Sleeping is an essential part of our life. Humans spend an average of 6-8 hours sleeping which is roughly about a third of our life. Therefore, it is important to ensure that we sleep in the correct position with our back supported and have good mattresses and pillows.
A general rule for looking after our back when we sleep is to make sure our spine is in a neutral position. Below are some tips on how to maintain this neutral posture when sleeping in different ways:
Sleeping on your back:
Sleeping on your back is one of the most ideal ways to give you the best spinal alignment. A pillow should be placed under your knees or a rolled up towel under your lower back in order to maintain the natural curvature of your back. A thinner pillow is recommended and that has extra padding at the bottom to support your neck curvature.
Sleeping on your side:
Sleeping on your side is also a good position to support your spine. A pillow should be placed between your knees to give good support for your hips, pelvis and spine. It is also recommended to alternate sides from time to time which can lead to muscle imbalances and not raises your knees up to high in a foetal position. Using a good, firm pillow will help support your neck and prevent it from being tilted to one side. Also keeping your arms in front of you instead of under your pillow will stop your arms from going numb and reduce the stress on your neck and shoulder. In addition, if you have a painful shoulder then avoid sleeping on that same side which will aggravate it further. Instead lie on the other side with your top arm supported by another pillow underneath it.
Sleeping on your stomach:
Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position for your neck as it adds extra stress to it because you need to turn/twist your neck to one side. If you do find yourself sleeping on your stomach, it is recommended to place a thin pillow under pelvis/lower abdomen to take some pressure of your back. It would also be best to sleep with a very thin pillow or none at all.
Mattresses are very personal but in general it is recommended to use a firm to medium-firm mattress. Choosing a mattress that is most comfortable for you with the least amount of compression or pressure will ensure you fall asleep faster, stay asleep and get better restful sleep. Ideally you should purchase a mattress every 7-10 years.
Generally, the best pillow materials to support your neck are those made out of memory foam and/or latex. Pillows should be replaced every 1-3 years.