Many people are often surprised to learn that sleep is a critical component of overall health. Not just how long you sleep, but how you sleep! If you’re having trouble finding a comfortable sleeping position, check out these 5 sleep tips from a physical therapist to be on your way to a more restful night of sleep.
1. Position your pillow to support your head and neck properly
Whether you sleep on your side or your back, your pillow should support your head in a way that keeps your neck comfortable. Many people focus too much on the type of pillow, instead of the position of the pillow.
For back sleepers, pull the bottom of your pillow up over your shoulders to support the base of your head and the back of your neck. Due to the shape of the head, when you lay flat the neck is not supported well by the bed. Placing the pillow in this way acts to fill the gap between the neck and the bed, allowing your spine to remain in a more neutral and comfortable position.
For side sleepers, the same concept of placing the pillow in a way to keep your head and neck in a more neutral position applies. The pillow should support your head and fill the space between the neck and the bed. If a pillow is too thick or too flat, your head and neck might be angled in uncomfortable positions.
2. Side sleepers try hugging a pillow
When sleeping on your side, you might find discomfort in your chest and shoulders. Another tip you can try is to sleep with a pillow placed in front of you – as if you are hugging it. Try it with a regular pillow at first, and if you find that this addition is comfortable, you can even replace the smaller pillow with a larger body pillow. Both choices will help keep your shoulders from rounding in and your torso from rolling forward while you sleep which can help reduce shoulder and neck pain. However, if you have a history of shoulder problems, try adapting to sleeping on your back to protect the shoulder joint even more.
3. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach
Though sleeping on your stomach might be your favorite sleep position, it might be causing stiffness and discomfort when you wake up. Sleeping on your stomach puts your neck in a rotated position for a long period of time while you sleep through the night. To avoid this, you might want to check out tip number two and use a body pillow. It’s a similar position that keeps your head, neck, and shoulders more comfortable.
4. Support your knees if you have back pain
Pillows are great, and they can be used in more ways than supporting the head and neck. If you are a back sleeper and find yourself with back pain, try placing a pillow under your knees for a slight bend. This can help take some strain off of your low back and keep you more comfortable throughout the night. Side sleepers can try placing a pillow between the knees to help your pelvis and spine stay in a more neutral and comfortable position.
5. Prioritize sleep as a healthy habit
Creating a healthy sleep routine takes practice. If you find yourself struggling to have restful nights, take a step back and examine how you prepare for sleep. This can start as early in the day as your last cup of caffeine – as this affects people differently and can make it hard to fall asleep. Try creating a routine to wind down at night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule so your body can adapt and be prepared for rest at relatively the same time each night.
Bonus Tip: Sleep after surgery
The best positions for sleep after surgery will depend on the type of surgery you had and your surgical precautions. Make sure to review your surgical precautions and adhere to them throughout your day – sleep is no exception! Additionally, try to protect the surgical site for optimal incision healing and to keep yourself comfortable.
Still have questions about how to sleep more comfortably or want to address a certain pain? Get in touch with a physical therapist. Physical therapists are highly skilled professionals with doctorate-level education who can help identify the cause of your pain and discomfort and provide you with the resources you need to feel, sleep, and move better.
Don’t have time for traditional physical therapy? Download the OneStep app today to be connected with a licensed physical therapist ready to help you on your journey to pain-free and better sleep all from the comfort of your own home.