We often overlook sleeping when we think about our posture. And yet, we spend about a third of our lives sleeping and our sleeping positions can put a lot of strain on our back and neck. A supportive mattress and pillow will improve the quality of your sleep and allow you to wake up pain free. There are three main sleep postures:
To create proper support for back sleepers, you will need a pillow that offers firm support at the neck but allows the back of your head to drop back, keeping your neck aligned with the rest of your spine. Orthopedic pillows often have divots or contours in the centre for this purpose. Soft, fluffy pillows do not provide any cervical support. The filling simply moves away from the area or is compressed when pressure is applied. By sleeping on your back, you are prone to lower back tension. Put a pillow under your knees to reduce the pressure.
As a side sleeper, you need to accommodate the gap between your head and shoulder. Your neck should remain at a 90 degree angle from the line of your shoulder (as depicted above). If you typically need to put your arm under your head or use two pillows, its time to get a new pillow. For side sleepers size really matters. The pillow should not allow your neck to flex up or tilt down. When sleeping on your side, your knees should be aligned with one another to keep your hips straight. If this is uncomfortable, try putting a small pillow between your knees to space them apart.
There is really no correct way to sleep on your stomach, so it should be avoided if at all possible. If an injury prevents you from sleeping in another position, then the trick will be to keep your neck aligned with your spine as much as possible. Try not using a pillow at all.