Just as it is important to maintain good posture when you are standing or sitting, maintaining good posture while sleeping has a positive impact on how restful and high-quality your sleep was, and also how you feel (aches/pains) when you awake and how your day is going to go.
One of the first factors to consider is what position you primarily sleep on the side, back, or stomach? Let’s look at the 3 of these in turn.
1. Sleep On Side
Sleeping on your side or laterally is accepted to be the best way to sleep. However, here are some things to bear in mind.
When sleeping with a U-shape side sleeper pillow, be sure not to put too much weight on your shoulder. This can cause ball and socket compression. Rather, distribute your weight onto your scapula (“shoulder blade”) as best you can, by curling your arm and shoulder toward the front of your body.
How do you arrange your legs? The two most common positions are as follows:
Both knees bent identically, one on top of the other. At first glance, this would seem to be a good position as the body is straight. However, the spine is not in a neutral position unless the knees are spaced apart – and over the course of 8 hours, night after night, a tiny bit of pull can result in discomfort and pain.
Top knee bent, resting overtop the bottom leg, which is straight. Again, it may feel stable and comfortable at first. However, it, too, is like a yoga contortion, with the top leg acting as a lever to twist the pelvis and spine. This is the sleeping equivalent of sitting with your legs crossed at the knee and has a similarly negative impact on your posture.
In order to sleep in the side position correctly and comfortably, you need some kind of aid to keep your legs apart. The inexpensive and easy route is to simply put a pillow between your legs. However, by morning, your knee pillow could end up at the head or foot of the bed, or anywhere in between! This leaves you either with your knees on top of one another or one leg over the other, as mentioned above.
The Elegant Solution
The option that solves all of the above-mentioned issues in a very elegant way is to use a specially-designed knee pillow. These pillows are in an hourglass shape and cradle the top leg and fit nicely over the bottom leg. The better ones have velcro or some other strapping so that you can gently strap the pillow on your legs so that it doesn’t come dislodged.
2. Sleep On Back
Sleeping on your back is the second most suggested way.
3. Sleeping On Stomach
Sleeping on the stomach or in the supine position is considered the least desirable way to sleep and is not recommended by sleep experts.
3.1 Face Down
The only real reason to sleep on your stomach is if sleeping on your side or back causes pain. Incidentally, stomach sleeping discouraged primarily because it impacts your ability to breathe not because the face-down position is bad for your neck, though it can exaggerate or reverse the natural curvature of the spine.
3.2 Face Down + Head to Side
If however, you lay on your stomach and have your head turned, then you are able to breathe better but it has a much more serious impact on your spine as it can cause disc and facet compression. In this position, certain muscles are overused or overstretched for long periods. The natural tendency of muscles is then to pull back in the opposite direction. This can lead to muscle pain and tension in the neck.