Sleeping is obviously an essential part of each of our daily routine. Most of us sleep between 3 and 10 hours a day, and if you spend that 8%-42% of your day in a poor position, you are putting yourself in a position of risk for injury to the length of your spine. The position I would recommend most to sleep in is on your back. It is there that your spine and musculature is able to rest in a neutral position. While there, it is important to choose a pillow that allows your neck to maintain a neutral position as well (not allowing the chin to tuck or extend back excessively). A pillow that I recommend is the Therapeutica sleeping pillow.
Additionally, low back pain is present in 8 out of 10 Americans at some point in their life. If you’re one of those, placing a pillow under your knees allows your pelvis, too, to rest in a stress free position. Also, check out our post on foods that help low back pain.
If sleeping on your back just isn’t working for you or if you’re pregnant and unable to sleep on your back, I would next recommend sleeping on your side. Again here, its important to pick a pillow that will not put your neck in too much or too little side tilting side but rather keeping it in line with the rest of your spine. Although side sleeping might be more comfortable for some, it may put the outside of your hip, the gluteus medius specifically, at risk for overstretching as your top leg relaxes at an angle below the horizontal. Your gluteus medius is one of the main stabilizers in the hip and is a key muscle in a number of daily activities such as walking, squatting, transitioning from sitting to standing, and even standing on one leg. If you choose to sleep on your side, I would recommend keeping a pillow sandwiched between your lower legs.
Unless you’ve found a different and unique way to sleep, your final sleeping-position-option is one I would not recommend: stomach sleeping. This is the hardest on your spine as you need to dramatically twist your neck to rest on your belly. Since your body works best balance, stretching and shortening the neck muscles can cause other problems in your upper back and neck. Additionally, it also shortens your pectoralis minor, causing your shoulders to round forward and put more stress on your cervical spine and mid back.