Sleeping on your side: Sleep tips series 3/6

Sleeping on your side: The third of our sleep tips blog series…

In our previous blog we discussed the general tips to getting the best out of a good night’s sleep and also our advice for those sleeping on their front.

Now, we continue to discuss issues relating to sleep, but this time for those sleeping on their sides.

The following video was filmed late in 2018. It’s cheesy, it uses our old branding, but we hope you like it… See you on the other side for more information…

Sleeping on your side: Sleep tips

Most people sleep on their side. Some commentary goes towards the notion that side sleeping happens more as we age. Whether you sleep more in a ‘foetal position’ or in a ‘log position’ there are some suggestions that side sleeping has healthcare benefits, though none seem compelling enough to be confident in any of the claims beyond usual sleep or posture.

What is the best posture for sleeping on your side?

The main goal, when sleeping on your side, is to keep your spine and head level with each other. To do this you need to consider about both your legs and your pillow height.

Despite there being many variations of a side sleeping posture, this blog will focus on the main principles, of which you can adapt as required.

Focussing on your head and neck whilst side sleeping

To keep your head level, review your pillow height.

The general rule of thumb is to ensure there is enough pillow beneath your head to be both comfortable and supportive. Your head should be level. You will undoubtedly need more pillows when side sleeping. It is often wise to have firmer pillows.

You should be sleeping on the tip of your shoulder, not the front or back of the shoulder. This will avoid compressions that create pins-and-needle or numb sensations throughout the night. These are often due to nerve or blood vessel compression. This can sometimes be due to changes in bone or muscle form or alignment.

Take note that softer mattresses will fill some of the gap between your shoulder head and tip.

Would you recommend a particular pillow for side sleeping?

No. Connective Chiropractic does not recommend any particular pillow type. However, our general advice is to aim for comfort first and then to ascertain the correct height and support. When changing your pillow height, our advice is to keep your current pillow on top and then phase it out with new pillows underneath: We find people tend to tolerate changes better this way.

We suggest a sign of a good pillow is not its price or marketing: Find what is right for you. Though some people like pillows that are foamy or fluffy, our preference is for you to focus on the height of pillow when your head is on the pillow. (Of course the pillow will collapse when you are lying on it).

There are some pillows with evidence behind their claims, however we do not feel a one-size-fits-all pillow solution exists so have decided not to recommend any particular type of pillow here.

What if you sleep on your side and another posture? What pillow height is right?

Start with the pillow height that is best for the posture you sleep most in.

I roll around a lot and swap sides loads when sleeping. What should I do?

The advice is similar to above, really. That said, if you roll around a lot you want to be careful that your pillows are not moving around so that you can sleep supported.

What happens if I can’t find the right pillow for sleeping on my side?

If you can not find the right pillow height, first check whether you need to refresh your pillows. They may feel lumpy or have lost their shape.

A sign you may need to refresh your pillows is if you are noticing your arm or hand slipping underneath your pillow or if you are starting to curl or fluff up your pillow before bed more than usual. All of these habits (often unconscious, if we have poor pillow hygiene) are not good for getting good side sleeping posture.

If you can’t get the right height, or similarly you are travelling and have little control over your pillows, we advise using towels in a pillow case to raise your pillow gradually.

We’ve had a few patients cut foam pillows in half. Don’t do this.

DID YOU KNOW?

The average person in the UK sleeps between 5.78 and 6.83 hours per night
(Source)

DID YOU KNOW?

47% of all Americans sleep in a foetal position
(Source)

DID YOU KNOW?

61% of global adults believe that their memory is worse when they have not slept well
(Source)

Focussing on your lower body whilst sleeping on your side

Now that you’ve sorted out the upper half of your body with pillow height, it is important to focus on the lower body. The aim is to reduce twist on your spine whilst in bed.

How can you improve your posture when sleeping on your side?

We recommend keeping your legs as close together as it is possible. You will find that by doing this you will sleep more on the side of your pelvis rather than the front or back of your pelvis bones. Combining this with sleeping on the tip of your shoulder will reduce the twist across your spine.

You can use a pillow or duvet between your legs if your knees are knobbly or it is uncomfortable. 

When is sleeping on your side better for you?

There is commentary that there are some health benefits to certain side sleeping positions. However, we do not believe that there is sufficient evidence to warrant many of these claims in every case at present. We would much rather advise that people adopt a posture that is both comfortable and reduces twist on your body.

Click here for the next sleep tips blog

In the next blog, we discuss sleeping on your back.

The Author and Sleep tips vlog speaker

Dr James Harrison (Chiropractor)
LL.B(Hons), MChiro, MMCA, LRCC
Owner and Principal Chiropractor at Connective Chiropractic

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