How many times have you woken up thinking, “how bad off am I that I wake up feeling like crap?” coupled with “it’s not a bad bed! The guy at the store said it’d be perfect for my back pain!”? You’re not alone. Several members of my family have been there. I’ve been there. The problem isn’t the bed; it really is you!
First, let’s look at how lying down affects your body.
When you lie on a bed on your back, the bed tends to sink in where there’s more pressure (and also less rigidity in the bed’s structure). Your butt tends to put the most pressure on the bed (why your bed tends to sag over time). You also get a lot of pressure at the mid-back (all those guts of yours), which causes your thoracic (upper) spine to round.
The pressure in your butt puts your pelvis into an anterior tilt, and the rounding of your upper spine causes the shoulder blades to be pushed out to the sides. These actions get your hips locked up, which affects your spinal mechanics, and exacerbate shoulder, elbow, and wrist problems.
Lying on your side is slightly better in that your hips are not forced into an anterior tilt, but your shoulders undergo a much stronger kind of rounding. The shoulder you lie on takes on a huge load and gets stuck in the rounded forward position over time.
Lying face-down, your shoulders will still tend toward rounding and your pelvis will still be dumped into an anterior tilt, though how severe likely depends on how big your tummy is.
So what’s the big deal with beds? Well, your shoulders round no matter what the position you sleep in and your pelvis gets dumped forward in 2 out of 3. And we haven’t even mentioned some of those “ergonomic” monstrosities that they sell as pillows that contort your neck into all kinds of strange positions!
Now I said that the problem is you, not the bed. That’s true. Short of never sleeping on cushioned surface again, your best bet is to strengthen and train your shoulder and hip stabilizers so that even 8 hours of sleep everyday won’t throw your shoulders, hips, and back out of whack.
By taking a little time daily to get your stabilizers active and engaged, you can make waking up more of a joy and less of a necessary (and painful) evil.