When it comes to sleep, have you ever thought to investigate the impact of your posture? To most of us, our sleep posture is predetermined by what feels best when we hit the sheets. In other words, if we fall asleep most comfortably on our back, we consider ourselves to be a back-sleeper for life. But, that’s not necessarily the case. Like anything else, we can modify our habitual behavior to improve the quality of our sleep and, ultimately, our health and wellness.
Given that we spend ⅓ of our life in this reclining position, it’s important to consider if you’re taking full advantage of your sleeping hours…or, at least, not making things worse on your body, health, and wellness. Part one of this blog post will help you understand the importance of being aware of our sleep posture and delve into whether there is truly only one sleep position that works for you.
Consider Your Sleep Posture
In our era of desk jobs, incessant social media scanning, and 10-hour shifts in front of the computer, we’ve, likely, given at least some thought to our increasingly forward-slumping posture. Slouching with drooping shoulders, we may experience neck aches, back pain, or even felt the effects of dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome. To combat the effects to our head, shoulders, knees, and…um, necks, we’ve hit the gym, amped up our back workout, taken more breaks throughout the day, and started doing some yoga poses at our desks when no one is looking. (Or, if you’re a yoga warrior, even if they are looking!) When it comes to improving our posture by day, we may still have room for improvement…but, at least, we’re making changes and have embarked upon the right track.
With little thought typically given to our sleep posture, it’s likely we consider our sleep position to be unchangeable. Who could ever fall asleep on their back when it feels so good to snuggle up on our sides with a pillow? Or vice versa for our back sleepers! Maybe you sleep on your stomach…how could you ever fall asleep in any other position?
Your Natural Sleep Posture Isn’t Set in Stone
Let’s take, for example, pregnant women. Stomach sleeping is pretty much out of the question when your belly is growing bigger by the day! To make matters worse, studies have shown that pregnant women who sleep on their back during their last trimester of pregnancy are four times more likely to have a stillborn baby. When it comes to pregnancy and sleep, other studies show that “mothers who sleep on their back or right-hand side on the night before giving birth are twice as likely to have a stillborn child compared with those who slept on their left.”
(Please note: Not all studies agree completely with this notion. This scholarly article asserts that some time on the back or right side isn’t dangerous to the fetus and that not all pregnant women need to heed this advice. In another article Dr. George Saade, director of maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston declares that “women should sleep in whatever position is comfortable for them” and if you’re concerned about your sleep position, you should always discuss with your doctor!)
However, given these potential and quite serious risks associated, it’s unlikely that a pregnant woman wouldn’t sacrifice her sleep quality to optimize the health of her growing baby. In fact, studies have shown that about 78 percent of women experience pregnancy-related sleep disturbances that, among other reasons, may be related to deliberately attempting to modify their sleep posture.
Though statistical data isn’t widely published on the exact figure, many women–when pregnant–attempt to modify their sleeping positions. Why? Because, to them, reducing the risks far outweighs the benefits. So, what would it take to make it worth it for you to change your sleep posture?
Read part 2 where we’ll uncover the best sleep postures for common complaints including back pain, circulation issues, brain health, snoring, and even wrinkles and fine lines!