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Reflections — Sleep position not as simple as just lying down

We spend roughly a third of our time asleep, assuming we’re getting the prescribed eight hours. The tragedy of such a major investiture of time is how much nonsensical screen time we miss out on.

Granted, many folks sleep much less and then there are those sloths who clock 10 hours or more and need an atom bomb attached to their alarm clock to get up in time for noon brunch.

Sleep is much more than just shutting out the horrors of the world. During sleep our body works to restore and repair itself. Your sleep position can either help or hinder that process, depending on how effectively it supports the natural curvature of your spine.

If you’re lucky and your spine is as straight as 6 o’clock, you can sleep any which way you want — on your back or your side or your stomach or hanging upside down like a bat.

But the spine usually develops a kink or two as we age. My spine is especially kinky, notable for having a dogleg left so pronounced I once woke up to find Tiger Woods hitting a draw on my back.

Of course, that night I slept on my stomach — a double bogey for a malformed spinal alignment.

A proper sleep position can relieve stress on your spine while an unhealthy position can increase pain or stiffness in your back, neck, arms and shoulders.

If you go to bed with a chip on your shoulder and use the wrong sleep position, you can wake up with a whole lumberyard on your shoulder.

Which is why passing out sprawled on a bunch of empty beer bottles is frowned upon by most sleep experts.

Sleeping on your side or back is considered more beneficial to keeping your spine supported and balanced than sleeping on your stomach.

More than 60% of people sleep on their side, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. As kids, our sleep positions are more varied than a Chinese menu. But by adulthood a clear preference for side sleeping emerges because the flexibility of our spine decreases.

Mike Zielinski ...
Mike Zielinski

Side sleeping also reduces heartburn and snoring, a real benefit to your bed partner if your snoring can be heard across several state lines.

But there’s always a but. Side sleeping can contribute to facial wrinkling since your face is pressed against the pillow, stretching and compressing your skin. So if your face is becoming more wrinkled than an elephant’s, try alternating sides.

Lying on your back is the second most popular sleep position. When you’re flat on your back it’s easy to keep your spine in alignment and to evenly distribute your body weight. Sleeping on your back can also relieve the congestion of a stuffy nose as long as you use an extra pillow. But if you use two extra pillows, you can wake up with a neck stiffer than a rusted periscope.

Sleeping on your back makes it easier for your soul to leave your body if you should die in your sleep. And if you do pass away, hopefully you recently purchased a bunch of bibles from Donald Trump to put you in good standing with God.

Lying on my back may be good for my mangled spine, but I could lie there forever and not fall asleep. I can never ever fall sleep on my back, even if I watch a Sleepy Joe Biden speech prior to hitting the sack. Don Quixote called sleeping on his back the impossible dream.

Stomach sleeping is the least popular position. Research suggests we spend less than 10% of our night sleeping on our stomach. That figure drops to 2.7% if you pack a gut bigger than a bowling ball.

Sleeping on your stomach can help relieve snoring by opening up your airway. But since life, even when comatose, always is a tradeoff, your ribs have to work against gravity in order to breathe while on your stomach. That forces you to use more energy and makes your sleep less restful and you more irritable than an alligator with psoriasis in the morning.

Indeed, divorce rates reportedly are higher among stomach sleepers. I’ve noticed my wife now is sleeping more on her stomach so I’m Googling divorce lawyers just in case.


Mike Zielinski, a resident of Berks County, is a columnist, novelist, playwright and screenwriter.


Source: Berkshire mont

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