By Kyle D. McIntyre, PT, DPT, CFMT

Are you sleeping enough? Equally important… are you sleeping well? Many people struggle with sleep, which is such a vital part of overall wellness.

While sleeping, your body is in a parasympathetic state (the resting and digesting aspect of your nervous system). Having a solid block of interrupted sleep is crucial for tissue healing, repair and rejuvenation.

Sleeping positions

Achieving a good sleeping position is part of the puzzle. As a wellness practitioner, with a doctorate in physical therapy, I study movements and sleep positions:

  • The preferred sleeping position is on your back.
  • The second best position is sleeping on your side.
  • Stomach sleeping is the least ideal position for tissue healing and for achieving a neutral alignment for your neck and upper back.

In addition, there are a few specifics about sleeping positions to think about: try to achieve a neutral position (from close to your torso out to the end of your extremities), and be sure to support areas of suspension (e.g., your arms).

Sleeping alignment tips:

Back sleepers – It’s ideal to have pillows under your legs, but not just the knees. You want to place the first pillow under your upper legs and a second under the knees and lower legs.

Side sleepers – If you sleep on your side, place a king-sized or body pillow between your legs, supporting the entire top leg. Keep your hips at a 45-degree angle and knees at a 90-degree angle. The same process may be used to support your arms.

Choosing the right pillow

Good, healing sleep (with proper alignment) is also dependent on pillow selection and placement for your head and neck:

Memory foam pillows – While popular, these tend to have a strong recoil property, which will push on your neck. This neck pressure won’t allow you to achieve good body alignment (and may inflame tissues surrounding spinal discs in your neck).

Down (or down alternative) pillows – Are ideal for head and neck alignment, because these form around your body. If you feel there isn’t enough support for your head and neck, try putting a foam pillow or a folded bath towel under the down pillow.

Lastly, you want to make sure your pillow is only under your head and neck, not your shoulders. One good technique is to pull the pillow out from underneath your shoulders, and then scrunch it around your neck to fill any voids.

Sleeping position and posture are inter-related components of maintaining a proper sleep cycle; achieving proper alignment should enable you to sleep with less tossing and turning, and/or pain at night and when you awake.

For an assessment of how you move, demonstrations of healthier movements, and a medical massage for troublesome areas – regarding sleep positions and other daily tasks you perform – give us a call.

Kyle is a Physical Therapist with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy; he is also a Certified Functional Manual Therapist.