The Best Position for Pain-Free Sleep

Sleep hygiene is finally getting the media attention it deserves. You may have heard some science-based tips that help you get high-quality sleep. But what if you’re losing sleep because of musculoskeletal pain? If neck and back pain keep you from reaching your eight hours, it might be time to rethink your sleeping position. Even the most comfortable mattress or pillow won’t help if you aren’t in the proper position when you sleep. Specific postures place more weight on your joints – this can cause soreness and stiffness come morning. To prevent discomfort, try sleeping in positions that offer ergonomic support.

Note: This is not medical advice. If a health professional has suggested a specific posture for your medical needs, please prioritize their recommendation.

On your belly

Most bodyworkers agree that sleeping face-down isn’t the greatest. Usually, your head rotates significantly, and your lumbar spine has a larger lordotic curve. If you are a belly sleeper, start on your back and place a pillow on either side of your body to slow your transition into rolling on your front. 

On your side 

Try sleeping with your top leg bent at a 90-degree angle, supported by a pillow. You’ll alleviate the strain on your lower back and hips, allowing them to relax throughout the night. Avoid curling up into a little ball, and notice whether your head is in line with your spine. If you mainly sleep on your side, try using a pillow that fills the space between your ear and shoulder. For those of you with broad shoulders, you may need more height.

On your back

For the most anatomically neutral option, sleep on your back. You can place a pillow under your knees to relieve pressure from your low back. If possible, use a thin support for your head so your chin is not tucking down toward your chest. An s-shaped neck pillow may be a better option if you’re used to more height. If you are unaccustomed to sleeping on your back, try laying in this position for 5 minutes when you get into bed. Slowly, this position will feel more natural.

Other considerations

  • Ensure that your pajamas/blankets are warm enough to avoid curling up into a fetal position. (Sleep science suggests the room itself should be cooler.)
  • Coz-ify your bedroom – use feng shui advice to create a peaceful oasis. 
  • Use earplugs rather than pulling a pillow over your head.
  • Try blackout curtains or use a sleep mask.
  • Adjustable pillows are available. These allow you to change the height depending on the best support for you.  

A good night’s rest is essential for both physical and mental health but can be elusive if we suffer from chronic pains or aches in our musculoskeletal system. Luckily, there are several things we can do to improve our quality of sleep without having to rely solely on medications. Be mindful of your sleep posture and see if you feel any difference in how your body feels in the morning.

Stay mindful,


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