Whether you are a high level athlete, weekend warrior, or simply trying to make it through the work day, sleeping is an integral part of being a highly functioning individual. For many, the challenging part of sleeping well is simply finding and staying in a comfortable position. Difficulty sleeping due to pain or discomfort may stem from underlying musculoskeletal issues. If the problem is due to positioning, changing your preferred sleeping position can be extremely difficult, as most people have been in the habit of sleeping a certain way for years. Here are some easy tips to modify your preferred sleeping position in hopes of getting a better night of rest and performing at your optimal capacity during waking hours.
When sleeping on your side, major pain generators are often related to lower or upper spinal rotation. If your top knee slides forward coming to rest on the mattress you may experience discomfort stemming from lower back rotation. This can be easily remedied by placing a pillow between your knees, shins and feet. This will help decreased rotation of your low back, while relieving potential pressure points between your knees and ankles.
Side sleepers may also suffer from pain associated with upper spinal rotation. This may occur if your top arm and shoulder slide forward. This can be corrected by sleeping with a pillow just in front of your chest, with your top arm resting on it.
Another problem with side sleeping can be related to your mattress. Soft or worn mattresses and box springs can allow sagging of your torso between your hips and your shoulders, thus putting your back in a side-bent position (a). This can be remedied by actively bringing your down-side hip and shoulder closer to one another (b), and then relaxing (c). The active arch in your back (think of making a space between your side and the mattress), followed by relaxing your core will allow your spine to rest in a more neutral position.
When sleeping on your back, the most likely pain generator is prolonged excessive low back extension. Resting with both legs straight slightly tilts your pelvis forward, causing an increased bend in your low back. This can be relieved by placing a pillow underneath your knees. This minor elevation of your lower extremity will place your pelvis in a slight backward tilt, thus flattening out your low back and easing tension due to prolonged excessive extension.
When sleeping on your stomach, the most likely contributor to pain is rotation of your neck. In order to breathe effectively, a stomach sleeper must turn their head one way or another. This prolonged rotation can cause skeletal or muscular restrictions to take hold. An easy way to decrease the amount of neck rotation is to place pillows under the side of your body that your head is turned towards. This elevation of half of the torso and shoulders results in a relative decrease in rotation of you neck.
Still having trouble getting comfortable?
Give these slight alterations to your preferred sleeping positions a try. If you are still experiencing difficulty getting comfortable you may need further musculoskeletal evaluation. Physical Therapists at Therapydia have undergone extensive training and possess the skills to evaluate and treat what may be causing your neck or back pain. If you are not getting quality sleep due to discomfort in your muscles and joints, don’t hesitate to contact Therapydia. We’ll help you get back to sleep so that you can tackle the day, able to perform at your highest level.