Tweed Heads Chiropractor – Dr. Scott Barbary

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Correct your Sleeping position

Getting your sleeping position right is vitally important for your neck and back, energy levels and general Health!


We all hopefully spend a third of our lives sleeping so it is vitally important to get this right. Generally speaking there are 3 main ways we can sleep:

1. Side (most common)
2. Back
3. Stomach


There are 2 great sleeping positions which are either on your back or side however, sleeping on your stomach is not. Stomach sleepers hyper-extend their lower backs and rotate their necks and middle backs all night, so I really do not recommend you sleep in this position.

That leaves the side lying and supine (on your back) sleeping positions, both are fine but you need to set things up correctly.

Pillow height is more important than your mattress

More on mattresses later but the first thing you need to get correct is your pillow height. This is different for both the side lying and supine positions.

Sleep position 1. Side lying


OK so to get this right follow the below points:

1.   Throw out your pillow – Yes that’s correct get rid of it for now at least! We are going to use towels to get the pillow height exactly correct for you.

2. Get 5-6 towels out of the cupboard and fold them in a concertina pattern like in the video. (I know that is a lot of towels but you need more than you think and we want this too high to start with)

3. Lay on your side using the towel as your pillow. If you have set this up correctly it should be too high at this stage. Now, peel off a single layer of towel and lay down again. Still too high? Then peel off another layer, repeat until you find the correct spot.


You will know you have it right when:

  • You feel balanced (Your body is not rolling forwards or backwards)
  • If the height is too high you will roll backwards
  • If it is too low you will roll forwards

Generally peoples pillows are much too low for sleeping on their side so their bodies tend to roll forwards. Usually they compensate for this by putting an arm under their pillow or a pillow between their knees. If you set up you towels correctly though you will not feel the need to do either.

Sleep position 2. On your back

Sleeping on your back is also fine, although generally people have their pillows much too high. A pillow that is to high will push your head forwards and encourage a forwards head posture that we see very often. It may even lead to or increase a rounded middle back and rounded shoulders.


To get this right follow these steps:

1. Get a single towel out of the cupboard. (Yes, we are using towels again, nearly all pillows will be too high)

2. Fold it so we have 5 layers under your neck and 3 layers under your head

3. That’s it! Simply lay on your back like the picture on the left

Don’t worry if it seems too low to begin with, this will alway seem strange to start with if you are used to an ordinary pillow



Common questions answered by our Chiropractor Dr Scott in Tweed Heads

Is it better to sleep on your side or your back?

It doesn’t matter both are fine, just pick the setup that is most comfortable to you. As long as you are not sleeping on your stomach you will do fine with either position.

I don’t want to sleep on towels, they are not soft and fluffy like pillows are?

Please understand that this page was written for my patients who are undergoing care in my office. For them getting this right is more important than it is for most people. So if you are in the early stage of care I would suggest that you make the effort to get this right.

Generally speaking towels are better than pillows as they will not crush down over night and you can adjust the height by one layer of towel at a time. If however, you really find the pillows too hard I suggest lowering the height to accommodate  a very small pillow on top of the towels (Only for side position). 

What if I change positions throughout the night?

If you get your towel height set up correctly you should not feel the need to change positions throughout the night. If you start on your side and roll onto your back the towel height will be much too high and will push your head very forwards. So you need to be very diligent in getting the height right and comfortable before you go to sleep. It may take some effort and a few tough nights to get this exactly right.