If You Sleep This Way, You Could Be Hurting Your Spine

When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, we all have our preferences. Some…

When it comes to getting a good night’s rest, we all have our preferences. Some of us need to be flat on our stomachs to get to sleep, while others have more complicated requirements, like needing to sleep on their side with a pillow between their legs. But while you may not be eager to change up what you know works for you, your preferred sleeping arrangement could be negatively affecting your health. According to experts, there is one sleeping position that has the ability to significantly strain your spine. Read on to find out if you’re guilty of this harmful nighttime habit.

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When it comes to your sleeping positions, experts recommend paying attention to what you’re doing with your legs. Twisting one leg over to the side while you’re sleeping can actually be harmful because “if you sleep in a twisting position, it can cause a misalignment of the spine,” says Nilong Vyas, MD, a sleep physician and medical review expert at the Sleep Foundation.

According to Derek Hales, a sleep expert and founder of NapLab.com, this misalignment occurs because your spine will twist to follow the twisting of your legs—which is not the natural position of your spine. “During the course of multiple hours sleeping like that it creates undue pressure on the spine, which creates pressure points in the joints, muscles, and ligaments of the lower back and shoulders,” Hales explains. “These pressure points are often the result of pain when sleepers awake in the morning.”

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Sleeping in a twisted position might feel comfortable at first, and you might not even notice the strain on your spine. But Alex Savy, a certified sleep science coach and founder of Sleeping Ocean, says that because this position causes your spine to twist in its lower section, this can lead to pressure build-up and pain over time. “And the worst part is tension accumulation can cause sleepers to experience pain in different parts of the body, including hips, lower back, upper back, and even neck,” he explains.

In fact, the various pains caused by this sleeping position might require you to seek professional help if you let it go on for too long. “A bad sleeping posture can lead to clinical symptoms such as back pain, neck pain, and other issues that are hard to deal with in the absence of care from an orthopedist, chiropractor, or physical medicine and rehabilitation physician,” warns Moshe Lewis, MD, a board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician.

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The problems with sleeping with your legs twisted don’t stop with back pain. According to Steve Hruby, a doctor of chiropractic and founder at Kaizen Progressive Wellness, this sleeping position can also result in numbness. “If you cross your legs while you’re sleeping on your side, it can compress the veins in your legs and restrict the blood flow,” he explains. “This can cause your feet and ankles to swell, and you may experience numbness or tingling in your legs.”

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And in general, sleeping with your legs twisted could just harm your health sleeping patterns. “It’s simply not a very restful position and can disrupt your sleep quality,” says Robert Pagano, a sleep expert and co-founder of Sleepline. “So overall, it’s best to avoid sleeping in this position if possible.”

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If you are not willing to give up your sleeping position, there are things you can do to prevent excess strain and create a healthier sleeping environment. According to Hurby, strategically placing pillows around your body can help bring your spine back to alignment—even if you are on your side with your legs twisted.

“If you’re struggling with these positions, try using a pillow to support your knees when you’re sleeping on your side, or put a pillow between your knees when you’re sleeping on your back,” he recommends. “You can also try sleeping on your back with a pillow under your head and a pillow under your knees to keep your spine in alignment.”

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