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Whether you sleep just a few or many hours each night, the position you sleep in is paramount in dictating how you will feel not only when you wake to get your day started but also over time as the cumulative impact begins to take effect on your muscles and joints.

The question then becomes what is the best position for sleep?

For a multitude of reasons, the answer is on your back.  However, if you are a back sleeper and just had a short mental celebration for your great accomplishment of doing it right all these years, the reality is that it’s a little more complicated than just ‘on your back.’

Plenty of people are spending the night on their back and still sleeping their way into spine trouble.

It’s how you sleep on your back that makes the difference.  Try the following suggestions to ensure your back sleeping impact is as positive as possible on your vertebral column and the surrounding muscles.

  1. Keep it to one pillow: Unless you require your head to be above the level of your stomach to reduce acid reflux, use a pillow that does not flex your head forward (chin towards your chest). Lying for hours with your head and neck flexed may result in strain of the neck and accentuate forward head posture, something that is a common factor in neck pain and headaches.
  2. Look at the ceiling: One of the worst sleeping positions you can find yourself is on your stomach. This is a poor sleeping posture not only for the back pain it can cause but also because of the neck rotation and subsequent spinal bone mis-alignments it will likely lead to. Similarly, if you sleep on your back with your head flopped over to one side or the other, you are in effect lying in the same vertebra rotating position as a stomach sleeper.
  3. Use a cervical orthopedic pillow: At my Express Chiropractor Keller clinic I am often asked about the right pillow to use. While the answer is ‘it depends on which one is most comfortable and leaves you feeling pain free and rested in the morning,’ in theory, a cervical pillow will place your neck in the best possible position while sleeping on your back. You will be able to track down a good cervical orthopedic pillow at your local chiropractor’s office.
  4. Put your arms down: If you sleep on your back with your arms over your head, you are putting an undue amount of strain on the nerves that exit out of your neck into your arms. This position will often result in shoulder pain and arm aching or numbness. Instead try crossing your arms over your stomach for a much less stressful position.

Even if your current slumber pose is wreaking havoc on your spine, the good news is that it’s never too late to improve the health of your spine and by ensuring you are sleeping with the best posture possible, you are taking an ever important first step towards a healthy and happy back.