Health Corner

Lady sleeping peacefully


Did you know that your sleeping position determines which size pillow will likely be best for your neck and back? As we sleep for approximately 1/3 of our lives, our posture while in bed is of very high importance. Your choice of pillow and sleeping position are vital to ensuring your neck and back are properly supported, promoting quality sleep and preventing neck pain, shoulder soreness, headaches, as well as middle and lower back pain.

The main objective when choosing a sleeping position and pillow is to ensure that your spine remains in the most neutral position possible; the height of the pillow when compressed by your head is the most important thing, with the shape, material and firmness of the pillow being largely personal preference.

So, on to some advice for choosing the right pillow for you:


Side sleeper?
Lying on your side is a pretty good way to sleep, as it’s quite a neutral position for your middle and lower back. As a side sleeper, the primary area that could potentially cause you problems is your neck; without the right level of support from your pillow, your head and neck will either curve towards the bed (pillow too low), or will be crunched upwards towards the ceiling (pillow too high). The majority of standard pillows would be too low for the average build side sleeper, as people who sleep on their side require more support. As a general guide, you want the height of the pillow to be approximately the same as the distance between the side of the base of your neck and the tip of your shoulder. This will ensure that the neck is straight and the head has sufficient support. A contour-shaped pillow can help support both your head and neck comfortably in this position. These pillows have a higher lip on the edge of the pillow to cradle your neck, with a depression in which to rest your head.

If you have some lower back pain or tightness, it might be worthwhile putting another pillow between your knees, to help reduce spine rotation in this position 

Back sleeper?
Sleeping on your back is arguably the gold standard of all sleeping positions (though your significant other might disagree if you snore!), as it has the potential to keep your spine very neutral. Depending on your posture, you likely only need a low profile pillow to support your head. If your posture is such that your head is markedly forward of your shoulders, you might need something a bit higher for added support and comfort. Some people with proper posture may even be comfortable sleeping with no pillow, which is OK too.

Ideally, you would also have a pillow or two beneath your knees to help keep your knees bent and your lower back in a neutral position.

Tummy sleeper? (*Gasp!*)
Naughty, naughty! (I’m only half joking…)

As a physio, I cringe when I think of the positions that people put their spine in when they spend long periods of time laying in prone (on their tummy). This position puts extra strain on your lower back, and requires you to have your head turned to nearly 90 degrees to one side, unless you don’t need to breathe and can have your nose mashed into the pillow while lying face down! To imagine how your neck might become strained by this position, imagine sitting side on to a TV and watching it for 8 hours straight. Ouch.

If you absolutely must sleep on your tummy, use a low pillow for your head (or no pillow), and a pillow beneath your hips to support your lower back. 

There are other sleeping positions, which are variations or combinations of two of these positions. Your pillow choice for these positions should relate to the position of your head and neck in your given position (we’ve gone through those, above). If you are one of those people who are constantly tossing and turning while in bed, choose a pillow that is either an all-rounder (you can get wedge shaped pillows with a different height on each pillow edge), or the type that suits the position you find yourself in most often.

Here at LifeForce health solutions at Golden Grove, we have a selection of Dentons contour pillows, which will suit your body type, small or large, and your sleeping position, whether you’re on your back, side, tummy (naughty!) or in-between. Dentons pillows are a trusted Australian pillow manufacturer; I use one of these pillows myself, and can highly recommend them!

Call 82892800 for more information, or chat to your LifeForce practitioner next time you visit our practice.