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Posture: Lying Down

April 30, 2014 by

Flickr User: Domenico Salvagnin - CC 2.0 GenericHabitual poor sleep posture can lead to unnecessary aches and pains, poor circulation, and reduces the health of your mechanical joints. Use the following tips for a better nights rest and maintaining overall health.

Sleep Positions for Back Pain

Back sleepers should place a pillow, or small rolled town underneath knees to help maintain lower-back curvature.

Side sleeping is healthiest and should be done with a pillow between legs, and have knees/legs drawn up slightly towards your chest.

Stomach sleeping is generally discouraged - but if you absolutely can't sleep any other way, Lori Burkhart of the ACA recommends placing a pillow under your pelvis and lower abodmen, and not using a head pillow.

During pregnancy, women should avoid sleeping on the back as it can lead to breathing problems, digestive problems, and decrease circulation due to the abodmen resting on intestines and major blood vessels. Side sleeping can be assisted through ergnomic pillows, or cradle sleeping pillows.

A Good Mattress and Pillow

Your mattress and pillows should be conducive to a natural sleep position. Ideally the mattress will conform to your spine's natural curves and maintain proper alignment. Memory foam pillows and mattresses can be used for this purpose - in general avoid sagging sleep support. Turn your mattress every few months and replace the mattress every 5-7 years - especially if you notice you or your partner unintentionally end up in middle of the mattress every night. 

Ergonomic pillows are available that accomodate your particular sleeping position mentioned above. These particular pillows reduce tension in the neck and spine, and provide greater support.


The American Chiropractic Association lists the following as general tips for proper posture while lying down:

  • Find the mattress that is right for you. While a firm mattress is generally recommended, some people find that softer mattresses reduce their back pain. Your comfort is important.
  • Sleep with a pillow. Special pillows are available to help with postural problems resulting from a poor sleeping position.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
  • Sleeping on your side or back is more often helpful for back pain.
  • If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs.
  • If you sleep on your back, keep a pillow under your knees.


Lori Burkhart, ACA director of publications
Proper Sleep Ergonomics
J Amer Chiropr Assoc 2011 May-June;48(4):17-18

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