If you have been wondering if you should be elevating your legs while sleeping on your side, you have come to the right place. In short, the answer is yes, a leg elevation pillow for side sleepers is an essential component to side sleeping.
Why use a leg elevation pillow for side sleepers?
Side sleeping is comfortable, until it isn’t. As a physical therapist, the most common complaint I hear from people having trouble sleeping on their side is “my (back/shoulder/hips) hurts when I lie on my side.” Explaining why this pain is happening, and how to avoid it, is one of my favorite things to educate my patients on.
Our bodies weren’t made to just sleep flat on our sides. No matter your body type or body shape, the outermost part of your body has various curvatures. You may have wide hips and a narrow waist, broad shoulders and a narrow hips, or any other combination of curves. The bottom line is, no one's body is completely straight. Because of this, when you lie on the naturally curvy side of your body, on your flat mattress, those natural curvatures are left unsupported.
For instance, when you lie on your side, there is an area between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hip bone that doesn't have the same outer bone structure that your ribs and hip provide. So, when you lie down, what takes the brunt of this area that does not have an outer bone structure? Your spine! Your spine will curve down towards the bed. This can lead to back stiffness and pain.
Next, think about your hips and legs (which is where a leg elevation pillow for side sleepers will come in). When you lie on your side, the outside of your hip is the tallest point on your body. Your thighs angle down to your knees, your knees mash together, and there is another downward angle from your knees to your ankles.
In this position, gravity pulls on your back, thigh, and hip. This causes your muscles to be out of balance. Imbalanced muscles pull on your joints and cause both muscle and joint pain.
To solve the problem of bad angles and improper body support while sleeping on your side, you need a leg elevation pillow for side sleepers. But not just any pillow. To work properly, it needs to have several different characteristics.
Characteristics of a leg elevation pillow for side sleepers
A leg elevation pillow fits in between your legs. It should be placed right up against your pubic bone and be long enough to go past your feet. It should keep your top leg elevated so that your top leg is parallel with the bed (or close to it). This restores muscle and joint balance to your body and prevents you from waking up with pain in the morning due to improper positioning.
Additionally, side sleepers should use a side sleeper wedge. This small wedge fits in the area between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hip. It keeps your spine supported during the night so that it does not curve down towards the bed.
Choosing a leg elevation pillow for side sleepers is the next step on your journey to find comfort. And as we like to say at Wedge Pillow Solutions, find comfort, because your life is waiting.
-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy