Are you sleeping in a position that's good for your spine?
I've had a number of cases lately where the person will have a neck complaint and say they must have "slept funny". But what does this truly mean, and what can we do to prevent it from happening?
We spend a third of our lives sleeping. If we are putting our spine in a compromised position while we sleep, this could significantly affect our spinal health over time. Ideally, we want to make sure that the strain on our muscles, ligaments, and discs, is kept to a minimum. So how can we accomplish this, specifically for our neck?
First of all, you should never sleep on your stomach! There are many things that make this a bad option, starting with the fact that your neck will be forced into a great amount of rotation for a prolonged period of time. This will put extra strain on the joints, muscles, and ligaments, which we don't want. This will also force the lumbar spine into a more than natural arched position, which could lead to lower back pain.
Make sure that you don't use a pillow that is too thick! We don't want our heads pushed forward while we are on our back, as it increases pressure on the discs and does not promote the natural curve of the upper spine.
Most people fall asleep best while on their side. Pillow height is very important here, as you want to make sure your upper spine is in a neutral position. If your pillow is too thick or thin, your head will either be pushed up to one side or falling to the other (see picture above). If your pillow is too thin, it is also likely that there will be more stress on the shoulder you are lying on, to compensate for the poor positioning of the neck. It is also a good idea to sleep with a pillow between the knees, and even hugging one with your arms!
Illustration by Beth MacDonald
Dr. Shawn K. Exley, A.S., B.Sc., D.C.
Dr. Shawn K. Exley is the owner of Yaletown Chiropractic in Vancouver, BC. He graduated with his Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree from the University of Western States in Portland, Oregon. He has always had a desire to help others and shortly after being introduced to chiropractic, he saw how beneficial it was in supporting his active lifestyle.