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Originally posted on the Upright blog.
Sleeping on your back might not feel like the most natural sleeping position, but it is considered one of the healthiest. If you’re among the lucky 13% of Americans who are able to fall asleep on their backs, you might even say it’s life-changing. But how easy is it to actually transition to face-up sleeping if you’ve always slept on your front or side?
Let’s dive right in and explore how to train yourself to sleep on your back.
Why sleep on your back?
Perhaps the most compelling reason to sleep on your back is that it keeps your spine properly aligned. This can help alleviate neck, shoulder, and back pain, as well as tension headaches and sinus congestion. Sleeping supine also reduces pressure on the joints, which is good news if you suffer from a chronic condition. And because you’re not pressing your face into your pillow, you’ll wake up with skin looking radiant and wrinkle-free.
How to train yourself to sleep on your back
Get a mattress with just the right support
Goldilocks had the right idea when she opted for the bed that was “just right.” A bed that’s too soft might sound inviting (I mean, who doesn’t want to sleep on a cloud?) but in reality, it won’t offer adequate support. A mattress needs to have a certain firmness to it, otherwise, you’ll struggle to keep your body from sinking in. This may cause tension in your lower back and leg muscles, and leave you feeling sore and tired in the morning. If you’re not able to spring for a new mattress, a mattress topper will provide an extra layer of support at an affordable price.
Adjust your neck’s elevation
When sleeping on your back, it’s necessary to support your neck with a suitable pillow. Memory foam/wedge pillows are ideal as they conform to the contours of your neck, however, they tend to be pricey. A cheaper alternative is to place a rolled-up towel beneath your neck. This will help keep your body aligned and allow you to adjust the elevation of your neck. Take care not to raise your head too high, though, as this would put unnecessary strain on your spine.
Adjustable beds are great for getting into the most comfortable and supportive sleeping angles. At the press of a button, you can raise your legs to avoid straining your lower back, or you can elevate your head to alleviate back, neck, and other joint pains.
Raise your knees or lower back
If all else fails, try putting a support pillow under your knees. This will take some of the pressure off your spine, relieving any back pain you may have. Plus, it will prevent you from rolling over in your sleep.
You’ll want to choose a pillow that supports your body’s natural curves. A half-moon bolster pillow, for example, can either be placed under the knees, in the small of your back, between the legs, or beneath your ankles. A lumbar pillow, on the other hand, is designed to fit the area between the upper and lower back, but can also be used to prop up the knees. For a more versatile option, consider getting a foldable pillow that can be used in a variety of different positions.
Find the right sleeping position
The most common back sleeping position is known as savasana. This is essentially where your arms are by your sides and your legs are straight down (think standing position, but horizontal). If you have shoulder pain, this is probably your best bet.
For the solo sleepers among you (or those who have a ridiculously large bed), there’s the starfish position. This back sleeping position takes full advantage of all that extra real estate, allowing you to spread your arms and legs out like a starfish. Doing so distributes your body weight more evenly so there’s less pressure on your joints. Plus, it keeps your muscles from stiffening up during the night. One thing to bear in mind is that if you have low blood pressure or poor circulation, sleeping with your arms above your head can cause your hands to fall asleep.
Experiment with both positions to determine which is most comfortable for you.
Create a pillow barrier
Even if you manage to fall asleep on your back, what’s to stop you from rolling over in the night? Some people find that limiting their range of movements with a pillow barrier helps them stay in position. This is as simple as placing a few pillows on either side of you. Of course, regular pillows are likely to move around, which is why full-length body pillows are probably a better choice.
Be patient and flexible with yourself
Training yourself to sleep on your back takes time and practice. You might find that you don’t want to lie facing up every night, especially if you have stomach issues. People who suffer from heartburn or acid reflux often find that sleeping on their left side aids digestion. Pregnant women should also avoid face-up snoozing as this position can put pressure on their belly, causing discomfort.
Stomach sleeping is widely considered to be the worst of all sleeping positions. It doesn’t just put a lot of pressure on your joints, but also on your digestive system. If you absolutely must sleep faced down, at least make sure to place a support pillow under your neck and pelvis.
Again, everybody is different and it’s important to determine the optimal sleeping position for you.
Now you know how to train yourself to sleep on your back, how about maintaining good posture in your waking life?
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