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What's the best sleeping position?



Many patients ask our physiotherapists what is the best position to sleep in?

Sleeping on the tummy can strain the neck and the lower back

Sleeping on the tummy can strain the neck and the lower back

  • Should I sleep on my back?
  • Is sleeping on my tummy bad?
  • How many pillows should I sleep with?
  • What is my neck stiff in the morning?
  • What’s the best position to sleep in if I have back pain?


Which position is best to sleep in?

We spend 6 to 8 hours a day sleeping, time that is essential for the body’s recovery, repair and growth. Most of us have also awoken with a sore back or a stiff neck from sleeping awkwardly.

The most comfortable sleep position, mattress and pillow arrangement will be whatever enables the body to remain in a neutral, compression free, middle range position for most of its joints.  Joints held at either extreme end of their range of movement for a length of time can become painful and irritated by this sustained position.

1)   What is the best position for sleeping at night? The worst position is sleeping on the tummy. The neck is always twisted in one direction for most of the night causing uneven pressure on the cervical vertebral joints in the neck.  There is also unbalanced tension in the muscles of the neck. Spending hours lying on the front can also cause compression of the facet joints, small joints on the back of the vertebra, causing back ache.

For most people sleeping on the side is ideal.   The knees and hips should be slightly bent up with a small pillow between the knees.   This small pillow between the knees reduces pressure points building up between the bony insides of the knees.  This pillow has the added advantage of preventing the pelvis from falling forwards rotating the lumbar spine.  Many with shoulder pain or hip pain find sleeping on the painful side to be difficult as there is hours of pressure on the painful area, which can be very uncomfortable.

The other recommended sleep position is lying on the back, with 1 or 2 pillows under the knees to reduce the arch in the lower back.  Lying flat on the back with the legs flat tends to cause an arch in the lower back, which can cause stress on the facet joints of the lower back and shortening of the muscles in the low back.

So we have compiled this quick visual guide of sleeping positions.

Sleeping on the tummy can strain the neck and the lower back

Sleeping on the tummy can strain the neck and the lower back

Sleeping on the side with a cushion between the knees is ideal

Sleeping on the side with a cushion between the knees is ideal

Too many pillows under the head

Too many pillows under the head

sleeping on back- keep the neck neutral

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BOOST PHYSIO is a leading private physiotherapy practice with high street clinics across North West London.  We have 7 branches in the following areas:  . Branches of our physiotherapy practice are in Mill Hill NW7, Elstree WD6, Swiss Cottage NW3, Hampstead NW3, Hendon NW4 and East Finchley N2 and Kensington High Street W8.

We love helping people from all over North West London and North London recover from their injuries, get back to doing the things they love and improve their mobility.

Why wait? We can help today! We provide same day expert private physiotherapy treatment for sports injuries, neck and back pain.  Appointments are available 8am to 9pm and we even have Saturday and Sunday appointments available. Emergency physiotherapy appointments on weekends.  Same Day Physiotherapy Appointments.

Patients come for physiotherapy from the following areas: Hendon NW4, Mill Hill NW7, Cricklewood NW2, Hampstead NW3, Belsize Park NW3,  Kilburn NW6, Queens Park, Finchley Road, Golders Green NW11, Swiss Cottage and Willesden Green NW10.  Fortis Green, Muswell Hill, Highgate N6.

Our physiotherapy clinic in Elstree WD6 provides physiotherapy treatment to patients from Elstree, Borehamwood, Physiotherapy for Stanmore HA7, Physiotherapy for patients from Edgware HA8, Bushey physiotherapy WD23, Radlett WD23, Physio for Aldenham.

If you do have any issues, we would love to help you overcome them. Please book an appointment at one of our 7 High Street Physiotherapy clinics.

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BOOST PHYSIO works with major insurance companies like: BUPA, AVIVA, WPA, CIGNA and Simplyhealth. We usually deal directly with your insurance company.