How To Sleep To Fix Rounded Shoulders
Sleep tight? How about sleep tight-like a baby! When we’re young our parents tell us that’s how babies are supposed to sleep – like a little ball of fluff. But then life gets in the way and by adulthood most adults have lost their baby fat and don’t know what they’ve become. We grow up, our bodies change and so do the demands placed upon them. Unfortunately, it seems our priorities also take a turn for the worst. Sleeping has been put at risk for all kinds of things over the years; from TV dinners to computer screens. Our beds have morphed into makeshift offices where we work, eat and play. And if you’re anything like me, you probably spend more time sitting than lying down. This isn’t necessarily bad but it does mean that our posture has taken a hit over the years.
The first thing I noticed was my lack of shoulder height. My shoulders were not only rounded but they hung lower than my hips did. If I stood straight up against the wall, my right hip would be level with my left shoulder while my head would rest higher than my feet. The problem wasn’t simply an issue of muscle tone or flexibility. I had no trouble moving my arms around freely to get dressed each morning or undressed each night. It was something else entirely.
I was born this way. My mother says she remembers watching her own body transform before her eyes during pregnancy. Her belly began to stretch downward until it seemed to disappear below her rib cage. She couldn’t imagine why there was such a dramatic difference between herself and her nine month old fetus who appeared to be floating inside her womb. As the months passed her belly grew outward and upward until it finally looked normal again. So it was hardly surprising that when I came along my legs didn’t look quite right either.
My mother told me that when I started walking I immediately took notice of the differences between myself and other children. They could run circles around me because they had long skinny legs that stretched out longer than mine. Then, as I got older, I became aware of the fact that my shoulders weren’t proportionate to my hips. They were also much wider than my thighs. This meant that although my legs were longer than theirs, my upper body was shorter. A few years later I even noticed that my elbows weren’t at 90 degree angles to my forearms. Instead, they were bent in toward my wrists. In short, my entire frame lacked symmetry.
This may seem silly to some people but it bothered me enough that I decided to investigate the reason behind it. What I discovered was that my shoulders had rounded due to the fact that I slept on my back instead of side-lying. I used to lie on top of three pillows (a soft pillow under my head, another underneath my knees and still another wedged beneath my buttocks) and curl forward slightly to make room for my growing stomach. While this worked well enough for getting comfortable, it wreaked havoc on my spine. Because I had to arch my neck in order to reach these pillows, my cervical vertebrae began to feel pinched. And since I spent a lot of time laying on my back throughout the day, my shoulder muscles wasted away and eventually weakened.
Once I realized the source of my problems, I made changes to correct it. First I replaced two of the pillows with foam rollers. Next, I removed the third pillow altogether and rolled onto it every evening. After that, I found a wedge pillow that fit perfectly under my butt. Finally, I purchased a small, thin pillow just for my head. Now I’m able to lay on my side without feeling like my spine will snap any moment. Not only does this help my back but it allows me to find a better angle for falling asleep. By curving backward slightly, I can achieve a greater sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.
So next time you find yourself tossing your head off the edge of your bed in search of extra pillows, consider the following tips:
1. Remove all unnecessary non-supportive pillows from your bedroom. Use your existing ones for extra padding. You won’t need them once you begin using proper support.
2. Take advantage of your mattress’ natural ability to provide support. Most mattresses today come with memory foam that conforms naturally to your unique shape.
3. Place a supportive pillow between your legs. This will allow your pelvis to remain aligned properly.
4. Lie on your side with both knees bent. Your shoulders should fall directly above your hips.
5. Curl your toes inward towards your chest. With your fingers interlocked, place your hands together beneath your chin.
6. Wrap your bottom arm across your torso and tuck your elbow against your waist. Keep your head relaxed.
7. Gently close your eyes and relax.
8. Allow your head to sink lower towards your chest. Do not force this position. Don’t worry about curling your toes in anymore. Just let them drop wherever they want to go.
9. Breathe deeply through your nose. Feel your abdomen expand and contract with each breath. Try to breathe evenly throughout your entire body.
10. Continue breathing steadily for approximately ten minutes. Once you start to lose count, stop for a minute and repeat step # 10.
11. On the tenth repetition, try counting backwards from 100. If you forget to count, just close your eyes. Or maybe you’ll remember to count when you wake up in the morning.
12. Repeat steps 1-11 several times per week until you experience noticeable results.
Now that my shoulders aren’t so round, I’ve gone back to being somewhat symmetrical. But I still have to give credit where credit is due. Without the assistance of my memory foam mattress, it wouldn’t have happened. However, I think it’s important to share my discoveries with anyone interested in improving their posture. Who knows? Maybe one day someone will discover the secret to perfecting your sleep style!
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