This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in July of 2023. For the original video go to https://youtu.be/iVHnZrLw5rM
Mike: Do you ever wonder what sleeping position is the best or worst?
Brad: Well, according to the Mayo Clinic you're going to find many different ways to sleep and they narrowed it down to what's going to help you get the best night's sleep.
Mike: There are three main sleeping positions: lying on your back, your side, or your stomach. So we're going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of each position.
Brad: That's right, and we're going to show you nice little tips on how these positions can be more comfortable. So as we stated, everyone has their own favorite preferences on how to sleep. However, many people think that sleeping on your back is the best position because it takes pressure off the joints. However, Mike, what does Mayo tell us?
Mike: According to Mayo Clinic, sleeping on your back is problematic if you're a person who suffers from sleep apnea. Do you want to explain why this is, Brad?
Brad: It has to do with the position and gravity of your tongue in your throat. Your tongue blocks your airway and promotes snoring. Snoring causes less oxygen to get into your system. Therefore, sleep apnea machines, the CPAPs, take care of that problem.
Mike: Now we realize that with some people, the only way they can fall asleep is on their back. So we're going to show a proper positioning way that may help you sleep better and not have any negative issues.
Brad: Yep. Let's go at it. All right, for those of you who really like to sleep on your back, I actually am one of those. I always start on my back. It's the most comfortable. We're going to show you some nice tricks and tips to make sure everything goes well. Mike, go ahead.
Mike: So for the first thing, you want to make sure you don't have too many pillows or too thick of a pillow. As you can see below, my head is actually kind of flexed down in my neck. It's going to put pressure on it. I'm going to wake up with a neck ache.
Mike: So make sure you just have one pillow or a flatter pillow and your neck is more in a neutral position like it is now.
Mike: It's going to be much more comfortable when waking up. Now, another good thing is to put a pillow underneath your knees, or you can use a leg wedge if you happen to have one. Now this is just going to take some stress off the knees. If you're in a locked-out position all night you can get little aches and pains in your legs. This prevents that and it also relieves a little tension in your back, keeping in a slightly flexed position.
Mike: Now, if you have shoulder pain and you like sleeping on your back, you could take a pillow and position it under your arm, supporting the entire arm the whole night. It'll open up that shoulder joint and take some pressure off there. You could even have pillows on both sides if you have shoulder pain on both sides. So you're going to be a big pillow person when you sleep.
Brad: Absolutely. I agree. I've experienced this myself. I use the leg wedge if I have a backache, and usually a couple of hours into the night, I simply kick it off the bed and go without it. We realize you don't sleep in one position all night long. So these are nice tips and tricks to know as things go on. Okay, let's talk about being prone or lying on your stomach. Now this is a position that Bob and I have talked about over the years, and usually, we say try to avoid this. You can do it, but the key is to try to keep your spine in a neutral alignment so there's less stress throughout the spine. To start out with this, we have the spine. If you're lying on your stomach and you have two pillows like Mike has. Now if you look at his neck, it's actually extended up this way, and we don't want to have that kind of sustained end-range posture while sleeping. So two pillows with that is not good. And there are variations on this of course.
Brad: The other thing is when you sleep on your stomach, oftentimes, people put their head like Mike is, looking to his right. If you look at the spine, it twists one way, puts that end range, and all the facet joints in the spine are locked up and jammed. That can cause pain if you're that way for long periods of time.
Brad: So ideally, you would want to rotate your head right and left every 20 minutes or so. Hopefully, in your sleep, your body reminds you to do that. As far as the lower back, the next big thing is there's an arch in the lumbar spine. That's normal, but it can be overly arched, and then the back extends and that also can jam the facet joints (the little joints between each vertebra).
Brad: But people sleep on their stomachs and are very happy to sleep that way. Mike is one of them. Talk about how you sleep without any pain when you wake up,
Mike: So lying flat on my stomach is very uncomfortable for me. So typically when I wake up on my stomach, I often have a throw pillow on the side my head is turned to. It kind of supports my head a little bit. And you can see my right leg on this side is actually propped up. So it's not like I'm sleeping straight on my stomach. I'm actually kind of on my side and my stomach at the same time. This will help limit the amount of neck rotation I have to one side if I'm positioned more like this, and it just makes it a little more comfortable for me personally.
Mike: Now if you're having some back pain with this, you can put a larger pillow underneath your pelvis. So you just kind of go mid-body where your trunk is, and then you can get a little bit of support there and get some more neutral spine and less arch.
Brad: And that might be a little too low for some people. That's actually under his thighs. Some people might like it under the belly, right under the lumbar area. If that’s the case, you probably want to have just one pillow to keep that neck and a neutral spine. You'll know it. It's a position where you should feel very comfortable lying there for a period of time and not feel like you have to move because of discomfort or pain. Your body's telling you, if it hurts after you're there 5-10 minutes or you fall asleep prior to that and you're going to sleep there for a few hours, that's when you're going to create some pain. It’s those sustained uncomfortable positions that you don't really realize at night until you wake up in pain.
Brad: Now according to the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Somers has a whole host of evidence showing that side sleeping is actually the best for you in regards to digestion. Now, there are problems with side sleeping. I cannot side sleep for very long because I get shoulder and knee pain, but there are easy options to take care of it.
Mike: The first one we are going to look at is the head, neck, and shoulder area here. Right now my shoulder has to rotate out. If I was directly on my shoulder, this would be very uncomfortable. So what you can do is get another pillow first for your head, because oftentimes with your shoulders like this, you want two pillows to take some pressure off the shoulder, and I can lie a little more normal. I never lie directly on my shoulder. That’s just not how I side sleep. Typically I am slightly angled.
Brad: Let’s show the trick if you actually pull the shoulder out. Often you can actually position your body more angled. This position kind of twists your back but it takes pressure off the shoulder. It's kind of a give-and-take situation.
Brad: So the next thing is Bob's famous canal sleeping where we form a canal for the shoulder.
Mike: You can do that with a pillow. You're going to put it between where your shoulder would rest. It's going to be on your rib cage. So now you can have a nice canal in here if you're comfortable sleeping like this. I, like many people, toss and turn so I can't lie like this very long, but Bob finds it very beneficial.
Brad: That's right, and you can use a throw pillow. I think Bob uses a throw pillow instead of a larger one. But either way, you do what works for you. So obviously, you're going to need a lot of pillows if you're a side sleeper and you're not comfortable.
Mike: Now if your shoulder is problematic on the side that is facing the ceiling, you can get a large pillow and you prop it up and get a good support, opening up that shoulder, relaxing it. This is most optimal if you have shoulder pain and are sleeping on your side.
Mike: Now, this isn't the only position to look at. Say you're having hip or knee pain while you're sleeping on your side. A simple solution is a pillow. This can help with the knee. If you feel like your ankles are rubbing too much, you can get a longer pillow, and position it in there. You want to get a nice neutral position. Oftentimes, when you're on your side, it's putting some strain on the outside of your hip and outside of your knee. This nice neutral position will prevent that from happening.
Brad: There you go. So that pretty much covers you from head to toe for side sleeping if you have some discomfort in some of the areas. I was in a hotel this weekend and I knew as soon as I touched the bed, I wasn't going to be comfortable. Luckily, they had lots of pillows on the bed. I slept much better as a result of doing tricks just like this. All right, now we also want to talk about side sleepers. What's better, sleeping on your right side or your left side, or does it matter at all? And yes, we do want to look at what the Mayo Clinic doctors say.
Mike: They suggest sleeping on the left side is optimal because with the right side, you have more internal organs which can get compressed and lead to poor blood flow when you're sleeping. However, we realize if you have aches or pains sleeping on one side, you're going to sleep on which side feels the best.
Brad: I think the other thing is that it makes more circulation in the trunk, which is important. But go for your left. If you can't sleep on your left, go to the right.
Mike: Yes, pick what makes you happy and fall asleep.
Brad: I know I sleep where I want to, mostly on my back and then my right side and then I have to go back to my back because it makes my back feel better. And it's a personal thing.
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