Best Sleeping Positions For Neck Pain
Sleep is important for our overall health and well-being, yet many of us don’t get enough shut eye. According to a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation, more than 50 percent of Americans report not getting enough sleep per night. Not only does lack of sleep negatively impact our moods and cognitive performance, it can also wreak havoc on our bodies. In addition, people who suffer from chronic insomnia have been shown to develop hypertension, diabetes and heart disease at higher rates than those who do get adequate amounts of restful sleep each night.
The reason for this phenomenon has to do with how we naturally sleep. Humans spend roughly one third of their lives asleep, so we evolved to take advantage of that time as much as possible. Our brains release hormones like cortisol during deep REM (rapid eye movement) cycles, which prepares us for fight or flight situations. Without sufficient sleep, however, these chemicals become elevated due to reduced levels of melatonin — another hormone released when we fall into deeper stages of sleep. This causes disruptions in normal body functions, such as blood pressure regulation and glucose metabolism, leading to cardiovascular problems and obesity [source WebMD].
This is why it’s essential to make sure that we get all the sleep we need every day, even if we feel tired. The best way to ensure this is to find out what works best for your unique needs. To help determine the best sleeping positions for neck pain, we’ll look at some common myths about bedtime and consider several different options.
First up, let’s talk about whether we should sleep on our backs or sides. Many of us prefer one over the other because we believe they provide better spinal alignment while we sleep. But according to research published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, neither is necessarily better than the other. Instead, doctors recommend trying them both and seeing which one feels most comfortable. If you usually sleep on your stomach, try laying on your back first for 30 minutes to see how it feels. Then, after taking a break for 10 minutes, lay down again on your stomach. You’ll want to keep track of any changes you experience throughout the experiment. Next, repeat the process but rotate 90 degrees clockwise (on your left side). Afterward, switch positions again and see if you notice any differences between the two.
Another factor to consider is whether you should use pillows or mattresses. Mattresses typically come equipped with memory foam or latex fillings that conform to your body shape and contours. They’re designed to relieve pressure points and reduce tossing and turning, especially if you tend to wake up frequently throughout the night. However, some people claim that these materials cause allergies. Others argue that pillows offer greater support and comfort without causing added pressure points. Regardless of your preference, experts say that using a pillow under your head does little good if you toss and turn too much. So before going to bed, make sure to remove extra items from underneath the covers, including shoes and cell phones.
On the next page, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of sleeping on our backs versus sides.
Benefits of Back Sleeping
Back sleeping is considered the optimal position for relieving stress on the cervical vertebrae (neck bones), which makes sense considering its name. When lying on your back, gravity pulls your natural curvature toward the ground, which allows your spine to relax and align properly. Lying flat on your back helps prevent muscle spasms that occur when lying on your stomach. Also, having your face turned downward prevents air intake, keeping oxygenated blood from traveling back up your nose and into the brain where it could contribute to headaches and congestion. Lastly, lying on your back prevents fluid buildup in your ears and sinuses, which can lead to stuffy noses and infections.
Drawbacks of Back Sleeping
While back sleeping provides relief for certain types of neck pain, there are drawbacks associated with it. One problem is that it can sometimes restrict breathing. While back sleeping is recommended for sufferers of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea, it can actually worsen the condition. Since you lie on your back, you can no longer breathe through your mouth, forcing your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Because of this, your muscles tighten up and your tongue becomes displaced upward, potentially blocking your nasal passages.
Sleeping On Your Side
Next, we’ll talk about rotating your body 90 degrees counterclockwise (on your right side) to check out the benefits of sleeping on your side.
Advantages of Sleeping on Your Side
Like back sleeping, sleeping on your side is beneficial for alleviating stress on your cervical spine. Gravity also forces your spine to bend in an S-shaped curve rather than straightening it out. By sleeping on your side, you give your lungs more room to breathe and avoid restricting airflow. Additionally, lying sideways prevents fluid buildup in your ear canals and sinus cavities, reducing the risk of infection. Finally, because your head is tilted slightly forward, you expose your face to fresh air instead of breathing recycled air from inside the house.
Disadvantages of Sleeping on Your Side
Although sleeping on your side is generally safe for healthy individuals, it’s not ideal for everyone. First off, sleeping on your side will increase the chances of developing acid reflux. Second, if you have a herniated disc, sleeping on your side puts increased strain on the area near the protruding disk. Third, sleeping on your side increases the amount of work needed to exhale carbon dioxide gas from your lungs. As a result, you may end up hyperventilating and experiencing lightheadedness.
Now that we’ve gone over the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping on our backs and sides, we’ll explore some specific methods for finding the best sleeping positions for neck pain.
How to Find the Best Sleeping Position for Neck Pain
There are numerous factors to consider when selecting the best sleeping position for neck pain. Before starting to move around your bedroom furniture, start by identifying exactly what type of pain you are suffering from. Are you currently diagnosed with cervical radiculopathy? Is your pain localized to a single region of the bone? Does it extend beyond just the cervical spine? Once you know what kind of pain you are experiencing, you can then choose the appropriate position for relief based on your symptoms.
For example, if you are suffering from neck stiffness, you won’t want to lie on your back. Stiffness occurs when muscles are deprived of circulation, resulting in swelling and inflammation. Therefore, you want to elevate your legs above the level of your heart, allowing your feet to remain close together.
Additionally, if you are experiencing sharp pains in your neck upon waking, then sleeping on your back might be detrimental to your recovery. Although back sleeping reduces the load placed on your cervical column, it’s still risky. When you awaken, your head is pulled backward, putting additional tension on the same region of your spine. Furthermore, patients who are recovering from surgery or trauma should always consult with a doctor before moving around their beds.
To learn more about the best sleeping positions for neck pain, please visit the links on the following page.
According to Dr. Robert W. Butler, M.D., the Mayo Clinic recommends the following sleeping positions for treating various ailments:
Back Sleeping – Used primarily for treating lower back pain
Side Sleeping – Recommended for people who are recovering from back surgeries or those who suffer from lower back syndrome
Laying on your back is the safest sleeping position for preventing acid reflux. However, sleeping on your side is not recommended for anyone with a herniated disc. To treat pain on your side, elevate your upper torso so that your chest is at least partially elevated. Then place a rolled towel beneath your shoulders and arms to add further support.
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