How to Sleep Correctly – A Guide to Spinal Hygiene
As you know, sleep is vital. 1 You need an adequate amount of sleep to not only function but to stay healthy. (See my previous post for insightful details!) Yet, several sleeping positions may be detrimental to your neck or low back. I know at one point or another, we’ve all awoken after a night’s sleep feeling like we were in a car wreck. Of all people, I am not a happy camper when this happens, so here is my guide to avoid it! The worst to best sleeping positions are as follows:
1. The belly sleeper – This contorted position is where you turn your head to one side while in the prone or face down position. Having a prolonged rotation of the cervical spine creates shortening and lengthening of certain muscles in your neck. This muscular asymmetry can create a structural shift in your spine!
2. The side sleeper- Position number two can be acceptable only when certain criteria are met. Step one, over-rotation of the pelvis or the upper body, must be eliminated. Step two, the body has a natural tendency to curl into a fetal position; this is OKAY. Sometimes, certain muscles in the front part of your neck can become shortened. Over time, this flexes the head forward. Excessive flexion for a prolonged period of time is NOT healthy. My patients know to always keep their spine in a neutral position. You can use a pillow between your arm and body and one in between your legs to lock you into that position to prevent over-rotation.
3. Last of all, my favorite sleeping position is on your back. Such a position will ensure no rotation to the spine. *Be careful with very thick pillows, which create increased neck flexion.* I personally use a pillow with a cervical curve to counter anterior head syndrome. 2 Flexion over time can create shortened muscles on the front of the neck, causing the neck to be pulled forward.
Remember, sleep is extraordinarily vital to health, and a proper sleeping position can help keep your spine in a healthy, neutral position. Incredibly enough, your spine encases your spinal cord and brain stem, which controls EVERY process in the body! 3 Any interference with the electrochemical conducting network of the nervous system can create a whole range of issues. Hence why spinal hygiene is important to practice every day, just as brushing your teeth keeps your teeth cavity-free! Keeping in proper spinal alignment allows for better biomechanics of your body and allows for proper signaling of the nervous system. Remember to check your spine’s position after you crawl under the covers!