Most of us go to sleep without giving any thought to our position. We automatically lie on our side or on our back with the sheet pulled up to our neck. Some of us even lay on our stomach with our arms underneath our pillow and our head tilted to the side.
According to a survey by mattress maker Tempur-Pedic, 57 percent of us choose our side, 17 percent our back and 11 percent our stomach.
There is no right or wrong way to sleep (unless you are an infant). But certain sleep positions can help alleviate or exacerbate pain.
Here is a breakdown:
BACK PAIN: The best position for people with chronic back pain is on their side with a pillow between their knees. This alleviates pressure on the back and is a good way to treat pain on a preventative level. The position is especially good for patients trying to avoid surgery, injections and medication.
But even for adults without chronic back pain, sleeping on their side is very beneficial, especially for pregnant women. Just don’t curl up in a fetal position. It’s restricting.
FIBROMYLAGIA: Fibromyalgia patients often complain of fatigue. It is probably NOT a good idea for people with fibromyalgia to sleep for a very long period of time. It can actually increase their fatigue throughout the day. I encourage patients not to sleep for more than 8 to 9 hours at a time and to try to go to bed and wake up at the same time very day. Hopefully, a structured sleep schedule will not only help with sleep but give them more energy throughout the day.
SLEEP APNEA: Some people think sleeping on their stomach helps with the airways (good for snorers), but it's not good for the spine because you can't really maintain a neutral position. It’s not a natural position for the body to rest, especially for such a long period of time.
NECK PAIN: Many if not all people have awakened with a sore neck. I always suggest experimenting with different pillows. Stick to one pillow. Sleeping with two or even three can stretch your neck in an unnatural position so you can wake up in discomfort. However, it is beneficial to move around in your sleep so you don’t wake up sore from being in one position for several hours.
About Dr. Scott Gottlieb: Dr. Scott Gottlieb is a pain management expert and the founder of Gramercy Pain Management. He is the director of Pain Management at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary (NYEE) and has treated over 3,000 patients. Dr. Gottlieb is board certified in both pain management and anesthesiology. He has offices in both Manhattan and Montebello, N.Y. in Rockland County.