AAnyone who has ever woken up with a stiff neck or aching shoulders knows the common refrain “you have probably just slept wrong”. But what does that even mean? To find out, I spoke to Mark Huntsinger, PT, a California physical therapist, and he informed me that the biggest culprit behind “sleeping badly” is the number of pillows you use each night.
“It’s a cliché to say, but we spend a third of our lives sleeping, so the position of our body is very important,” says Huntsinger. In a series of tutorials he posted on TikTok, he shared his favorite hacks for “sleeping properly” and stated that if you want to avoid back and neck pain, you need no fewer than four pillows.
It may seem like a lot, but according to Huntsinger, your joints will thank you in the morning for investing in a little extra padding. When you sleep with supportive pillows, each joint can rest in a “loose position,” which physiotherapists call them, which means there is little to no unnecessary pressure on them. Remember: Bend your knees to a 30 degree bend or rest your shoulders slightly forward.Using pillows to achieve this type of position while you sleep is the best defense against stiffness due to excessive pressure on your Joints and intervertebral discs become stiff and eventually lead to possible injury or mobility problems.
So grab these four (yes, four) fluff and read on to find out how to position them so you can avoid “sleeping badly” once and for all.
When you sleep on your back
Pillow one: This pillow should be tucked under your neck with the two bottom corners pulled towards the front of your shoulders to prevent it from rolling to one side while you sleep. Position it so your forehead is slightly higher than your chin, which will encourage primary neck relaxation.
Pillow two: Grab your largest, softest pillow and place it under your knees. The reason? The bent, elevated knee position helps relieve the strain on the lower back.
Pillows three and four: These pillows should be tucked under both elbows to lift them up easily and prevent them from pulling up or down your neck.
When you sleep on your side
Pillow one: Tuck this pillow between your head and shoulder so your head and neck rest comfortably.
Pillow two: Tuck the second pillow between your knees. This will protect you from rolling over onto your stomach and keep your legs from pulling on your lower back.
Pillow three: This pillow is intended for cuddling. Not only is this pillow soothing on a cold and lonely night, but it also prevents you from rolling over onto your shoulder.
Pillow four: This pillow should be placed behind you so that you don’t roll over on your back (which is known to require a completely different pillow shape) and to keep you in your comfortable side sleeping position.
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