The most common question I’m asked in the office is,
“What is the best position to sleep in?”
If I say, “On your side,” the girl might try it that night.
If I say, “On your side, because you have two sides,” she’ll sleep better twice as often and gain agency in having a choice.”
If I give a girl an answer, I give her a night’s rest. If I invest one minute to explain why position matters when sleeping, I teach her how to sleep for the rest of her life.
And so I invest.
The brain will allow sleep to occur when the need for sleep becomes louder than the other needs.
This means we can either ramp up the volume of the need for sleep by reaching exhaustion or we can decrease the volume of the other needs.
Tension is the volume of the needs. The primary indicator for needs being met is a reduction is residual tension (aka tone) and an experience of ease. The structure most sensitive to tension while sleeping is the spinal cord.
Getting our needs met creates ease in the spinal cord. We can reverse engineer this when going to sleep.
By creating ease in the spinal cord through positioning and breath, we communicate to ourselves that our other needs are met and sleep can win the night.
Steps for creating ease of the spinal cord:
1) Understand landmarks:
- Nose and chin indicate the alignment of the neck,
- Sternum shows the position of the thoracic spine,
- Pubic bone let’s us see where the lumbers lie
2) Align the landmarks
- Lie on on side
- Line up the nose, chin, sternum, and pubic bone
- Use pillows to bolster these landmarks into place (under head, between knees, under top arm to prevent mid-section twisting)
3) Distribute your entire body weight throughout your entire surface area
- Breathe as deeply as possible allowing your body to find its true shape, like a bounce house blossoming into an intricate castle as it infates.
- Exhale slowly and allow yourself to float back onto the bed applying even pressure among all the points of your body that are in contact with the bed
- Upon reaching the natural end point of the exhale, find your spine at neutral and at ease
4) Repeat until you wake up.
With this knowledge we avoid boxing ourselves into one “best” position for sleep. Rather, we are empowered to find our own best positions as we are guided by the principle of ease.