Most of us have spent years yearning for better posture. And if you’re stuck with a shoulder hunch, you may feel like your shot at having good posture has simply slipped away.
Not so fast.
The position you sleep in at night can actually improve your posture during the day, says Dr. Keren Day, an expert chiropractor who came aboard HuffPost’s special #SleepRevolution flight with JetBlue this week.
The key, Day says, is “staying as neutral as possible” in your sleep position. And for most people, that means sleeping on your back.
Day recommends sleeping “on your back with soft neck support and your knees elevated so your spine can stay neutral at night,” she told HuffPost. That way, your body will literally build itself a better posture.
The body’s main repair systems are most active at night, Day explains. They’re constantly laying down new tissues as we sleep (which is why it’s important to get a full seven to nine hours per night). The concept works something like this: If you’re laying in a neutral position, then your body will lay down new tissues into a straight, neutral line. But if you’re laying in a hunched, curled or other non-neutral position, those new tissues could build into a similar same shape. And that spells BAD news for posture.
The wrong sleep position could create injury, too, Day says. If you sleep face-down with your head turned sideways, you risk building stiffness over time, leading to one fateful morning when you wake up with extreme pain.
In other words, that “sudden neck pain” you have could really be an injury created slooowly over nights, months and years of sideways sleep.
But there is hope, Day says. Changing your sleep position can help. She recommends checking with a chiropractor or other sleep professional to determine the exact right sleep position for you, but sleeping on your back is a solid start.
Of course, sleeping on your back may take a few weeks of getting used to. And it won’t fully change your daytime posture if other health issues are at play.
BUT a new sleep posture can indeed reverse years of bad posture and bent-over back pain, if you’re the right candidate.
“Science used to say you couldn’t reset (your posture), but now we’re finding that you can reverse those things,” Day says. “Sometimes it’s instantaneous, and sometimes it takes months or years. But the reality is you can change over time, with the right exercise and sleeping habits. The right [sleep] position can help.”
It’s yet another beautiful reason to sleep on.