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FAQ: What is The Best Way to Sleep?

Dr. Elysse Pilon

Chiropractor at Lawrence Park Health Clinic


Patients are often seeking relief from pain they attribute to ‘sleeping wrong.’ We all know posture is important to help decrease pressure on our muscles and joints and our sleep position at night is just as important. Therefore, I often get asked, “Dr. Elysse, what is the best sleeping position?”. We sleep on average about 6-8 hours per night, with most of it in the same position for a prolonged period of time.


The simple answer to this question is: there is no single best way to sleep for everyone. However, there are better and worse sleep positions. Sleeping on your side or your back are the preferred positions.


Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position and should be avoided as much as possible. When we lay on our stomach, our head is turned to one side and our low back is arched. Many people may also bend one leg here, which is unknowingly done in attempts to decrease lower back arching. Low back hyperextension, or arching, can result in pain and soreness. If you find yourself sleeping on your stomach, I recommend a thin pillow (or no pillow at all). This will help decrease the strain on your neck and lower back. However, the best thing would be to try to avoid this position all together.



For side sleeping, ensure you have a medium height pillow to properly support your neck. A body pillow is also beneficial to help prevent rotation of your upper and lower back. This can be particularly useful for those who experience low back pain or shoulder pain. Putting a pillow between your knees while sleeping on your side will also help keep your spine aligned. Be aware of your mattress as well. If your mattress is too firm, sleeping on your side may give you pressure points at your shoulders and hips. If it is too soft, you may sink in and not receive enough support.



Sleeping on your back is arguably ‘the best’ sleeping position. It is the least likely to give you pain from your sleep position. An orthopaedic pillow is great here to support your neck. A basic pillow can also be placed under the knees to help further support your lower back, especially for those who have low back pain.



In general, while we sleep, we want our spine to be nicely inline and properly supported. Therefore while side sleeping, ensure there is no slouching or sinking of your neck or lower back. We also do not want any areas of our bodies to be forced up or flexed. While sleeping on our backs, we want to support our natural curves of our spine. As mentioned avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this position creates the most stress on our spine.


Changing sleep positions from one you have been sleeping in your entire life will take persistence and determination. However, keep at it and eventually you will be able to change and improve your sleep habits.


For more information on sleep habits and positions, seek medical advice from a registered health professional. Dr. Elysse Pilon is accepting new patients and would be happy to discuss any of your healthcare needs!



Author: Dr. Elysse Pilon, B.A. Kin (Hons), D.C., C.Ac

Chiropractor | Acupuncture Provider | Paediatrics | Custom Orthotics



Please note that this is for educational purposes only and not intended as specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns make sure to consult one of our knowledgeable health practitioners at Lawrence Park Health Clinic.

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