We live in a culture that celebrates productivity and a work-hard, play-hard mentality.
What ever happened to getting enough sleep? We often forget we are only animals (human) and our body is still subject to the mercy of our biology.
In this post, I want to talk about how your day-to-day posture can affect the quality of your sleep.
With modern lifestyles, most of us will exhibit a forward head posture and round shoulders from sitting on our butts all day in front of a computer and mobile phones or doing activities that cause our shoulders to round forward and our head to slump forward.
What does forward head posture look like?
An average adult human’s head weighs around 10 pounds.
If your head sits properly on top of your spine, it shouldn’t feel like it weighs too much. It is sitting on top of your spine in a perfectly balanced position.
If your head position shifts forward, the weight of your head increases in relation to your body.
For every inch of forward head shift, there is an extra weight of 10 lbs added to the stress of your neck.
Your shoulders also round forward further placing more stress on your shoulders and upper-back area.
Why this is a problem?
If your body alignment is incorrect, this causes the following problems:
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
- Middle Back pain
- Lower Back pain
- Poor Sleep or insomnia
- Damage to your disc
- Sore chest muscles
- Numbness in arms
- Increased fat deposit on the back of your neck
- And many others
How does it affect your sleep?
Having a forward head posture causes tension in your shoulders, neck, upper back and lower back.
When your head is in this position, it is actually very unnatural for you body and your body will try to dissipate the stress to other areas to stop you from toppling over.
So the stress is spread between individual vertebrae of your neck and other joints between your head. When your body experiences stress, it does two things:
- Give you pain or
- Experience inflammation.
Hence, some people experience a lot of headaches and some people will have frozen shoulders (like some of my students in my class who can’t raise their arms past a certain point). Sometimes they also experience pain and discomfort.
So if your posture is not aligned properly, you will have a lot of tension (inflammation) because your joints and muscles are locked in an unnatural position.
When you lie down to sleep, this doesn’t go ahead and if your body experiences stress or pain , then it will be harder for you to sleep or have good quality sleep.
Researchers have found that patients who suffer from sleep apnea also exhibit symptoms of a forward head posture. 1
How to test if you have round shoulders
This is a test I do in my Filates class and it’s a very quick way to see if you or your significant other needs to fix your posture.
- Stand with your feet apart and knees should be bent slightly
- Hang your arms beside you
- Breathe in and Breathe out
- Look at the position of your palms
- Do your palms ?
- Face the front?
- Face each other?
- Face the back with the back of your hands facing the front?
If your palms face the front, then you don’t have round shoulders. You will need to keep doing some maintenance exercises to ensure that there is no rounding of the shoulders.
You have some slight rounding of shoulders and possibly forward sloping of your head, but it should not be difficult to fix. You will need to do some exercises to strengthen your shoulder blades to open up your chest and possible some exercises to help reduce some of the tension of your posture.
If your palms are facing the back then you have quite a severe problem and will need to fix your posture. Essentially your posture is the same as a gorilla and over long terms, it can cause a lot of health problems.
How to fix round shoulders and forward head problem
If your daily life and daily activities are causing this, then eliminating some of the bad habits will go a long way to alleviate further aggravation of the problem. However, correct exercises can also help remedy some of these problems by:
- Reducing tension in your shoulder areas
- Correct the alignment of the head position
- Strengthen your back
- Reduce the stress placed on your neck and head joints
Often when my students come to class, I ask them to lie on the floor and see if their back is lying flat to the ground.
What happens is their shoulders will be curling upwards and they may find one side of the body is elevated off the ground slightly.
After a quick exercise, they will find their upper back is lying much flatter to the ground and there is a reduction of tension in the shoulder areas.
I tell them they can do this before they go to sleep to help reduce tension in the shoulders which make them feel more relaxed and prime them for better sleep.
To me, sleep is one of the best pleasures in life and should be enjoyed in its abundance.
If it means doing a few exercises to fix your posture to get a better sleep, then why not.