It happens to the best of us – that feeling of waking up in the morning with a stiff neck or sore back. While everyone will experience pain in the mornings occasionally, regular aches during or after sleep could be a sign that your sleep position needs some fine-tuning.
Pain, soreness, or stiffness in your joints and muscles after a night’s sleep often occurs because your body wasn’t resting in a properly supported position. When you lie down on a flat surface, your body will suddenly experience gravity a bit differently, and certain areas will take on more pressure than others. Typically, the neck, shoulders, spine, hips, and knees will experience extra stress while lying down. Depending on the way you sleep (more on this below), it can be difficult to keep them all in comfortable, neutral positions for an entire night of sleep. This results in those pesky morning aches and pains.
Luckily, you can assess your sleep position and make a few subtle adjustments to help you get better rest and wake up without soreness.
When sleeping on your side, your neck, shoulders, spine, and hips can often fall out of alignment. Because this posture will put extra pressure particularly on the shoulders and hips, the spine between them can tend to sag or curve unnaturally. Also, the hips may become misaligned due to poor mattress support and improper leg placement.
To sleep most comfortably on your side, it helps to try:
Side sleeping is the most preferred position, and likely for good reason. Health-wise, it’s perhaps the best sleeping posture you can choose, especially if you sleep on your left side more often. Generally, side sleeping is beneficial, although there are a few potential drawbacks to keep in mind.
Sleeping comfortably on your stomach presents many challenges because it puts your neck and spine in an unnatural position. With your head turned to one side or the other, it’s impossible to achieve proper spinal alignment. Additionally, when lying on your stomach your torso may naturally sink forward into the mattress, causing your back to overarch. People in this position might also have a natural inclination to bring one leg up to the side, which can misalign the hips and cause lower back pain.
Experts often caution against stomach sleeping, especially if you suffer from joint or back pain already. But if it’s truly the only way you feel comfortable, making the following adjustments can help reduce the strain on your body:
Although there are certain conditions that may be improved with stomach sleeping, the cons tend to outweigh the pros.
Luckily, if you’re a back sleeper, you’re likely resting in a neutral position already. On your back, weight tends to distribute more evenly across the mattress, allowing your spine to curve naturally. This even distribution also means that your joints can rest relatively stress-free.
While getting properly positioned when sleeping on your back is straightforward, it can cause lower back pain if the spine and legs aren’t properly supported. If you do wake up with aches and pains after sleeping on your back, consider making these adjustments:
On your back can be the best way to sleep with lower back pain and also an optimal way to sleep with neck pain. There is a lot of upside to back sleeping (literally and figuratively), but as with any sleep position, you should consider your specific health conditions to assess if it’s right for you.
Apart from choosing the right mattress and taking steps to optimize your current position, there are a few other ways you can reduce pain and soreness during and after a night’s sleep.
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