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Here's a great post on sleeping positions from CrossFit Invictus (www.crossfitinvictus.com). How do you sleep? Post it to comments!
More On Recovery: How Much You Sleep – Part One
Written by Mike Hom
I will not be talking about how much you should sleep because I believe society has beaten that issue into the ground. The general rule of thumb is 7-9 hours of sleep is optimal. Do a search on sleep patterns and you will see certain populations advocating sleeping in approximately 90-120 minute cycles to go through the full gamut of sleep stages. I personally feel best rested when I sleep an amount of time that is in multiples of 30 minutes. This is purely anecdotal and, of course, differs from person to person. But I digress.
As far as recovery goes, trying to get 9 hours of sleep is great, but not everybody can afford 9 hours of sleep in this day and age. I am by no means a model of virtue when it comes to sleep. I might even sleep less than CJ, but I don’t think either of us wants to “win” that honor. Regardless, for those of us that fall into the category where sleep is at a premium, let me share something with you: Your sleeping position affects your recovery.
This is nothing new, but let’s examine common sleeping positions and how they affect your general posture – which translates to how you move in your every day life.
The Fetal Position
Most people instinctively sleep in this position because this is the position we were in when we were chillin’ in Mom’s belly. Let’s face it, it (usually) feels comfortable just out of habit. But think about the position you’re in. You’re sleeping on your side, which places a good deal of pressure on one of your shoulders for X amount of time you’re sleeping. Consider how you’re hunched over. That’s awesome for displacing your shoulder from proper glenohumeral positioning. Oh yeah, and that fetal position is great to keep your spine in a somewhat flexed state. Talk about posture “creep”! Aside from that state of flexion, your spine generally bends out of neutral alignment, most notably at the cervical vertebrae and the lumbar region. And finally, your hips will tend to rotate or tilt, depending on what side you typically sleep on, the firmness of your mattress, the positioning of your legs, and a host of other positional issues.
More tomorrow on sleeping positions. Notice how you settle yourself into bed tonight, and how you wake up in the morning. It could mean the difference between a great night’s sleep and a poor night’s sleep.
As we began discussing on yesterday’s post, your sleeping position affects your recovery, posture and a host of other factors that affect your overall fitness. We looked at the most common sleep position – the fetal position, but now let’s take a look at some of the other common sleeping positions and their potential affects on your well-being.
On Your Stomach (aka, “Freefaller”)
I can’t explain why, but it seems that more women than men prefer to sleep on their stomachs. In any case, sleeping on the stomach does some amazing things to help get your body into dysfunction. Let’s start with the spine. This may be news to you, but sleeping on your stomach adds this kind of “reverse creep” where your spinal vertebrae experience added pressure as a result of forced extension. Every time you breathe you add a tiny bit of pressure on your spine that, over time, could contribute to spinal degeneration. Aside from that, this extension of the spine and some forced contraction of the erectors can cause your abs to relax (think antagonist muscle groups). Do this long enough and you get a few things happening, including overcompensation of your hip flexors and habitual over-extension of your spine as a result of lazy abs. Moving up the body to the head, unless you take pleasure in sleeping with your face in the pillow, most people sleep on their stomachs with their head wrenched in one direction. Now I don’t know about you guys, but having my head forcefully turned to one side for more than 5 minutes leads to some extreme discomfort and gives me headaches. Without going into details, wrenching your head translates down your neck and into your shoulder girdle and can cause all sorts of muscular and cervical spine dysfunction.
On Your Back (aka, “Soldier”)
Most health practitioners advocate sleeping on your back. The reason is that sleeping on your back is most akin to standing in a neutral position. I used to be a fetal position sleeper myself until I started having odd shoulder pains. After reading up on sleeping positions, I trained myself to sleep on my back and I started to feel a lot better. Your back is neutral; your skeletal structure is neutral. The only real drawback is how your cervical vertebrae is aligned, depending on the type of pillow you sleep on and how many pillows you like to have below your head. In any case, sleeping on your back is most preferable as your body is mostly aligned correctly. I get it, though. Some folks find sleeping on their backs uncomfortable and almost “unnatural” – not to mention the potential discomfort for those who snore (or sleep in the same bed with those who snore).
There are plenty of other sleeping positions that could be discussed, but the takeaway here is that putting your body in an odd posture is not conducive to good sleeping and can affect your training. If you can sleep on your back, do it more often. If you can’t, try harder to sleep on your back, or at the very least, to sleep on your back as much as possible. I can’t guarantee you will have a better night’s sleep, but if you can get used to it, it will definitely help.