12:09 21 September in Pillow Talk

(Part 1 of 2 ~ Body Position)

by Carrie Mayes, D.C. — Author of Good Posture Made Easy: Look and Feel Your Best for Life


Most people realize that:

  • posture is important
  • their posture is less than perfect
  • computer, tablet and phone use contribute to poor posture in themselves and their children
  • they have posture when they are vertical (sitting and standing)


Most people do not realize that they have posture when they sleep! It is absolutely true that we have posture when we are horizontal and sleeping postures are some of the greatest culprits related to back and neck pain as well as other health issues, like headaches. If you wake up with pain or discomfort in your body that gets better as the day goes on, only to reappear the next morning, chances are good that it has something to do with your sleep.


The three primary factors affecting sleep posture are body position, pillow, and mattress.



What is the best body position for sleeping, you ask? It is the one that allows you to maintain the ideal postural alignment similar to sitting and standing. Simply put, from a side view, connecting the dots of the ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle should always make a straight line. (When seated, hips, knees and ankles are bent at 90°.) From the front of the body view, the left and right sides should be symmetrical. This image should make it easier to picture ideal posture:

 [Image from Good Posture Made Easy by Carrie Mayes©2014]


When sleeping, proper alignment looks more like this:

 [Image from Good Posture Made Easy by Carrie Mayes©2014]

(Side sleepers may find it helpful to place a pillow between their knees to support ideal symmetry.)


If you are trying to “diagnose” a sleep posture problem, I suggest going from least to most expensive: check your body position first, your pillow second and your mattress last.


Chances are good that you have been sleeping in a poor sleeping position for years and it will take a few nights or weeks to get used to a new one. Changing a bad sleep habit will be worth it in the long run…I have had patients who slept horribly for years and after a week or so of adopting a new sleep position slept better than ever!


There are two particular sleeping postures that are eventually going to cause problems:

  • stomach sleeping
  • sleeping with one or both arms up over the head (back sleepers) or under the head (side sleepers).


If you are observant, you already noticed  that there is no diagram shown here for proper stomach sleeping…that is precisely because there is no way to have proper postural alignment when stomach sleeping! There is only one recommendation if you are a stomach sleeper: stop it! If you have shoulder pain/problems and sleep with your arm over or under your head, that is likely to be a contributing factor.


Some people notice a positive difference immediately after changing a sleep posture while others take up to a few weeks to be comfortable with it. Changes should not cause any pain, but bad habits are often “comfortable” even if they aren’t good for you!


In Part 2, next month, we will take a look at the other 2 factors: pillows and mattresses. Both of which are significant supporting factors to ideal sleep posture.


Click here to purchase your copy of Good Posture Made Easy: Look and Feel Your Best for Life