Sleeping on your back – dos and don’ts

26 August 2020

From how to support your neck, to the best course of action when pregnant. We cover everything you should know about sleeping in the supine position…

 

DO support your neck

Resting your head on too many pillows when sleeping supine, or on your back with your face upward, can throw your neck out of alignment with your body. Your aim should be to support your head in the same position as if you were standing upright with a good posture. Lift the head too high and you’ll wake with a nasty crick, too low and your spine will curve downwards causing a crease on the underside of the neck.

DON’T use a soft mattress

If you suffer from lower back pain sleeping on a softer mattress can prove a problem. More of your body is in contact with the mattress when lying on your back compared to curling up on your side. While your shoulders and neck can remain aligned, your backside may end up sinking below your legs and upper back. The added pressure could lead to further pain when you wake.

DO use pillows carefully

Sleep experts believe that placing a pillow behind the knees helps to promote good posture. The cushioning helps take some weight off your hips and supports the natural curve in your lower back. If you’ve made the decision to start resting in the supine position after years of sleeping on your side, you can even use pillows to your advantage. Try placing them at either side to create a comfortable sleep alley and prevent you from rolling over in the night.

DON’T, while pregnant

Expectant mothers should avoid sleeping on their back from around five months into their pregnancy. By the 20-week mark the uterus could be heavy enough to compress the vena cava. The large vein returns blood to the heart from the head, neck and upper limbs. The added pressure can leave you nauseated, dizzy and short of breath and even disrupt blood flow to your baby. Try sleeping on your side instead with the help of pillows.

DO sleep with your chin pointed up

Sleeping on your back can force your chin forward and obstruct your breathing, especially if you rest your head higher than the rest of your body on numerous and thick pillows. Although it’s virtually impossible to stick to one position throughout the night, you should make an effort to extend your neck and keep your airways open as much as possible. Those who suffer from sleep apnoea or heavy snoring, may want to consider sleeping on their side to avoid further difficulties.

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