Have You Been Sleeping All Wrong?

Most everyone knows that good posture is important, but good posture doesn't just apply to sitting and standing. The muscles and ligaments of your back relax and heal themselves while you sleep. In order to protect your back, good posture is important, even while you sleep.

So even while you’re snoozing soundly, make sure you provide your back with the support it needs. Keep in mind, though, it isn’t just your sleeping position that can be a pain in the back, your mattress and/or pillow can help or hinder.

To ensure that your nights are filled with restful sleep, free of any back pain or discomfort, Robert Ayer, MD, an expert at the Back Pain Center, a service of Gwinnett Medical Center, shares easy tips to have you sleeping better than ever.

Choosing the Right Mattress

Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to mattresses, there’s no one size fits all. Instead, you have to find a mattress that caters to your unique needs and body type, one that’s not too hard and not too soft. In fact, you’ll know you found the right mattress when you can wake up feeling rested and free of pain or soreness.

But since we can’t sleep overnight in the mattress store, it can be difficult to really test out a mattress. The good news is these tips should help you determine the best one for you:
When you test a mattress, make sure to lay in your normal sleep position(s) for at least 20 minutes.

Focus on how the mattress supports your body. Ideally it will conform to the natural shape of your body and allow your spine to rest in a neutral position. Because it’s hard to judge this on your own, bring someone with you who can help determine if your spine is curved or uneven when lying on the mattress.
  • Pay less attention to the brand name and the price and more attention to the feel.
  • Keep in mind that change takes time. Your body will need to adjust to the new mattress, so be patient with yourself and your new mattress.
  • Even if you aren’t currently shopping for a new mattress, make sure that you replace both your mattress and box spring every 8 years.

Finding the Pillow for You

While finding the right pillow for your head and neck is important, it doesn’t have to stop there. Depending on your sleeping position, additional pillows can actually help to keep your spine in the proper position.

When it comes to finding the right pillow for your head, focus on comfort. It should support the natural curve of your neck and allow you to feel relaxed. A pillow that's too high can put your neck into a position that causes muscle strain on your back, neck, and shoulders. Choose a pillow that will keep the neck aligned with the chest and lower back. 

Cater to Your Sleeping Position

While some positions are harder than others on the back, we all have natural tendencies or habits while we sleep. So, if making the switch to sleeping on your back—which is the best option—is too daunting, try incorporating these tips:
  • If you sleep on your back, a small pillow under the back of your knees will reduce stress on your spine and support the natural curve in your lower back.
  • Sleeping on your stomach can create stress on the back because the spine can be put out of position. Placing a flat pillow under the stomach and pelvis area can help to keep the spine in better alignment. Also, if you’re stomach sleeper, your head pillow should be flat, or you should sleep without a pillow.
  • If you sleep on your side, a firm pillow between your knees will prevent your upper leg from pulling your spine out of alignment and reduce stress on your hips and lower back. Pull your knees up slightly toward your chest and try to alternate sides. The pillow for your head should keep your spine straight. A rolled towel or small pillow under your waist may also help support your spine.

Take a Sigh of Relief


While there is no doubt that back pain is complex, a good night’s sleep can make a huge difference in providing the support and relief your back needs. However, if you are suffering chronic back pain, it may be time to see an expert. The specialists at the Back Pain Center, a service of Gwinnett Medical Center, offer a unique one-stop care option to diagnose and treat back pain. With extensive resources available, these experts will work with you to ensure careful, conservative, lasting relief. 

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