Written by Heather Johnson, RN
Resource Nurse, Empira
Most of us have a favorite sleeping position, and this typically the first position that we lay in when we first go to bed for the night. This is the same position that you have probably enjoyed for a number of years. Now, imagine not sleeping in your regular bed and being unable to physically assist yourself into that favorite position? Imagine not being able to articulate to someone how they can assist you into that comfortable position? How well would you sleep? Or, better yet, would you be able to sleep?
According to Rachel Salas, M.D. and Associate Professor of Neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, sleep position is less important for a young and healthy person. But, as we age, the older we become, and with the addition of medical issues, sleeping positions can have positive or negative effects on our sleep and on our health.
Positioning suggestions from Sleep.org:
- If you have back or neck pain, sleeping on you back may not be the answer. If you have soreness in your back and neck, consider experimenting with different sleep positions and pillows to find what works best for you. Some people find sleeping on their back with a pillow supporting their legs helps to ease low back pain. Sleeping on your back makes it easy for your spine, neck, and head to maintain a neutral position, as there is no extra pressure on these areas.
- If you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, position yourself on your side (side-lying) or sleeping on your stomach to help your airway to stay open which may reduce snoring and mild apnea.
- If you experience reflux and heartburn, sleeping on your right side can, in fact, make your symptoms worse. Try sleeping on your left side to prevent symptoms.
- Consult your medical provider for suggestions.
Additionally, if your loved one is unable to communicate their desired sleep position, take note as to what their most comfortable sleep position is or had been. And, assist in communicating this to their care team in helping your loved one receive restorative and comfortable sleep.
When it comes to your bed and bed placement and environment:
- Replace old mattresses and pillows; check on the manufacturer’s recommendations for longevity. The firmness for both pillows and mattresses is a matter of preference, but do find those that are supportive, minimize pressure on prominent body parts, and that provide the means to keep your spine and neck in alignment.
- Extra pillows, properly placed for body support, can be helpful.
- Clean and comfortable sheets matter. Washing sheets and vacuuming the dander and dust from a mattress can help impede allergic reactions that often contribute to impaired sleep.
- Close your blinds or drapes to prevent street lights or moonlight from disrupting your sleep.
- Position your bed so that you are not facing distractions (blinking lights from a computer or alarm clock, a desk that is piled high with task that need to be completed, or light shining under your bedroom door) that may prevent you from falling asleep.
While habits can be difficult to change, if one chooses to alter their routine sleeping position. The National Sleep Foundation suggests to break this habit; one can try to sleep on the opposite side of the bed (2017).
The choice you make on your sleep position and posture can have a potential impact on your back and neck, fatigue, sleep apnea, muscle cramping, impaired circulation, headaches, heartburn, stomach problems, and even premature wrinkles. Choose your position wisely, and, when caring for others, make their choice for sleep position a priority.
National Sleep Foundation: What is sleep hygiene? Retrieved from: https https://sleepfoundation.org on January 2 , 2019.
Sleep.org. : Which sleep position is best? Retrieved from http://www.Sleep.org/articles/best-sleep-postion on January 2, 2019.