If You Sleep in This Position, You Could Be Hurting Your Spine, Experts Warn
The way you sleep at night might be doing real damage to your back.
Most of us don't give a second thought to the position we sleep in—it's second nature. But the way you sleep could be putting you in a world of pain. Sleeping in the wrong position can impact the quality of your sleep and create back and spine problems. That means that even if you're getting the recommended eight hours of snooze time, you'll wind up feeling worse than you did the night before. Read on to find out what sleep position to avoid to keep your spine in line.
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Experts say that sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for your spine.
Sleeping on your stomach might seem comfy, but it can do serious damage. Resting on your stomach can cause your back to arch uncomfortably in your sleep, putting extra pressure on your spine. "This position puts the most pressure on your spine's muscles and joints because it flattens the natural curve of your spine," explain Raymond Jonathan Hah, MD, and Christopher Ornelas, MD, in a post for Spine Universe. "Sleeping on your stomach also forces you to turn your neck, which can cause neck and upper back pain."
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Doctors recommend sleeping on your back instead.
Marleen Caldwell, PT, a physical therapist at the Cleveland Clinic, says that sleeping on your back allows your weight to be evenly distributed across your body, rather than falling upon one or two specific pressure points. Caldwell says it's essential to keep your back in a neutral position if you want to mitigate pain.
There are numerous additional benefits to sleeping on your back, according to Healthline. This position reduces tension headaches, and alleviates sinus pain and pressure. It also may keep you looking younger longer, because sleeping on your back means you won't be smashing your face into a pillow, which over time can cause wrinkles.
Sleeping on your side is also preferable to sleeping on your stomach.
Side sleeping has its pros and cons. For one thing, sleeping on your side has been found to reduce joint and back pain, per Healthline. But depending on your body type, side sleeping can also put extra pressure on your hips and spine. If you happen to have especially wide hips, it helps to put a pillow between your knees when you sleep, the site notes.
The goal, regardless of the position your sleep in, is to reduce pressure on your spine and hips by putting your body in the most neutral position possible.
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If you must sleep on your stomach, you can mitigate the pressure on your spine.
If you've tried to sleep in other positions but can't make the transition, experts at the Sleep Foundation suggest that you employ a thin pillow for your head if you're sleeping on your back. You can also offset back strain by putting a pillow under your pelvis.
The Sleep Foundation also recommends investing in a firmer mattress, so that you don't sink into the mattress and inadvertently arch your back further. And no matter what you end up doing, it's a good idea to incorporate some post-sleep stretches into your morning routine.
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