Since you are likely to spend about a third of your life sleeping, it is important to ensure your sleeping position, mattress, bed and pillows encourage the best possible bed posture. This is because your posture in bed will improve both the way you sleep as well as your posture during the day and the likelihood of subsequent back problems through additional pressure on your back, neck and shoulders during the average 8 hour sleep.
There are 4 main sleeping positions; the back, the front, the side and the foetal position and they each vary in the amount of pressure they place upon your back. Lying on your back produces the least amount of pressure on your spine, followed by side sleeping; however, make sure that your spinal alignment isn’t exaggerated due to a soft mattress and/or too many pillows.
It is recommended that you avoid sleeping on your front if possible as there is a greater likelihood that you will move out of the optimum spine position, increasing your risk of strains to the neck. Use a small pillow to ensure your neck is not raised too high, causing an unnatural back alignment.
Make sure your bed is supporting your weight and back adequately. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy recommends a mattress that is on the firm side of medium, and also to consider your partners weight if you aren’t sleeping alone. Similarly, consider your sleeping position, as if you sleep on your front, you should have a firmer mattress than side or back sleepers.
When choosing a pillow consider the following;
- Your preferred sleeping position (side sleepers need thicker pillows than back and stomach sleepers)
- The firmness of your mattress; if you have a soft mattress and fuller pillows, you are likely to be sleeping with an unnatural back alignment
- Your neck curve, i.e. the width between your shoulders and neck
- Your personal preferences
Having too many pillows may tilt your neck forward; alternatively, too few may tilt your head back, so make sure you replace or modify your pillows if you suspect they are not ideal.
Tips for good sleep posture
- If you sleep on your back, use pillows under your neck and knees to support your spine. If you can see your feet when lying it’s likely that your pillow is too high.
- If you sleep on your side, your pillow should lie between your ear and the bed and another would ideally be between your knees to maintain spine alignment.
- Mattresses generally need changing after 8-10 years as they lose their support; look after yours by turning it regularly to maintain the resilience of the springs.