Healthy Sleeping Positions

The average person sleeps for 8 hours a day, meaning that an average person will sleep for 229,961 hours in their lifetime or basically one third of their life!  So the right bed and sleeping postures are important when you have neck, back, shoulder and hip problems.  The right sleeping posture can also prevent problems from developing, or reoccurring.

Sleeping Positions

Many people believe they don’t move around much in bed, but this is largely untrue.  Most of us move many time during the night and will sleep in multiple positions such as:

On the back (supine)
On either side (side lying)
On the stomach (prone)

Each positions has advantages and disadvantages depending on your problem.  Often people will come to me complaining of poor sleep or not being able to sleep in their usual position due to pain, which is then affecting the quality and quantity of sleep they are getting – Not ideal!

Sleeping Postures

Some sleeping postures are better than others for particular problems and preventing postural injuries.  Firstly, be sensible!  If you have a bad shoulder and sleeping on that side hurts, avoid that side until the problem is resolved.  This is the same for pain on the outside of the hip, knee and ankle.  One trick to prevent yourself from rolling over is to put a pillow on that side of the body, our bodies don’t like rolling onto something!

Best Positions to Sleep

Foetal and/or Side Lying: The most common sleeping posture is the foetal position, and unfortunately is said to be one of the worst for back problems.  Especially, if you get pain with bending forward movements.  This position can also be very uncomfortable if you suffer from shoulder, hip or medial knee pain.

Try this Instead: Placing a pillow between your thighs, try not to curl your knees up so high. This will also decrease pressure on the knees if you have medial knee pain, as well as helping to keep the hips aligned.  You may also find placings a small rolled towel under your waist may provide relief.

Soldier/On the Back: Another common, and fairly neutral position. This can be a good position for shoulder and hip pain. However, many will report back pain in this position.

Try this Instead: Place a small pillow under you knees so that they are slightly bent, this will help to relieve flexion related lower back pain (be careful of any circulatory problems in doing this), alternatively try a small rolled towel under the arch of your back. Consult your Qualified Physiotherapist as this could very well be an iliopsoas (hip flexor muscle) issues!

Free-faller/On the Stomach: Probably the most awkward position for the neck!  If you experience neck and/or shoulder pain you should probably refrain from sleeping on your stomach. It is also common for people to bring their hands up above their heads in this position.

Try this Instead: Place a pillow under your stomach/hips to relive extension based lower back pain.  Placing your arms down by your side may help to alleviate upper trapezius tension and prevent sustain shoulder elevation- this may help to assist with both neck and shoulder pain.

Sleep Quality

A good night’s sleep is not only important for overall health, quality of life and recovery, it is vital for survival! A poor nights sleep and sleeping postures can not only contribute to an injury, it can also prevent recovery.  So if you are having pain or discomfit preventing or waking you from sleep, make sure you book in to see me and let me help you get a better night sleep – BOOK ONLINE TODAY 

Written by: Olivia Strelein

BSc. Physiotherapy (Honours)
BSc. Exercise and Sport Science
Personal Trainer