The question that I get asked the most is…
‘what is the best position for me to sleep in?’
The next most common is…
‘will a new pillow help my neck pain’ or ‘do I need to get a new mattress for my back?’
I can see why people are so keen to try and eliminate potential triggers for their back and neck pain. Especially as the kind of people we see at Taunton Health on a daily basis are pretty keen to get pain free long term rather than simply mask the symptoms for a few weeks.
So here are my answers to those questions...
The best position to sleep in is the one that you are actually able to sleep in. There is no point trying to sleep in a certain position if it means you end up lying awake all night. The goal is for you to get a quality 8 hours of sleep.
With regards to your back and neck health you should try to sleep on your back. If you sleep on your back you are creating the best alignment of your spine which gives you the best possible chance waking up less stiff and achy. An osteopath or chiropractor wants to not only help you when you're with them but also when you're away from them so this really is an important point to try and remember.
Often people will tell me they struggle to do this. Or that they always wake up on their side even if they call asleep on their back. The answer is simply to just do their best to try and fall asleep on their back or at least spend some time getting used to lying on their back. Over time it might become more natural for them.
Sleeping on your side or front not only puts more pressure on your shoulders but it also puts your spine in an awkward position which isn’t ideal considering you’re going to be spending 6-8 hours in that position.
Do you need a new pillow?
The first thing to make sure you’re doing is only using one pillow. More than this can prop your head up too high which puts strain through your neck and can contribute to neck pain.
Once you are only using one pillow it ends up being a little bit of trial and error. Some people like a firm pillow and some like a softer pillow. I tend to like quite a thin and less softer feather pillow but this might not work so well for someone else.
Again with mattresses unfortunately the answer is that it’s quite an individual thing. Some get on better with a firm mattress and some like it softer. It would be firm enough to support your whole body without you falling into it. Trial and error really is what’s needed here. As long as your mattress isn’t too old and you try and flip and rotate it often.
Some companies offer a 30 or 90 day trial in case you don’t like it so it might be worth trying this option.
With all this said you can’t expect to change your pillow or mattress or sleeping position and for your neck or back to be ‘perfect’ again. If you’re struggling with posture, restrictions in your spine, misalignment or weakness in your spine then that is something you are going to want to get corrected if you want long term success.