
The worst position for your lower back is sleeping on your stomach. If you’ve been doing it for a while, it may be hard to get out of the habit, but it will be well worth the effort!
2. Neck Pain
If you have neck pain, the two best positions to sleep in are on your back or on your side.
However, that comes with a caveat. According to Harvard, you’ll also need to select the right pillow. The best pillow is a down pillow the conforms to the shape of your neck. Alternatively, you may also want to try a pillow with memory foam that conforms to the shape of your neck and back.
Regardless, you don’t want to use a pillow that is too high or stiff, placing your head or neck in an unnatural position and causing it to flex throughout the night.
3. Heart Burn or Acid Reflux
Fall asleep in the wrong position and stomach acids can slip into your esophagus, causing major heartburn. The worst positions for acid reflux are sleeping on your back, your stomach or your right side.
That leaves sleeping on your left side as the best position to avoid sleep time heartburn. Why does it work? Because sleeping on your left side keeps the junction of the stomach and the esophagus above the level of the gastric acid. This prevents stomach acid from leaking into the esophagus, which is the cause of the “burn” and discomfort.
This video by Dr. Mandell provides a good visual explanation:
4. Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Do snoring and sleep apnea really impact your health? You bet they do.
Having your sleep interrupted throughout the night over extended periods of time could have long term health implications, as well as leave you constantly tired throughout the day.
Snoring and sleep apnea are typically caused by collapsed airways, leading to pauses in breathing. Both sleeping on your side or on your stomach can help your airways stay open and reduce snoring and mild apnea.
However, because sleeping on your stomach is so bad for your lower back, I’d recommend first seeing if sleeping on your side will solve the problem.
You know when you wake up with lines and creases across your cheeks after sleeping with the side of your face on your pillow? Well, it may not be temporary after all. They’re called sleep wrinkles and research has shown they can affect your forehead, lips, and cheeks!
Sleep wrinkles are caused by sleeping on your stomach or your side, which causes facial distortions. To avoid facial distortions while sleeping, try sleeping on your back – it’s just one more reason sleeping on your back is preferred.
6. Shoulder Pain
Ever wake up and you can barely move your shoulder? You may not want to put the blame on your game of squash or workout from the day before. The culprit may be the way you sleep.
Specifically, if sleep on your side, the weight of your body on your shoulder, or of your head on your upper arm places a lot of stress on your shoulder’s tendons, causing inflammation and stiffness.
Shifting to your opposite side may just cause pain in your other shoulder over time. One again, the easiest solution is to sleep on your back.
7. Jaw Pain
Ever wake up in the morning with a sore jaw? Chances are, you’ve either been grinding your teeth, or you’ve been sleeping on the side of your face causing.
If you’re grinding your teeth, you should definitely see your dentist and see if he can make a mouth guard, to help protect your teeth. Regardless, sleeping on your side puts additional pressure on the joints of your jaw and the jaw itself. Once again, the solution is to sleep on your back!
The Bottom Line
Getting a good night’s sleep is hard enough. Having to worry about it causing you pain should be the least of your worries.
Follow the advice above and see if it helps you avoid some of the unintended perils of sleeping in the wrong position.
Featured photo credit: Charles Deluvio via unsplash.com
|||^||Cleveland Clinic: Chronic Back Pain Overview: Coping with Lower Back Pain|
|||^||Harvard Health Publishing: Say goodnight to neck pain|
|||^||Aesthetic Surgery Journal: Sleep Wrinkles: Facial Aging and Facial Distortion During Sleep|