If you've ever woken up with a stiff neck, you may have blamed it on
sleeping the wrong way. Although you may not always have control over how you sleep, it can still affect how your body is feeling when you wake up in the morning. According to experts, there are some fairly unexpected things that can happen to your body when you sleep the wrong way.
sleep position is necessarily 'wrong,' many people can find themselves sleeping at various angles that can put strain on specific body parts," Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, tells Bustle.
When a body part or muscle is stressed for a period of time throughout the night, it can leave you waking up with aches and pains the next morning. If this persists, Dr. Kansagra says those aches can quickly turn into knotted and strained muscles. In addition to that, not having "supportive sleep materials" such as
a good mattress, pillows, and lighting can lead to further strain.
Although Dr. Kansagra says that no sleeping position is necessarily incorrect, the way you sleep does still matter. So here are some things that can happen inside your body when you sleep in an uncomfortable position, according to experts.
1 You May Experience Numbness Or Tingling In Your Arms Or Hands
If you’re waking up with numbness or tingling in your arm or hand, there’s a good chance that you’re sleeping the wrong way. "The problem might be coming from your neck as the nerves can become irritated or compressed when sleeping on your stomach or side," physical therapist Tim Fraticelli, DPT founder of
PTProgress, tells Bustle. He suggests using a contoured pillow if you're a side-sleeper. This can help you find a neutral position to sleep in, so you can avoid compressing the nerves in your neck. 2 Your Elbow Or Wrist Nerves Can Become Irritated
This same numbness and tingling that you get in the arms or hands can also happen because of prolonged bending of the elbow or wrist. "If you’re clenching your pillow or sheets with a death grip, your ulnar and median nerves can become irritated," Fraticelli says. "This can be one of the reasons your hand stays asleep long after you’ve hit the alarm." According to him, your physician or physical therapist may suggest using a wrist brace to help keep your wrists from bending at night.
3 Your Dreams Can Be Influenced
A 2012 study published in the journal
Dreaming found that people who tend to sleep on their stomachs have more positive and sexual dreams. According to researchers, the pressure applied to a person's body when they're a stomach-sleeper can promote dreams of a sexual nature which include "being tied up and unable to move." Although this is definitely an interesting thing to try, researchers say forcing yourself to change your go-to sleeping position can get in the way of having a good night's sleep. 4 Women May Experience Lower Back Pain
Since some women might naturally have a wider pelvis, Fraticelli says that it’s common to experience a "shearing pain" along the lumbar spine when you lay on your side. "By placing a folded towel just above the hip bone (your pelvis), you can support your spine much better when sleeping on your side," he says.
5 Gravity Can Cause Your Tongue To Block Your Airways
Sleeping on your back is ideal if you want your spine to be aligned. However, Dr. Kansagra says this sleeping position will also allow for gravity to pull your tongue towards the back of the airway, making it narrower. "The narrower your airway, the more likely you are to snore," he says. Those with larger tongues can experience airway blockages much more frequently, which can result in
sleep apnea. 6 Your Internal Organs May Get Strained
Sleeping on your side can help with neck pain, but it also comes with its share of issues. As Dr. Kansagra says, "
Research indicates that sleeping on the right side of your body can worsen heartburn, while sleeping on the left side can put strain on internal organs such as your liver, lungs and stomach." 7 You May Experience Chronic Aches
"Be wary of sleeping on your stomach, as it can cause more strain to the back and neck in most situations," Dr. Kansagra says. If you're a snorer, sleeping on your stomach can help with that. But it can also lead to chronic aches due to your head being kept to one side for long periods or time. If you like sleeping on your stomach, just be sure to have a firmer surface to sleep on so it can properly support your body.
According to Dr. Kansagra, "Getting adequate sleep is vital to sustaining attention, developing long term memories, maintaining good mood, and helping in reducing signs of depression and anxiety."
So if sleeping the wrong way is causing you to have aches and pains, completely changing your sleeping position isn't the best thing to do. Instead, you should start by making small changes to your sleeping habits or positioning. Forcing yourself to sleep in a certain way when you're not used to it, will only result in frustration and a lack of sleep. So go slow. Making small changes every so often can make all the difference over time.