“Sleep ergonomics” refers to our postures and positions during sleep. They either help us rest in safe mechanical positions for joints or they stress joints to the point that we wake up with more aches and pains than we fell asleep with. Sleeping position matters. Poor-quality sleep is proven to negatively affect over-all health.
Sleeping Positions to Reduce Back Pain
It is possible and desirable to take strain off your back by making simple changes in sleeping posture. The healthiest sleeping position is on your side. If that’s how you sleep, draw your legs up slightly toward your chest and put a pillow between your legs. Some people even use a full-length body pillow to help maintain balance. Try not to put weight on your arms. This causes circulatory problems and a related pins-and-needles sensation. Instead, try crossing them in a braced position. If you sleep on your back, it is best to place a pillow under your knees to help maintain the normal lower-back curvature. You might try placing a small rolled towel under the small of the back for more support. Be aware that sleeping on your stomach is generally bad for your back. In this position, the cervical spine undergoes considerable strain, which can cause nerve compression, muscular imbalance and muscle pain. If you can’t sleep any other way, reduce the strain on your back by placing a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen. Also, place a pillow under your head if it doesn’t cause back strain. Otherwise, try sleeping without a head pillow.
Parents sleep better when babies sleep well. The experts recommend against bed-sharing as it can increase the infant’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The most important measure you can take to help protect your infant from SIDS is this: Place your baby on his or her back to sleep in the crib. The prevalence of SIDS has decreased, due in part to educational campaigns. However, SIDS remains the leading cause of death for infants in the first year of life in developed countries1. At highest risk are babies who are suddenly switched to stomach sleeping after getting used to sleeping on their backs.
Mattresses and Pillows
Your mattress and pillow should support your body in its natural position, allowing it to rest and recover from the day’s activities. The best mattresses are designed to conform to the spine’s natural curves and keep the spine in alignment. Some sleep experts recommend supportive memory-foam mattresses for this purpose. A recent study investigated how spine support affects sleep in healthy subjects. It found that the relationship between bedding and sleep quality is affected by individual physical features, dimensions, and sleep posture2.
In particular, results indicated that a sagging sleep system negatively affects sleep quality. Maintain your mattress. Remember to turn your mattress over every few months. If possible, replace the mattress after five to seven years of regular use. If you feel springs or bumps beneath the surface when you’re lying on the bed, or you and your partner unintentionally roll toward the middle of the bed, it’s time to go shopping for a new mattress. A worn-out mattress can reduce the quality of sleep and make back problems worse. You may also find that the mattress is to blame for insomnia if you notice yourself sleeping better in another bed—in a hotel, for example.