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Supported Sleep for Better Rest and Recovery

When you lay down to sleep, your body and brain have the opportunity to recover from the stresses and challenges of the day. We do this best when we get into deep sleep, but how many people don’t get good deep sleep because they are uncomfortable or in pain? We are going to go over tactics to make you more comfortable so you don’t have pain, you don’t toss and turn, and you can get into that deep sleep that your body and mind need.

When we think about our sleep position, we may see different preferences for different people. That’s good! We all have different bodies. We all have different needs. And we all have different things that are soothing to us. We shouldn’t all sleep the same way, because we aren’t the same people with the same needs.

Some bodies like firm support, some bodies like soft acceptance. Some people like sleeping on their sides, while others may prefer their backs, or on the belly. If you are a person that flips and flops and changes all throughout the night, then you are probably doing that because you are uncomfortable. If you had the right support, and had more comfort, you wouldn’t toss and turn as much, and you would get better, deeper sleep.

If we look at our body from any angle, we see that our bodies are not straight and not flat. We have curves, and different shapes, and some areas are bony while other areas are soft. How do you think our body is going to get comfortable on a flat surface when our bodies aren’t flat? Also, do you think that you and another person sleeping in your bed are going to like the same surface? Does your body have the same shape and needs as someone else’s? Would you like to have your sleeping surface customized to your body?

We can do that with a few simple things that you already have around the house. All you need is pillows, and a towel. You can customize your sleeping surface to give you better support, and that leads to better rest.

The big concept here is that your body wants full support. The more we can contact to body, the more it can relax. We know that force spread over surface is more comfortable. If you take the palm of your hand and press it firmly against the opposite forearm you will notice some pressure, but not any discomfort. Now if you take a single finger and apply the same force to the opposite forearm, you will find that uncomfortable. It’s the same force, but the contact surface has changes. A bigger surface like your palm is comfortable, while a small surface like you finger is uncomfortable.

If we look at your body the same way, we can see how having less contact with the surface results in more force at the contact points. More force can become uncomfortable.

Also, if we look at your body’s contours, we can see how some areas may not actually be in contact with the surface at all. Think about the space under your low back while laying on your back. Your low back naturally arches away from the surface. That arch is constantly getting pulled down on by gravity. Your muscles have to stay slightly active to support that arch so it doesn’t collapse. That means that your muscles arena’t actually turning off over night, and they aren’t actually resting. If you can fill in that arch, then the muscles can relax without the risk of the arch collapsing. Make sense?

So, how do you spread contact surface and support the unsupported arches of the body? You add pillows and towels!

Let’s start with laying on your back.

When laying on your back you want to have a pillow or folded towel underneath your neck. We like using pillows under our head, but it’s actually our neck that needs support. Your skull is bony and hard, but your neck is soft and arched. This is why some pillows are thicker under the neck part. This is also why you want to squish your pillow under your neck, or maybe even place a hand under the pillow to make the neck support more.

If we look at your low back here, you are again arched away from the surface. Take a towel (hand towels work well), fold it into a strip that is 2-4” wide and 1-3” thick, and place it under your low back. The towel should go left to right, not up and down. Now you have support under the arch. It’s important the towel is folded and not rolled. A rolled towel will create a fulcrum point.

Lastly, think about your thighs. You hips and butt are thicker than your thighs, which means your thighs have to angle down toward the surface. That creates tension in your hips and alters your pelvic and spinal position. Take a pillow and put it under your legs. Many people will put a pillow under their knees. Instead, pull the pillow up to your butt bones. This way the whole thigh is supported.

Now with a pillow or folded towel supporting your neck, a folded towel supporting your low back, and a pillow supporting your thighs, you can feel relaxed and supported while laying on your back.

Neck, low back, and leg support for better back sleeping.

What about sleeping on your side? The concepts are the same, but a few minor tweaks to accommodate the position change.

When laying on your side, your shoulders are much wider than your head. You need a thicker pillow, a squished pillow, two pillows, or your arm underneath to support your head and neck. In this position, we do want to support your skull while also having increased support under your neck.

At your waist, you will use the same folded towel as laying on your back. It may need to be folded thicker, and you will place it between your rib cage and your pelvis, right at the small of your waist.

For your legs, you again want a pillow between your legs and pulled all the way up to your pelvis. Because your hips are wider than your legs, if you don’t have support your top leg will pull down on your pelvis altering how your spine rests. Again, many people put a pillow between the knees, but they really need to pull it up to their crotch.

Supported sleep positions for better recovery and rest

Switching sides? Not much need to change what you’re doing. Even when going onto your back, you only need to change the pillow from between your thighs to behind your thighs.

Now what about belly sleeping? Belly sleeping is completely fine, as long as you have the neck mobility to lay with your head turned comfortably. In this position, a pillow under your shins will help support your lower leg. Not much other support needed here.

If you’re a half side half belly sleeper, we can combine those two to get you comfy. Use a squished pillow and/or an arm to support your neck. Use a folded towel to support your waist. Use a pillow up to your groin to support your top leg. You can place a pillow under your top arm for support too. All the way up into the armpit.

Half belly half side supported sleep with pillows and towels.

Now, that’s lots of info, but it’s really the concept you need to understand. If you understand supporting the unsupported areas and spreading out the contact surface then you can apply this to any position. Let’s have you test it out before you go to sleep. If you want a video to see how it goes, check it out here.

Pick your preferred sleeping position and see how it feels. Then position the pillows and folded towels to give yourself more support and see how that feels. Then take away the added support and see how that feels. You will notice a difference from when you have the right support and when you don’t.

If you get yourself into a good supported position, you will toss less, sleep deeper, and be more comfortable and restored when you wake the next day. Try it out, get a good night of sleep, and feel refreshed in the morning. #snowbeastperformance

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