Sleeping is essential to our wellbeing. As human beings we spend about 1/3 of our lives sleeping. It’s the time when our bodies undergo repair and detoxification. Sleep has an overwhelming effect on our mental, physical and emotional health. With that being said, the position in which we engage in while we are healing and repairing throughout the night is equally as important as the hours of sleep we are receiving.
Our sleep posture can determine our spinal wellness.
It may affect whether we are experiencing back pain currently or deteriorating our spinal curvatures over time causing countless future spinal issues.
Stomach sleeping promotes terrible posture. It flattens and compresses your low back, which is something that scoliosis patients cannot afford to do. Stomach sleeping also puts a lot of added stress on your upper back and neck causing the cervical spine or neck to be strained and twisted in unhealthy spinal positions, which dehydrate the disc, and forces a kyphotic or reversed neck curve. In scoliosis patients it is very important to maintain and increase the cervical lordosis as it is typically diminished in these spines.
Side sleeping is higher up on the preferred sleeping positions chain as it doesn’t require your body to be in such detrimental positions as stomach sleeping but it is also harmful to the spine and not ideal as it can torque your pelvis and give added stress to your body’s lateral curvatures. Side sleeping can also put pressure on your stomach and lungs and may cause you to sleep on one of your arms, which will impede blood and nerve flow.
In this position, the shoulders will be supporting much of your body’s weight, which can consequently constrict the neck and shoulder muscles.
The best sleeping position regardless of spinal curvature is on your back in what may be referred to as “savasana pose”. However, patients with a lateral spinal curvature, whether it is mild or severe, should be particularly concerned with their sleeping posture. Sleeping on your back in a supine or face up position allows for your mattress to maintain your spine’s overall neutral position with out adding any extra curves to it. Most patients with scoliosis have a decreased or reversed curve in their neck so it is important to have proper support while sleeping. A cervical pillow while sleeping will help to maintain and improve the curve in their neck. It is unnecessary in fact; its harmful to sleep with many pillows propped up which is why sleeping with a single neck roll is ideal. With that being said, the same idea can be applied to the patient’s low back curve or lumbar lordosis. Scoliotic patients tend to have a decreased curve there as well so sleeping in a supine position with a lumbar roll will also help to maintain the necessary curve in the patient’s low back as well. In the face up position there is no added stress to the patient’s neck or low back joints or discs. This position is optimal for the discs to be rehydrated while sleeping. An added bonus to sleeping in the savasana pose is that it is the most ideal position cosmetically leading to decreased wrinkles as the face is not pressed into pillows and it reduces acid reflux since your head is slightly elevated allowing your stomach to be below your esophagus preventing food or acid from coming back up.
It is clear that the best position regardless of spinal curvature is on your back. This will allow your body to maintain it’s natural blood and nerve flow with out adding extra curves to your spine. If you are used to sleeping on your side or stomach it may take some getting used to and re-training to change your sleep habits. A trick that can help is to tape an uncooked pea to your shirt in various spots so that if you do roll over, the discomfort from the pea will either wake you up or cause you to roll onto your back. You can also sleep with barriers on either side of you (this is where those extra pillows may come in handy) to prevent you from rolling onto your side or stomach.