Back sleeper? Side sleeper? Front sleeper or all of the above? You can sleep in a wide variety of positions. Not one position is technically the “right” way to sleep, although there are strong arguments for some over others. However, front sleeping is by far the worse position. If you don’t believe me, try walking around with your head turned only to one side. It won’t take long for you to begin feeling neck pain, dizziness or neck/shoulder tension.
Your body just doesn’t like this even when you are standing upright and I promise you that it really doesn’t like it when you’re lying face down. Wrenching your head and neck round for even just a few minutes whilst sleeping can significantly strain the muscles and ligaments of your spine. Doing it repeatedly, and to the same side, for a few hours every night, for years, will slowly add pressure to your neck joints and nerves and cause you real problems.
What are the problems front sleeping causes?
It creates rotation in your spine. Unless you rest with your directly head face down into the pillow, which no one does or you suffocate. So you’re probably turning your head to the side and typically only one way.
Then, for the sake of argument, let’s say you stay in that position for an hour. This will put a lot of strain on your neck and upper back joints and causes impressive misalignment problems.
Now imagine if you sleep like that for 8 hours a night (that’s a 1/3 of your day) you’re spending a 1/3 of your life with your spine fully rotated, and most likely in only one direction, which will lead to severe back and neck pain.
Most people who front sleep also tilt their heads backwards at the same time which really jams their low-neck joints together. You can recognise these lot as they come into work in the morning with their heads held rigid mumbling: “I must have slept funny”.
Front sleepers can also place a static load on their jaw, which can stress the ‘chewing apparatus’. By sleeping in this front down position, part of your body’s weight falls on the lower jaw, forcing it laterally and unbalancing it. Exerting prolonged pressure on your jaw obstructs blood flow, traumatizes your teeth, gums, jaw joints, nerves and chewing muscles. Over time this will also cause disturbances throughout the rest of your body because the jaw is involved in posture and balance.
Importantly, it can also lead to misalignment of the pelvis leading to a functional leg-length inequality (which we’ve covered here) with all the problems this causes. If you sleep on your front you probably also do it in one position with one knee raised up. This means that your pelvis is loaded for a sustained period down a long lever, your femur, which can cause pelvic rotation across your sacroiliac joints. For most of us this is not too bad because we are not in the position for long but for those of you who are, especially those with ligament laxity, this is a real issue.
So, if you are a front sleeper you must try and break that habit. I’ll create a new blog with how this is best done shortly. Certainly, if you are getting neck or low-back pain then come and see me and let’s get it mended!