Do you wake up with a stiff neck or aching back? Your sleep position could be behind the problem.
A whopping 82% of Brits are sleeping in the wrong position for good posture, according to a YouGov poll.
The survey of 2,000 UK adults found only 18% of respondents slept in The Dreamer position, which is apparently the best bet for putting least tension on your spine.
Wondering what The Dreamer looks like? It’s described as “semi-foetal side lying” – as illustrated below.
The research was commissioned by pillow and mattress brand Levitex, who’ve worked with leading clinicians – including the company’s medical director Dr Ilan Lieberman, a pain medicine consultant and clinician at University Hospitals South Manchester – to better understand the importance of sleep positions.
The team declared The Dreamer to be the best position for night-time posture because it offers the best support for the head, neck, spine and hips, as it allows the body to rest in neutral alignment with no twists or bends through the night.
However, the survey revealed that The Heavy Lifter is the most popular sleeping position, with 20% of adults resting in this way at nighttime.
Those who sleep like this are setting themselves up for issues with sacroiliac joint problems, shoulder instability, and are likely to wake up with lower back pain, the researchers said.
Here are some of the other most-popular sleeping positions (and what they’re doing to your body).
The Hedgehog (otherwise known as curling into a tight ball) is another popular position, with 15% of Brits favouring it. But unfortunately, the researchers said this option can lead to tightness in the hip flexors, which can contribute towards hip arthritis or pain later down the line.
The Applauder is the position of choice for 14% of adults. Sleeping like this makes you rotate your spine and lengthens the piriformis muscle, leading to hip, lower back and neck pain, the researchers said.
If you’re anything like The Wrestler, you’re unfortunately causing spinal rotation and anterior shoulder instability. Around 5% of adults sleep in this position, but long-term impacts of this could include chronic shoulder pain and pins and needles in your arm.
Around 5% of adults also opt for The Soldier. Depending on your mattress, the researchers say this position can cause over extension of the lumbar spine, making you more prone to backache and general stiffness the next day.
But shouldn’t you just sleep in the position you find the most comfortable? Not necessarily, according to Levitex founder James Leinhardt.
“Just because it’s comfortable doesn’t mean it’s good for you,” he says. “The position you fall to sleep in at night could be killing your sleep quality – and might well be causing you more long-term impacts than you realise. If you wake up with neck and back pain, this could be why.”
So if you wake up aching regularly, why not try nodding off in a different position for a few days, or paying closer attention to your mattress and pillow (they could need replacing).
If backache persists, speak to your GP or a qualified physiotherapist.