Best Way To Sleep For Lower Back Pain Sufferers
A good nights sleep is priceless, and if you are having back problems it can really interfere with this very important time of the day. Sleeping is the time when your body is resting, recuperating, and healing from the days activities.
If you have problems with your spine, the stiffest, most painful part of the day is often first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. This can be due to your bed, or the position you sleep in. So what is the best way to sleep for back pain sufferers? Well there are a couple of different positions that are best, and one that is a definite bad choice. Read on to find out if you are actually making your back worse when you sleep.
Don't Ever Sleep Like This!
The worst way to sleep is lying front down on your tummy. For many this is become a bad habit and has become the only way they can sleep. But it is without a doubt the worst way to sleep.
In this face down position, your spine is forced into a slightly hyper-extended position, where the lower back arch is exaggerated. The problem with this is that it compresses the facet or spinal joints at the back of the spine, over a prolonged period of time. If you already have spinal problems, these joints are already under excess strain, so this position will continually aggravate your spinal problems every night.
The other concern with sleeping in this position is the amount of stress it places on your neck. When you lie face down you have to turn your head to be able to breathe. Habitual tummy sleepers tend to always turn their head one way. Now imagine if you sat in a chair with your head turned forcefully one way, and sat in that same position for even a few minutes. How stiff would your neck get if you stayed there for 20 minutes, and hour? What about all night?
This constant strain on your spine when you lie face down can lead to permanent spinal damage in the form of degenerative changes.
Always Sleep Like This!
There are 2 sleeping positions that are generally accepted to be the best, and do not cause any undue stress and strain on your spine.
The idea is to have your spine in a neutral position, keeping its natural shape. That is, not twisting or rotating, and not bending sideways. You also want to maintain the normal spinal arches.
1. Flat on your back with your knees slightly bent
This position relieves all stress from your spine. Try placing a pillow or 2 under your knees so you can fully relax, but keeping your knees bent. If you choose to sleep in this position, make sure your head is not been forced too high by an overly large pillow under your neck.
2. Lying on your side with a pillow between your knees
Many people prefer to sleep on their side, particularly if they are trying to get out of the habit of tummy sleeping (more on this down the page).
The best way to do this is exactly as it sounds, with one modification. Try to keep your bottom leg straight, with your top leg bent. So if you are lying on your left side, keep your left leg straight, and with your right leg bent up on top of a pillow. A larger, continental (square) style pillow is best.
Check the height of the pillow under your head and neck. Too high or too long can cause your neck to be slightly bent, not a good thing when you are looking after your spinal health.
This is a very common question, with no specific answer. Everyone is different obviously, but here are some guidelines when assessing your sleeping station!
Most mattresses will last up to 10 years at the most. After this they tend to not offer the required spinal support. You want a bed that is firm, but comfortable. If you are in the market for a new mattress, be prepared to spend some time. Try as many different beds and brands (and stores) as possible, and lay on each one for at least 10 minutes so you can get a feel for what is best for you. Be sure to buy from a reputable dealer. Buy the best quality mattress that you can afford, remember it is 8 hours a day that you will be on it (compare it to the cost of cars, that you might spend 30 minutes a day in).
Ensure your mattress is up to the job of supporting your body weight night after night. If you sleep the recommended 8 hours each night that is fully ONE THIRD of your life that you spend on your mattress! It is a worthwhile investment.
Breaking Bad Habits
If you are used to sleeping on your tummy, it can be a very hard habit to change. You may have a few nights of bad sleep as you have to force yourself not to role onto your tummy. But the effort is worth saving your spine.
The easiest way is the above position on your side. The pillow will stop you rolling onto your front, plus gives a bit of pressure on your tummy that you are used to. You will need to be persistent, and will probably wake several times through the night at first. But don't fret, most people adapt to a new sleep position fairly quickly.
If all else fails, you could always try taping some ping pong balls on your chest! Guaranteed to stop you lying face down!
If you have any questions, or would like to share your own experience, please leave us a comment below.
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