To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

To Sleep, Perchance to DreamTo sleep, perchance to dream. I haven’t written about sleeping, one of my favorite topics, in a while. As infants and children we ideally spend half of the day sleeping and as adults it is good to spend a third of the day lost in slumber.

I don’t think I have slept eight hours in a night in the last thirty years but it is a fantasy I aspire to. It is a no brainer for people to understand how harmful it can be to spend too much time at a desk with bad posture. The same logic should be applied to sleeping since we do it for a sustained period of time each day in relatively the same position. A great many people suffer from lower back pain simply because of the way that they sleep.

There aren’t that many sleep positions—but some are much better than others. Classically, and in the past I have always agreed with this, sleeping on the back in the best way to sleep. Over the past year I have started to change my tune in certain cases. My job boils down to looking at bodies and I look at a lot of them. Savasana, or corpse pose in yoga, which we do at the end of each yoga class is one of my favorite opportunities for getting to know the bodies of the students I am working with.

A relaxed body doesn’t lie and the way legs and feet flow out of the hip sockets tells you a great deal about the balance and tone of the leg muscles. The variations that I see when people are lying down are numerous. Ideally the feet are about six inches apart and the feet are hanging at about a forty-five degree angle. That is rarely the case. Often someone has one foot at forty-five degrees and the other is completely turned open to the floor. Just as often, both feet are completely, or almost completely, flopped open. I have come to decide that these people are not served by sleeping on their backs because it will only reinforce negative patterns. The most compelling argument about the need for adequate core tone in the body can be made in regards to sleeping.

The ideal leg position that has the feet hanging at forty-five degrees would be due to a balanced musculature of the inner and outer leg. No one should sleep on the stomach—that I haven’t changed my mind about. Sleeping on the stomach pushes against the front of the lower spine, reducing the all-important curve of the lumbar spine. No good can come from that.

Just as bad is sleeping on our side but with one knee hiked up higher than the other knee. Any discrepancy in the knees can lead to trouble because when the knees are not lined up the hip bones and sacrum are also out of line. The way to sleep, from my perspective, is on your side with the legs almost straight and the knees in line.  I put a thin pillow between my thighs so the bones of my knees don’t knock. I got rid of the pillow for a while but it made its way back in of late. Later this week I will post about the difficulty I am having with sleeping on my side. Stay tuned.

Shoulder Stretch: Fight/Flight
Sunday Morning Music: Pamela Means