Supporting your spine and neck as you sleep
Sleep is important for so many reasons, from letting your mind recharge each night to resting your body and helping you stay healthy.
Sleep is also a time when your body can mend and regenerate. So if you’re experiencing pain, for example in your back and neck, this can make sleeping well difficult -- which is extremely frustrating as it’s what your body really needs.
So how can you best support your back and neck while you rest? We look at the best sleeping positions for back or neck pain, so you can improve how well you rest and begin to sleep more comfortably.
How should your neck be supported while sleeping?
The best sleeping position for your neck is to lie on your back or side, although the back is thought to be the optimal choice. Although many of us don’t give a lot of thought to how we get to sleep and what positions we move into during the night, if you suffer from neck pain or just want to ensure you’re supporting your neck properly, it’s worth considering making some changes.
Sleeping on your back or side helps provide the support your neck needs, which just isn’t possible when you sleep on your stomach. When you sleep on your front, your neck turns to the side rather than being straight and aligned.
Even if you can’t always stick to sleeping in these positions, knowledge is power, so having an awareness of what works best will help you find solutions when you’re experiencing neck discomfort. You can also begin to retrain your body to sleep in a more supportive way. Then, even though you may wake up in a different position, you’ll still be benefiting your neck through the time spent falling asleep in a more optimal way.
How can you support your spine during sleep?
If you suffer from back pain, it’s generally considered best for you to sleep lying on your back. This helps your body’s weight be evenly distributed so there isn’t unnecessary pressure on parts of your back. Sleeping on your back also helps prevent your spine from curving or being in a position for several hours that isn’t supportive.
However, if you don’t like sleeping on your back or if it causes problems such as snoring, lying on your side is the next best option. Sleeping in this position with your legs stretched (rather than curving them up) will still help your spine align. If you do suffer with back pain, try placing a thin pillow between your legs, which will further support spine alignment.
Is it better for my back and neck to sleep with or without a pillow?
Sleeping with a pillow under your head and neck can help provide support if you are sleeping on your back or side. Your shoulders should not be on the pillow, however, so when you next go to bed, take a moment to consider where you position your pillow and how comfortable it feels for your back.
Finding the best mattress for your neck and back
Of course, whatever position you sleep in, if you’re not lying on the correct mattress there will always be a limit to how much support you can give your neck and back. It’s recommended by The Better Sleep Council to check if your mattress needs replacing every few years. We advise customers to replace their mattress if it is 10 years old or more, because the springs wear down gradually over time and it’s just not possible for it to continue to provide your body with the right amount of support.