A person's body position in bed can not only affect his quality of sleep but may also affect the aches and pains he experiences during waking hours. There is no perfect sleeping position, and many people find that changing their sleep routine can be difficult and disruptive, but knowing the advantages of various positions can help you decide what's best for you.
Sleeping on the side is the ideal position for easing pressure on the back and reducing back pain. Drawing the legs toward the chest slightly and separating the knees with a fluffy pillow will reduce pressure on the sciatic nerve. In contrast to stomach sleeping, which can strain your back into a more arched position and exacerbate back pain, side positions encourage the natural curve of the spine without putting pressure on it. People who have pain from spinal stenosis or osteoarthritis in the spine will particularly benefit from this sleep position.
Sleeping on your back also has advantages, although many people find it difficult to fall asleep on their backs and remain in that position throughout the night. By facing upward, you reduce pressure on your internal organs and are also able to breathe easily. Therefore, a full night's sleep in this position can leave a person feeling thoroughly refreshed. One modification to target lower back problems is to place a pillow under the knees, encouraging a more natural spinal curvature.
Sleeping on the stomach is considered the least beneficial of the three major positions, despite the fact that some people find it natural and comfortable. The position has a constricting effect on breathing because it puts pressure on the ribcage and can constrict the inner organs. However, for people with certain medical conditions, stomach sleeping can be ideal and even necessary. Doctors often encourage patients with a herniated spinal disc or certain degenerative diseases to sleep on their abdomens. If the position causes neck discomfort, using a thinner pillow or even eliminating the pillow altogether might help.
There are other recommendations regarding sleep positions for people with particular conditions. Pregnant women should sleep on the left side to improve blood flow to the placenta and encourage efficient kidney function. Sleeping on the back reduces circulation and causes muscle aches because the uterus is putting downward pressure on muscles, blood vessels and major organs. Another condition with special sleep position requirements is sleep apnea, which is characterized by pauses in normal breathing during sleep. Sleeping on your back exacerbates apnea, but side sleeping usually reduces symptoms.
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