It’s intriguing how profound is the impact of sleep on our daily life. It’s not only the quality of sleep that has a big effect on your health and wellness, but also your sleeping posture that can cause short-term as well as long-term complications for our bodies. Amongst all the curiosity around sleep, one of the most pressing questions still remains unanswered - how does sleeping posture impact our body posture when we are awake? Does sleep posture even impact our day posture or is it vice versa?
The answers to these questions aren’t straightforward. Therefore, before we understand the cause and effect of body postures, we need to know how postures develop and what happens to the body after they are developed.
The Science Behind Postures:
Postures have long-lasting impacts on the human body. Interestingly, the evolution of great apes to humans had a lot to do with postures. There are a number of theories on how great apes or hominids became bipedal or started walking upright and evolved into humans. All those theories, formulated by hundreds of researchers, have several explanations with one common theme - the need for the apes to be more efficient.
For example, one theory states that the need for apes to walk on two legs arose when they found it extremely hard and time-consuming to find food in the wake of seasonal variation in the African forest due to climate change. Females raising offspring found it even harder to get food.
Consequently, in a mutually beneficial arrangement, males who were able to get food for the females got exclusive mating privileges in exchange for food. To get mating privileges, males went to far-flung areas in the forest and brought food to their female partners. To carry that food, males needed to keep their hands free, therefore they started walking on legs, using their hands exclusively to carry food. That’s how bipedalism evolved according to this research. The theory was further supported when chimpanzees were observed walking bipedally while carrying valuable or rare foods.
Another theory states that our ancestors had to cross vast stretches grasslands to move from one forest to another. As forest shrank, the need to find new homes increased significantly since resources kept getting scarce in smaller forests. To walk faster on vast grasslands, apes had to walk bipedally, as walking on legs was the most energy-efficient way of covering large distances. That’s also how bipedalism evolved. This theory was further supported when it was discovered in research that chimpanzees require 75% more energy than humans while walking on a treadmill.
While all such researches have different theories, yet it is abundantly clear that apes changed their postures while walking to achieve their objective. They kept walking upright for long periods and evolved into two-legged humans. Similarly, the postures that we maintain for long periods ultimately have an impact on all aspects of our body including how we sit, how we walk, and how we sleep. For example, if you constantly have to look downwards to get a good view of your computer screen, you will end up with a tilted head at all times while being awake.
Not only the physical body characteristics, but your postures also affect other important body functions like digestion, blood circulation, breathing, and sleeping. For example, a tilted head makes a simple exercise like breathing much more effortful. The brainy humans of the present world have achieved the best of their bodily evolution. Therefore, to not worsen the body structure, it is important to maintain a good posture.
In a “good posture,” your head is centered above your pelvis, while you go about your daily activities. That also applies to sleeping. Any posture, that changes the position of your head, will require more energy from the muscles to maintain your head’s position. When an improper head position continues for a while, it leads to multiple undesired body complications like back pain and neck pain. Your muscles don’t need to work as hard when your head’s position is straight like an ice cream scoop sitting on a cone. A straight head keeps everything in order.
How are Sleeping and Day Postures Different?
While being awake, you are either on your feet or on your bottom, making it simple to maintain an upright, straight head position. You can also make a cognitive effort to change your posture during the day. However, when you are asleep, the cognitive response is virtually absent, and keeping the head straight becomes difficult. Moreover, people prefer different postures to doze off comfortably and that posture can be good or bad, depending on how your body is supported throughout the sleep episode.
Sleep postures have a bearing on the quality of sleep and other support and repair functions of your sleep. Therefore, it is important to know your sleep posture well and correct the bad postures if you are facing consistent health conditions like back, neck, or shoulder pain.
How Sleeping Postures Impact Your Day Postures?
Improper sleeping postures can have a significant negative impact on your sleep quality and hence your overall health. Different sleeping positions affect your body functions differently with some major or minor side effects that can become chronic if not addressed for a long time.
The optimum sleeping posture is the one that keeps your spine in natural shape without altering the balance too much. If your sleep posture puts excess weight on any one body part supported by the spine, you will encounter a host of back and neck problems. For example, when you sleep on your stomach, your spine takes some extra stress, leading to flattening of its natural curvature. Your head will also be turned to one side, making your muscles work harder to keep the head turned. Combine these issues with a bad mattress and you get yourself some neck and back pain, that will not only impact your sleep quality but also your posture during the day. You will be constantly trying to maintain a certain posture to avoid the pain.
Sleeping on your back is better but also has its own set of problems. It increases the risk of sleep apnea - a sleeping disorder. In sleep apnea, your breathing starts and stops because it gets harder to breathe when your throat and belly are pulled down due to gravity. This sleeping posture also aggravates snoring problems. The best posture to sleep is sleeping on your side, which keeps your spine rightly aligned, resulting in lesser complications. Side sleeping also saves you from a lot of issues associated with other postures of sleeping. Furthermore, if your sleeping posture remains improper for a long time, your brain starts interpreting that position as your default position and you might end up carrying some of those postures to your day life. If your spinal alignment goes out of order for as long as you are asleep, your day body postures will certainly reflect that disturbance in alignment.
How Bad Day Postures Impact Your Sleeping Postures and Sleep Quality?
The impact of your day posture on your sleeping posture isn’t so researched and it’s hard to connect both these postures. However, there is enough evidence to support that whenever your head isn’t aligned properly, your body works overtime to maintain the position of the head. In the long-term, this translates into shorter steps, slower walking, and increased energy consumption while walking.
Another day posture that has a significant impact on your daily, as well as nightly life, is leaning forward for long times. When you lean forward for extended periods, it causes respiratory complications, as your entire respiratory system is crunched together, making it harder to breathe easily. Resultingly, your breaths keep getting shorter as the time goes by. Short breath does a lot of harm to the body apart from aggravating sleep apnea and leading to a general inability to fall asleep. A crunched respiratory system causes shortness of breath and shallow breathing, which can also lead to increased anxiety in the long-run.
Impaired breathing essentially reduces the oxygen delivery to your brain, impacting your energy level during the day as well as night. While the link from your day time posture to your sleeping posture isn’t too direct, it is certainly clear that bad day postures can significantly impact your ability to fall asleep and also your sleep quality.
Ways to Sleep Better and Improve Postures
- Move: Sitting all day on chairs scribbling on keyboards and lounging over smartphones isn’t certainly good for your posture. However, even when you don’t have a choice, you must make it a deliberate habit to get up and move. This will be comforting for your crunched respiratory system and also help you sleep better. A walk every once in awhile normalizes the blood flow in your body and takes more blood to your spine, making it more alive.
Exercises like running, biking, and swimming on a regular basis can add to maintaining the healthy posture that your body requires. Any rigorous activity that increases your heart rate, even for 20 minutes a day, takes more blood to your spine, helping you maintain the right posture. Some gentle stretching, breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga can also help you maintain the right postures not only during the activity but also throughout the day and even when you are asleep.
- Adjust your screens: If you constantly have to tilt your head downward for screen view, adjust the height of your chair or the height of your screen. Bring your screen to the level of your eves, which will lead to a much-needed relief to your respiratory system and your body.
- Get a Good Mattress: A bad mattress also impacts your sleeping posture. If you have to put a lot of effort to adjust postures in your mattress, that’s not a good sign. A good mattress puts you in the best sleeping posture effortlessly, A mattress that provides optimum comfort to your body and support to your spine, protecting its natural curves, is the best fit for you. For pre-existing conditions like back or neck pain, it is even more important to get the right mattress and maintain the right posture while sleeping.
- Check Your Posture: Another way to keep your postures right is to maintain a habit of deliberately checking your postures at all times, while sitting and walking. The habit takes time to develop but is extremely helpful in keeping you upright and not letting you slouch regularly. You can also set alarm reminders to do a posture check frequently so that you don’t maintain a bad posture for a prolonged time.
It’s evident that there is no straight answer to the cause and effect of postures, however, there are cues on which postures will lead to overall sleep discomfort. Day postures definitely have an impact on your sleep quality and overall comfort. Bad postures have serious consequences on your breathing system and blood flow, which can ultimately cause chronic issues in the body, including inability to sleep.
On the other hand, sleeping postures affect not only your sleep quality but also your overall health and fitness. Some problems caused by bad sleeping postures like back and neck pain can result in a permanent change in postures that will be difficult to mend without orthopedic help. There is a tremendous amount of scientific evidence on how sleeping postures help improve the quality of sleep and how sleep essentials like mattresses and pillows go a long way in helping you maintain the right posture.
King Koil, one of the oldest and most advanced mattresses manufacturers in the world, provides a range of mattresses that help you maintain the right posture effortlessly. If you are unsure of what kind of mattress will help you maintain the right posture, King Koil can help you choose the one for you. With King Koil’s SleepID - a tech tool that finds the right mattress for you based on your body type and sleep patterns - you can find the best suitable mattress in seconds.
We know from the human evolution, how powerful postures can be in the long-run. Walking upright proved to be a blessing for the human race. However, the kind of postures humans are maintaining now, they will lead to hunched backs in the future, which is not a pleasant outcome. So, straighten yourself up as much as you can to avoid the unpleasant evolution from constant stares at your smartphone and computer screens.