Do you know which two sleeping positions are the best for your spine? And which position you should avoid at all costs? As a chiropractor, I have strong opinions on this because I see the consequences of sleeping badly. Read on to find out which positions I recommend, and how to get your pillow height exactly right.
The very worst way to sleep
Before we start, please don’t sleep on your front! Chiropractors see first-hand the problems which this can cause for the spine. If you wake up on your front despite your best intentions, you can train yourself not to with the help of some tennis balls. Tape them to the front of your pyjamas for a few nights. Yes, you will wake up through the night, but after a few nights you’ll find you've broken the habit and your spine will really thank you for it.
Why use towels?
Not only can you use towels to help you find the correct pillow height, but you can even use them as a pillow. Here’s why we recommend using towels:
- · You have them at home already – you don’t have to spend £30 – £80 on a new pillow.
- · They do not compress like pillows do.
- · You can precisely change the height to get it just right for your body.
The firmness of towels will provide the correct support, just like a firm bed would. Pillows will squash throughout the night and rarely provide a consistent height.
The right pillow height will depend on your body shape and your sleeping position. Sleeping on your back is great, but sleeping on your side can also be healthy as long as your head is supported at just the right angle.
Side Lying – Great Sleeping Position #1
To get a rough idea of how much towel you will need you can follow this guideline, and then adjust it to get it just right for you.
Take your index finger and thumb and spread them apart (making a pistol out of your fingers). This distance will be somewhere around the correct height for you. To be more accurate, take your thumb and little finger and spread them as far apart as you can – this amount of towel height will likely be too high, but start here and see how it feels.
Pillows that are too high will make you roll backwards, and pillows that are too low will make you roll forwards. Bearing this in mind, remove a few layers and check how you feel. Not comfortable? Still rolling backwards? Take a few layers away and keep going until you feel comfortable and well supported.
Once you feel you are in the right position, take away ONE layer (not one towel, but one layer) and see if it’s better or worse. Believe it or not, you can notice the difference between single layers, especially when on a firm bed or using the floor. If better, take another layer away and if worse, replace that layer. Do this until you have it exactly right so that one additional layer or one layer less doesn’t feel as good.
Lie on Your Back – Great Sleeping Position #2
Sleeping on your back is another great way to lie but you will need fewer towels. The thing to bear in mind is not to let the pillow push your head too far forward, as this can create problems for your body.
Five layers of towel under your neck and three layers under your head will probably be about right. This works for most people, but test it out for yourself. You will probably find you don’t need to change it by that much.
Towels are too hard?
If you find the towels too hard, a compromise is to use towels underneath a decent pillow to get the correct height.
Sleep well in hotels
Now that you’ve found your perfect pillow height, commit it to memory. Spread your thumb and index finger apart as I described before and notice how it compares to the height of your towels. If you remember it, you will be able to use hotel towels to give your spine a healthy rest throughout the night, no matter where you sleep.