As busy adults, it’s only too easy to skimp on our quantity and quality of sleep, just so we can get everything done.
But when we do, our bones, our bodies, and even our looks pay a high price.
You see, just sleeping enough hours is… well… not enough. Because the way we sleep can have a rejuvenating effect or a detrimental one.
In fact, sleeping “the wrong way” can really bring about health problems, so bad that we could mistake them for painful conditions like arthritis. That actually happened to me quite a few years ago (more on this later). That’s because our bones and posture are affected not only by how much sleep we get, but also by the body positions we adopt while sleeping.
Today we’ll take a look at the best (and worst) bone health positions for sleeping, and why they really matter. You will be surprised!
Do You Experience “Mysterious” Aches and Pains?
Years ago, I experienced persistent pain in one of my shoulder joints. I thought it might be arthritis, but of course, I wanted to avoid the drugs usually recommended for arthritic joint pain.
So I investigated the matter and discovered something startling: the pain I was experiencing was not from arthritis at all, but from the way I was sleeping. Once I thought of that possibility, I researched it in-depth and changed my sleeping positions. As it turned out, after just one week, the pain completely disappeared and never came back.
Good Posture is Not Just for Daytime
“Savers” know how important posture is to bone health and strength. But did you ever think about your sleeping posture? Some sleeping positions can throw your musculoskeletal system out of alignment, which can cause poor posture and a host of health problems…not the least of which is chronic pain.
Other uncomfortable effects of poor sleeping posture include: nerve twinges, tingling and numbness, poor circulation, and feelings of tension and anxiety.
Sleep Posture and Quality
When you sleep in positions that align the skeleton, you also improve the length and quality of your sleep. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can actually lead to osteoporosis, because bone remodeling takes place during sleep.
Of course, bone remodeling is always going on, unless stopped or drastically slowed down by osteoporosis drugs. But during sleep, bone formation happens at a slower pace and on a deeper level. Interestingly, a lack of sleep does not stop the resorption part of the bone remodeling process, but it does disrupt the bone-building process.
What are the Best Sleep Postures?
To get the bone-healthiest sleep you can, it’s important to get at least seven hours of quality sleep a night. Also, it’s important to choose from the most bone-friendly sleep positions listed below.
1. Lie on Your Back
For optimal alignment and comfort, sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees is ideal. If you do not have an orthopedic pillow that supports your neck, you can roll up a washcloth and place it under your neck for support. Don’t pile up pillows, because this flexes the neck upward which can cause pain. You don’t need to sleep like a wooden soldier, but allow your legs to lie straight out in a relaxed way. Resist the temptation to bend one leg to the side. Let your arms rest naturally and comfortably at your sides.
2. Side Sleeping
Sleeping on your side has the potential to be just as healthful as sleeping on your back. The key is to slip a small pillow between your knees to align your hips and lower back. Also, make sure your pillow supports your neck. You should have your head in the center of the pillow, not on the flat edge, so the space between your neck and shoulder is supported. Let your arms relax in front of you (not over your head or tucked under your torso).
3. Fetal Position
If you’re curled into the fetal position at night, you’re restricting your diaphragm and cutting off your ability to breathe deeply. In addition, the tucked-down chin and forward head thrust that goes along with the fetal position misaligns your cervical and thoracic (upper back) vertebrae. However, with a few modifications, fetal-position sleepers can convert to side-sleeping.
4. Stomach Sleeping
This is probably the worst posture for sleeping (and it actually was the position that was hurting my shoulder, since I was placing one arm under the pillow). Your neck is turned sharply to one side, creating compression on one side and extension on the other. Your spine sags downward, and often your arms are over your head.
I know from my own experience that sleeping with your arms over your head can cause arthritis-like pain in the shoulder joints. Stomach sleepers also compress the nerves that branch out from the neck down to the arms.