Amazing! You Can Improve Your Posture And Get Rid Of Aches And Pains While You Sleep - Save Our Bones

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.

Warmest regards,

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Comments on this article are closed.

  1. Sandy

    I have acid reflux and used to be a side sleeper (fetal position). I recently purchased a Sleep Number bed that I can raise the head of the bed as needed. I sleep on my back with the head of the bed raised about 7 inches – but do not put a pillow under my knees. Is this enough support for my back?

  2. Lisa

    Every part of my body hurting from laying on couch all the time. Did I ruin my body?

  3. Eileen

    I can only sleep on my side, but had terrible knee and back pain. I tried a pillow between my knees, but the big one woke me up when I tried to turn over, and I lost the small pillow when I turned over.
    So, I developed Sleepy Kneez, an ultra comfortable knee pillow that stays put all night, and doesn’t negatively impact the knee cap. Now, I sleep like a baby!

  4. Lise

    Hi Vivian,
    Thank you for the helpful tips. Since I’ve been sleeping with a pillow under my knees when I sleep on my back or between the knees when on my side, the pain in my Rt shoulder has subsided. Also I have less pain in my lower back as well.
    I have arthritis but this pain obviously wasn’t cause by arthritis.
    I learn so much on this site. You are an angel looking after our health.
    I appreciate all your comments on different issues.
    Take care.

  5. jeanne baykara

    I’m wondering if there are any comments regarding Prolia? I have been on it for almost two years and I notice that my hip is beginning to have increased discomfort.

  6. Ann

    I’ve always slept on my side and often woke up with lower back pain.
    Since reading this and using the back technique with the pillow under
    my legs, I’ve not only slept great, I haven’t had that back pain in 2 weeks. Thanks Vivian for all your information!

  7. Karen Stryker

    Before getting out of bed DAILY, 20-30 minutes of Paul Grilley’s DVD, Yin Yoga’ and some Hatha Yoga exercises are done so I have not been back to the chiropractor in years. That’s my solution!!!

  8. Anita Hardy

    When side sleeping, do you keep your legs straight?

  9. Leslie (Ms. L. Carmel)

    Hi! Vivian,

    I Do Sleep On My Side Most Of The Time, But I Do Seem To Tuck My Arms Under My Torso. I’ll Try It The Way You Suggested, And Use A Pillow Between My Legs So I Can Align My Hips And Lower Back. And I’ll Try To Sleep With My Head In The Center Of My Pillow, Not On The Flat Edge!
    Thank You Very Much For All Your Valuable Information. And I’ll Try To Take Your Advice On These Sleeping Positions. OK? Take Care And Stay Well. OK?


    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      I hope these techniques improve your quality of sleep, Leslie!

  10. Sheila


    Today I saw an ad in our local paper about Silical formulated by Orthopedic surgeons. Do you have any information on it? It is advertised as safe. What do you think?

  11. Gillian

    Thanks Vivian for your posts its great to check in and pick up on such great health tips that help me refocus where I have lapsed making my health a top priority again. I will certainly try the pillow technique for improved sleep as I don’t usually have a good night rest. Thanks again

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      You are welcome, Gillian, and I wish you a good night’s sleep!



  13. Suseela

    even though one can try to sleep on back,during sleep we change our position several times. Always good to support neck & shoulder with head in the middle of pillow & with pillow under knees. Sleep on the side is good with pillow between knees,with thick sponge cut inside to the shape of the knees like semicircular with outside cushioning. People with sleep apnea or reflux can’ot sleep on back. What ever may be to help us sleep,we will not be on our back or on side when we wake up.Definitely they are the best sleeping postures. Let us not eat too late at night before going to sleep.

  14. Jean

    I’ve found that for years, if I want to fall asleep, I MUST be on my stomach. Even when I had surgery for breast cancer, i could not get to sleep unless I slept on my stomach. When my babies were little, I found the only way they’d get to sleep is if I put them – on their stomachs. When I put them on their backs, they’d cry and scream and be unable to sleep until I put them on their stomachs! When they were old enough to turn themselves, that’s what they did; they’d put themselves to sleep – on their stomachs. What’s going on here? I’d love to sleep on my back, just can’t get to sleep that way. Hmm….

    • saroj

      In fact sleeping on our stomach is half foetal position. It makes us feel secure and unconsciously we feel as if we are still close to our mothers womb.

  15. Jean

    I found that not sleeping on my stomach almost completely cured my migraine problem. I took advice from a Bio Dynamic Osteopath who I went to see about a back problem & it improved life enormously.

  16. Avis Mawson

    Well I’m glad I do something right because I do sleep on my back and since I broke my femur I sleep with a baby pillow under the kneeds. Very Comfy

  17. Robert

    Good advice. I have used a pillow for years and I’m sure it helps, but my roblem is much more complex that that.I haven’t slept all night without waking up and (and usually urinating) for almost a year. I have been diagnosed wih sleep apnea, wore a CPAP mask for a month, seen a urologist, but no solution. Any suggestions. I get more information about good health from you than from any of my doctors.


    • Pat Drummond

      I slept through the night only when I was on a low-carb diet with no snacking in the evening. Returning to a “normal” diet I have returned to waking in the middle of the night, and often cannot get back to sleep for 1-2 hours. You may be different.

  18. barbara

    hallo vivian
    i have aproplem. im sweating so much im 76 years old over my menopause a long time,so thrue the day a s soon I do thomethin i sweat like have come
    aut of a shower and im verry exaustet puls hy and bloodpresser up,i told my fam, doctor — but he is not listening and just think thats age???
    im verry dissapointetand ihave water in my bellyand all over my body hethink its fat but it blupering like a bottlePleas can you give me some adwise??? thank you verry much
    barbara von hausen

    • live4ever

      Barbara you said you sweat when you do something. That may indicate a heart problem. Women have different symptomatic men. Please ask your doctor to do some heart tests and followup on this. Sweating upon exertion is classic heart symptom. At your age a big possibility. Wishing you the best.

    • Customer Support

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with those issues, Barbara! At this time, Vivian is devoting all her efforts to osteoporosis and bone health research and does not have the resources to address other health issues. I’m afraid I can’t answer your questions.

      If you’re looking for natural solutions, you might want to consult with a naturopath or other licensed alternative health practitioner in your area. Good luck!

      • Daniel T Weegmann

        Barbara – Have you had your blood sugar checked by your doctor? Please have him check your blood sugar. Sometimes sweat is a means by which the body expels toxins and poisons in your blood stream. You may be in a state of toxicity. It could be other issues and may even be stress in your life. You may want to visit a naturopath or chiropractor and have more extensive blood work done to see if there are other imbalances in your body chemistry. What are you eating? Stay away from sweets, sugar and white flour. Avoid the soda crackers! Eat more greens like spinach and broccoli. Cabbage is very good for you. Raw fruits and vegetables are very important. You may also want to get some Chromium and Magnesium supplements at the drug store. Do you drink tea? Try some green tea and also tea with rose hips (the red fruit that come from the flower). I think you will like the flavor. Fresh rose hips have lots of vitamin C. You can make your own tea! Natural vitamin C is good for you. I personally take Ester C from the drugstore. You can should also drink a warm glass of water with several drops of fresh lemon every morning and afternoon. This helps neutralize acids in your body. You need water to flush your system even if you think it makes you sweat more. Sweat is going to remove body toxins but you must get at the root of your sweating problem. If the doctor does not check your sugar please get a second opinion or find medical help from another health professional! Your life may depend on it. You may also want to get some slippery elm powder for regularity at the health food store or a similar supplement. This will help clean out your system. Be sure to ask them how it can be used and what to do. I wish you well as you look for better health. Daniel T Weegmann

  19. Jo Seraphine

    I tried the Calcitonin nasal spray two years ago (thought it was a convenient method), but after a few days I got body aches… and by the end of the month, every bone in my body seemed to be affected. I ached everywhere. I stopped this RX after one month… it has now (2013) been taken off the market. Did anyone else experience uncomfortable side effects from this RX?

  20. Sharon

    My personal trainer told me years ago to sleep with a pillow between my knees. Makes all the difference in the world! (Yes, I’m a side-sleeper).

  21. Lois

    I am most comfortable sleeping in my lazyboy chair with my feet up.
    How does that affect my bones?
    I find other people do the same thing.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Lois, as long as you are getting adequate quality sleep and your posture is not compromised, you’re doing fine! 🙂

  22. Tricia

    I was recently diagnosed with mild/moderate sleep apnea. It seems I stop breathing when my tongue relaxes and closes off my airway. This happens when I sleep on my back. Something to be aware of, especially for snorers out there. Sleep apnea can affect so many things, from memory to fatigue. I am trying to learn to sleep only on my side.

  23. Terry

    Interesting about the pillow between the legs when side sleeping. When I had my gallbladder out in March, that was the only thing that gave me rest. I guessed at the time that it helped the tissues from pulling to much but now I see that there was much more to it. Thanks, I guess I’ll pull that pillow back up and keep it handy!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      It’s amazing how something so small and simple can make such a big difference!

  24. Joan Maybee

    I like all of your suggestions, but I have a hard time staying on the diet. Any suggestions on a way to easily slip back into eating correctly?

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Joan, you might try getting back into the Save Our Bones diet gradually. Some people find it works best if they start by eating one pH-balanced meal a day, or 3 pH-balanced meals one day a week. Perhaps you could just focus on alkalizing snacks at first. As long as you are working toward an entirely balanced diet, you are far ahead of the majority and your bones are getting nourishment!

      Best of luck moving forward. 🙂

  25. Pearl

    I have slept on my side for years, usually with my knees slightly drawn up, I was told years ago by my chiropractor not to sleep on my back, besides I found when i sleep on my back i always wake up choking.
    I have tried a small pillow between my knees as they sometimes get sore from the pressure of resting on each other, but it didn’t seem to make any difference.
    I try to take note of my posture just before i go to sleep & hope i keep it throughout the night.

  26. Hillel,Larry retter

    The RAMBAM says that the correct way is to start on your left side for about two hours and then change position to your right side for the rest of the night.He recommended a pillow under the oposite knee-the upper one. It has to do not only with the posture but also with digestion.he also supports a small pillow under and between shoulder and your head.
    achaatimah tovah ,from jerusalem

  27. abimanu

    Thanks Vivian
    I have the habit of sleeping in the wrong posture with one arm over the head and the other alternately under the pillow hence the pain on my right shoulder. I shall change the posture as from to night and I shall give you the good news.
    As usual, we learn healthy habits from your emails.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      That sounds familiar, Abimanu! I look forward to hearing about the positive effects of changing sleep positions. Keep us posted!

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