Many patients ask what is the right sleep posture for them? Unfortunately, there is never one correct way to sleep that can be applied to everyone equally. Generally, I recommend sleeping on your back with a pillow under the knees. However, a patient who snores or is a restless sleeper may not benefit from this position. Below is a list of pros and cons for the most common positions:
Pros- May be the most effective way at reducing mid to low back pain. With the added benefit of a pillow under the knees, to flatten the low back, many patients respond better to mid/low back pain, sciatica pain and or rib pain. This position puts the least amount of strain on the joints of the spine.
Cons- Patients that snore heavily often have their snoring worsen in this position. Also, patients who are restless sleepers do not benefit as much from this position due to the frequent movements. These patients may typically benefit more from a side posture.
Pros- Better alternative position for the snorer or restless sleeper. An easier change for the stomach sleeper. Placing a pillow between the legs with knees bent towards the chest will help flatten the back and reduce twisting of the low back.
Cons- Will add more stress to the rib region from body weight. May cause excessive twisting of the spine. Worse for patients with disc problems of the low back. May lead to shoulder impingement due to pressure of weight.
Pros- Only may be ideal if the patient has a severe disc problem.
Cons- Affects the neck due to twisting while asleep. Excessive stress on the low back joints. Potential problems for the shoulder due to positioning, especially overhead position.
Alternative- In the most extreme cases where the patient cannot sleep in any other position I recommend purchasing a body pillow and sleeping in a “3/4” position on their side. Using the pillow as a buffer will at least reduce the strain of the neck and the shoulder region.
It should also be advised that every few months flipping your mattress can also help improve sleep posture and prevent worn in spots that may worsen symptoms.
Dr. Alex Murray