Learn How to Sleep on Your Back (It Isn’t Easy)
May 17, 2013 • By
If you’re able to sleep on your back, you’re one of the few. Only 14% of us sleep on our backs. What’s so great about it? Back sleeping can help to reduce back and neck pain, minimize the effects of acid reflux, decrease wrinkles, and even help to maintain perky breasts.
While back sleeping can exacerbate snoring issues for some and isn’t recommended during pregnancy, it’s considered the healthiest way to sleep. Sleeping this way makes it easy for your head, neck, and spine to maintain a neutral position; they’re in near ideal alignment when lying on a flat surface. Most doctors and sleep experts recommend it–if you can pull it off.
It’s possible to learn how to sleep on your back, but it’s not easy for everyone.
Generally I sleep on my side, but I’ve noticed that lately I’ve found myself occasionally waking up on my stomach. I’ve starting to develop a few random aches and pains, mostly in my back, and I worry that it may have something to do with my sleeping habits. I recently decided to try to sleep on my back so that I might get a little relief. I did some research and armed with a few tips I discovered online, I committed to a best effort attempt at healthy back sleeping!
How to Sleep on Your Back–First a Few Tips:
- Use positioning pillows. Extra pillows in the bed can help to keep your body positioned in whatever specific way works best for you. A pillow under each arm is a preferred technique, but do whatever works for you.
- Keep a pillow under your knees to help maintain proper alignment of your back. This can help if you’re experiencing any lower back discomfort.
- Be persistent. Always roll to your back when you catch yourself positioned otherwise.
- Use a pillow that will hold your head in place. What’s the best pillow for back sleepers? A malleable type like a buckwheat pillow works well. It will prevent your head from rolling from side to side and give you the best support.
My Back Sleeping Experience
I already have a great pillow. I love it—a buckwheat pillow. Most often, I sleep on my side, so it’s stuffed pretty full, with about 8 lb. of buckwheat hulls. I removed some of the fill to make it flatter, making it more conducive to back sleeping (when on your back there’s a much smaller space to fill between your head and the mattress).
“Perfect, this will be no problem,” I told myself. How wrong I was.
My first night on my back was a total failure. I was exhausted and gave up after just a few minutes. “Tomorrow” I told myself. So much for best efforts…
The following day at bedtime, I laid on my back reading and within about a half hour my lower back became slightly uncomfortable. Initially it wasn’t anything resembling pain. It wasn’t something I’d have noticed under normal circumstances-typically I’d just roll over to my side and the discomfort would immediately disappear. I resisted the urge to do so. Soon the slight discomfort became a dull ache. It wasn’t working. I pulled out another pillow and placed it under my legs. Still, the back pain persisted. I gave up and fell asleep on my side.
*edit 3/5/2015* If you’re experiencing lower back pain, it is also recommended that you stretch your hip flexors before sleeping.
It was more or less the same for the next few days: a real struggle. To make any real progress, I had to experiment a lot with the pillows. I found that initially the pillow I used under my legs was a little too small and didn’t elevate them high enough to prevent the discomfort I was feeling in my lower back. I’m using a larger pillow now which has solved that problem. To prevent myself from rolling over, I’m using a buckwheat pillow under each arm. This really helps to keep me anchored to my back (it’s also surprisingly comfortable).
Finally after 5 days of trying, I fell asleep on my back. Of course I woke up in the morning on my side, so there’s no telling how long I managed to stay in that position. My guess is not long. However, I feel like that was progress and I’ll keep trying.
The most important of the tips listed above is be persistent. I found it incredibly difficult at first to resist the urge to roll onto my side. It’s hard to think rationally when you’re exhausted! It took a whole week just to get to the point where I could fall asleep on my back. I’m still not a back sleeper and to be honest I’m not sure I can do it. I’m going to continue, but I’m not sure if this is a something that I can turn into a habit. Try my recommendations yourself and let us know your experience in the comments below.