We Need Our Sleep

Sleep, sleeping positions, posture, Dr Beverley Marr

Unfortunately, most of us do not get enough sleep.

There is nothing new about that statement. But did you know our sleeping positions do have an impact on us and can be even harmful?

Sleep is as important as taking a breath, drinking water and eating.

Without it, humans experience intolerable psychological effects like severe paranoia and hallucinations, and there is evidence sleep deprivation can cause permanent brain damage. Although there is no reliable documentation linking lack of sleep as a direct cause of premature mortality, we do know prolonged sleeplessness causes a drop in body temperature (hypothermia), suppression of the immune system among other side effects.

This raises a question. Is it postpartum depression or a lack of sleep? According to a recent study,

Each child in a woman’s home increases her lack of sleep by 46%.

For the record, bedtime does not always equal sleep time. Watching TV, browsing the web, reading or just staring at the ceiling often replace dreamland. It’s not that easy to turn off the mind or become physically comfortable enough to drop off into bliss.

Did you know warm hands and feet help us to fall asleep, but a cool body helps to keep us soundly asleep? Interesting work done by Dr Matthew Ebben, a sleep expert at the Center for Sleep Medicine, New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

I’m often asked for my opinion on what is the best type of bed to purchase. The bedding industry is enormous. I have often wondered about the profit margins manufacturers must enjoy given their prime retail spaces and so few customers anytime I visit.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying a bed:

sleeping, position, alignment, beds, posture, Dr Beverley Marr

  • Firm is better than soft
  • Memory foam mattresses are temperature dependent. That means, the colder the room the harder the mattress, warmer has the opposite effect.
  • Most memory foam mattress manufacturers have solved the problem of their mattress being too hot by introducing small holes all over the mattress.
  • The most expensive commercial bed is made by Haasten’s, a Swedish manufacturer. The beds are glorious and so is the price tag. One model is greater than $100,000. A new Bentley or a new bed?
  • Manufacturers often guarantee a 20 – year life cycle for a mattress, even though most mattresses lose their supportive quality after about 7 years
  • On the fence about buy a new mattress, yours is only 10 years old? Think about dust mites, perspiration, humidity levels and other fluids that have been seeping into your sleeping surface over the 3500 times you have used it.
  • Buying a new mattress takes time. Try out as many as you can and spend about 15 minutes per test. If you and your partner are going to use it, plan on several hours to choose one good for both of you.
  • Beds with different settings for both of you is a good idea.
  • Water beds, forget about it.


There are three main sleeping positions: on your back, on your side, on your stomach. Two of the three are perfectly fine, one – not so good.

Side sleepers

Most people sleep on their side. This is a good position. Your body is basically aligned with no predominant pressure on any one organ. Side-sleeping is not-so-good if your flex your neck too far forward.

Best side- sleeping hints:

Bend your knees slightly.

Try and keep your upper back and your neck in the same line.

side sleeping. pregnancy, posture, Dr Beverley Marr


Pregnant women should sleep on the left side with extra pillows. One for between the legs and a small one tucked under your belly for support. Left sided sleeping encourages the baby to move to the left and is the optimal position for birthing (left side, head down).




Some people avoid side sleeping as it can promote facial and chest wrinkling. For women, wearing a soft bra to bed can help with keeping your chest line free and also helps to decrease breast sag, the ligaments do stretch.

If you have sciatica, sleep with the bad side up, deeply bend your knees toward your chest, and put a firm pillow between your knees to keep everything aligned.

If you have a bad shoulder, sleep with the bad side up! Putting a pillow in front of you to drape your bad arm across will help.

The best PILLOW is on that is 2” to 3” thick, firm enough to maintain good spine and neck alignment but comfortable enough to cradle the head. Tempurpedic pillows are hard when you start but do soften to almost flat when they get warm, something to consider.

I love Talalay pillows (shredded rubber, renewable, naturally anti-microbial, machine washable but more expensive).

Back Sleepers

back sleeping, posture, Dr Beverley Marr

Back sleeping is great for your spine. There is not excess pressure on any organ and it’s good for your circulation.

Back sleeping is also preferred if you have a shoulder injury or arthritis of the ribs (costochondritis), or hips. Arthritis is not only for the older crowd. Many young professional athletes have arthritis as a result of injury.


If you are normally a side or stomach sleeper, sleeping on the back is necessary if you have a cold, GI problems like a hiatal hernia, acid reflux, nasal congestion due to allergies. With any of these conditions, it’s a good idea to rotate your pillow so it is long wise, as opposed to perpendicular to your spine. Lay your entire back on the pillow, positioning it from low back to the bottom of your skull. Using your pillow this way will raise your torso up high enough to help you breathe and digest better. You can add another pillow for your head if you need extra neck support.

Unfortunately, if you are a snorer, or have sleep apnea, back sleeping can make matters worse. Your sleeping partner probably doesn’t like it either. Snoring is caused by your tongue falling back into your airway, causing you to abruptly gasp for or exhale a breath. Having a few cocktails can raise the noise level of your snoring to make you a very unpopular bedmate. Also, snoring is very drying to the mucosal tissue in your nose and throat.

snoring, sleep, posture, Dr Beverley Marr

Best back sleeping hints:

If you have back pain or sciatica, put a pillow under your knees. This rounds the low back and takes the pressure off the nerves.

If your partner is a snorer, try to get them to sleep on their side, then tuck a pillow against their spine making it more difficult for them to roll onto their back.

The best PILLOW should be moderately firm about 3” high and one that will cradle the head. Placing part of the pillow under the top of your back as well as your head is even better. I prefer a natural pillow fill like down or Talalay rather than polyurethane (plastic).

Stomach Sleepers

Sleep positions, posture, Dr BeverleyMarr

There are a lot of you! Maybe it had to do with Mom putting you to sleep on your stomach, a big no-no, later on this*.

Stomach sleeping puts enormous pressure on your chest and your stomach affecting all the organs therein. It overarches your low back. Your head is twisted in rotation so you can breathe. Stomach sleeping is bad if you have seasonal allergies because you are breath allergens directly in from your pillow (from your hair). Also, dust mites.

Sleeping on your stomach increases facial wrinkles and encourages bone spurs in your neck. I see cervical bone spurs frequently from self-confessed stomach sleepers.

Eventually, most stomach sleepers experience numbness and tingling in the arms and hands. Be it nerve compression or blood flow inhibition, it is not good.

The only reason to sleep on your stomach is if you have a sunburn on your back!


Best stomach sleeping hints:

You can retrain yourself to sleep on your side or your back. Begin by laying on your side and tuck about a third of a pillow, lengthwise, under your side in front of you. This makes it more difficult to roll onto your stomach. Every time you wake up finding yourself on your stomach, roll to your side or back. It takes about a month to change the habit. Remember, pregnant women can’t sleep on their stomachs and surely some were stomach sleepers prior to their pregnancy.

Here are some interesting facts about sleeping:

sleep positions, posture. Dr Beverley Marr

  • Most people move about 20 times or more times throughout the sleep. Obvious for those whose beds look like a wrestling match has taken place. But what about those who have nary a wrinkle in the bedcovers?
  • The higher the altitude the poor the sleep. It’s even worse above 13,200 feet, probably due to lower oxygen levels. We do adjust to higher elevations and it takes about two weeks.
  • People experience better and deeper sleep during a new moon. Conversely, most people experience a more unsettled sleep and for a shorter time during a full moon.
  • It is relatively common for deaf people to use sign language when they are dreaming.
  • Blind people dream about emotions, sounds, and smells, rather than sight when they sleep.
  • Humans are the only animals who willingly delay or avoid sleep.
  • It has been estimated that about 15% of the population sleep walk.
  • About 25% of married couples sleep in separate beds.
  • Tolerance to pain is decreased by those who have sleeping problems.
  • Fear is not what causes people to have nightmares. It’ grief, and guilt.
  • Three-quarters of us dream in color. Before the invention of color TV, that number was only 15%.  No definitive reason why.
  • According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 36% of us drive drowsy or fall asleep behind the wheel.
  • People who don’t get enough sleep are heavier and have bigger appetites. It has been shown their leptin levels (an appetite-regulating hormone) decrease, making them hungry at night.
  • Insomnia is more frequent in divorced, widowed and separated people.
  • Better than 50% of your dream is forgotten within 5 minutes of waking. After 10 minutes, 90% of the dream is gone.


Before Your Get Out Of Bed

Here is a quick and easy stretching program for you to try before you get out of bed in the morning. This is very helpful if your back is often stiff in the morning.


* Before 1992 is was considered perfectly normal to put babies on their stomachs to sleep. After a groundbreaking study showed the correlation between Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and stomach sleeping, pediatricians in the U.S. changed their opinion. As a result of this change, SIDS was decreased by a whopping 50%!

Dr Beverley Marr, pureposture


Dr Beverley Marr, posture expert, chiropractor, co-founder of PurePosture. She believes poor posture is a root cause of many health issues prevalent today. To read about Dr Marr click here. To learn more about PurePosture click here.

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