This is another one of those seemingly simple questions for which there’s no simple answer, especially when you consider that no matter what position you choose as you drift into sleep is not going to be maintained throughout the night as you move about.
However, while you have relatively little control over what positions your body will adopt of its own volition while you’re asleep, there are some things you can do that will help ensure that your back is going to derive the maximum benefit from your night’s rest. Here are some suggestions from the NBPA and other experts:
A good supportive pillow is important. Remember, that the main purpose of a pillow is to provide support for the neck rather than the head, and ideally your pillow should be such that it helps keep the neck vertebrae in a straight line with the vertebrae of the back. While most people do need a pillow, one that is too thick or too many of them can provoke neck pain.
Back pain sufferers may find that lying on their side with a thin pillow or a special pad lodged between their knees can considerably ease back discomfort.
If (as far as you know or from what your bed partner may have told you) you lie mostly on your back while you’re asleep, you may find that you get a better night’s rest by placing a pillow under your knees or supporting your legs from the knees down with cushions.
If you spend any time awake in bed, do change positions now and then.
Getting in and out of bed requires special care as it’s quite easy to set off back pain by doing this too hastily. The NBPA recommends: “When getting into bed, sit on the edge, lower your body onto the elbow and shoulder, draw up your knees until your feet are on the mattress, then roll your body over to face the ceiling. Reverse the procedure when getting out – and bend both knees.” Naturally, always move slowly and deliberately, and particularly so when getting up in the morning. Your back is often at its most vulnerable at that time because joints do tend to stiffen when they are not being used. While rest can help your spine in many ways, being mainly immobile while asleep can also leave it very stiff and perhaps painful when you wake.