If you’re a back sleeper, then you are a rare breed — most sleep studies estimate that back sleepers account for only 10% of all sleepers. If this is your natural sleep position, you’re in luck. Sleeping on your back is considered by many sleep experts to be the most beneficial position for back and spinal health, and helps promote healthy circulation throughout the body during sleep. The benefits of back sleeping are so widely known that many sleep experts even suggest that people who experience back and neck pain to try sleeping on their back instead!
While there are plenty of sleep tips that apply for just about anyone who needs some quality shuteye, there are a few extra tips to help you snooze soundly as a back sleeper. Next time you’re tucking in for the night, consider these helpful tricks to getting more restful and restorative sleep on your back!
Sleep with your head and shoulders slightly elevated.
As a back sleeper, you need the right amount of support for your neck and head when you sleep. That’s because back sleepers are more likely than other types of sleepers to experience acid reflux. By ensuring that your head is positioned above your esophagus and stomach, you can help reduce the chance of food and acid creeping back up your throat.
There are two ways to get this lifting effect. The first is to purchase a firmer pillow with higher loft. If you already have issues with acid reflux and heartburn, consider buying an adjustable foundation that can provide more uniform support for your head and shoulders throughout the night.
Find a pillow that contours to the curves of your neck and shoulders.
When you sleep on your back, proper support of your neck and shoulders is paramount to maintaining healthy spinal alignment. Back sleepers need to pay special attention to the kind of pillow they are using, since this position requires a bit of extra support of the head. For back sleepers, most sleep experts recommend pillows made of a material with natural contouring properties, like memory foam or latex foam.
Opt for a firmer mattress (but not too firm).
Back sleepers require more consistent support for pressure points, and are more likely to experience back pain if they sleep on a surface that is too soft. Back sleepers should also be particular mindful of replacing their mattress every 8 to 10 years, since natural sinkage over time can lead to more pronounced pain for back sleepers.
Of course, a mattress that is too firm is likely to have the same effect, since it puts too much pressure on your hips and shoulders, causing your mid-back to hover uncomfortably over your bed. If you’re a back sleeper, opt for a mattress that is soft enough to allow the small of your back to rest comfortably on the bed, but isn’t so soft that your hips sink further than your shoulders. The perfect firmness level will depend on your weight and height as well as your sleep position, so don’t be afraid to ask a sleep specialist if you aren’t sure.
Sleep with an extra pillow underneath your knees.
Many back sleepers experience mid- and lower-back pain because of their chosen sleep position. If you sleep on your back, a great way to minimize pressure on your lower back is to provide a bit of extra support beneath your knees. With either a rolled up towel or an extra pillow, prop up your knees a few inches to relieve pressure on your mid- and lower-back. Better yet, invest in an adjustable bed frame that can more uniformly lift and support your needs and legs at night.
Eat a light dinner.
Back sleepers are at greater risk of experiencing painful acid reflux than other sleep positions, so it’s especially important to eat a light dinner at least three hours before bed. Eating just before you go to sleep may cause food and acid to back up into your esophagus, so stick to lighter fare for your evening meal.