In Genesis (2:2) tradition tell us that on the seventh day God rested. Sometimes I wonder how God rested. Did God take a nap, sleep all day, or get the recommended eight hours? All we know for sure is God needed rest and so do we.
Insomnia is very common; people may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and sometimes even both. There are many different types of sleep disturbances; events from the day, caffeine, and even technology. A big unknown culprit to poor sleep is the position one slleps in. It can cause you to be sore in the morning and feel unrested. It also may lead to pain and tension in the body, especially in the middle of sleep. One way to help fix this is to change your sleeping position.
The Even Haezer (23:3) preferred that people sleep on their stomach, but stomach sleeping is actually the hardest on the body. It puts a lot of tension on the neck because you have to turn your head to the side. However, some people still like sleeping on their stomachs because it feels good on their digestive organs. If you do want to sleep on your stomach, the easiest way to ease that tension is to put a pillow under your stomach.
Sleeping on your back is the best for your muscles and joints. It helps keep your spine aligned and no nerves get pinched, so nothing feels numb. The problem is it may cause snoring, disrupting your airway and your partner. You can add a pillow to sleep on more of an incline or you can try to sleep on your side.
Side sleeping is gentler on your body then stomach sleeping but can still cause discomfort. According to the Mishna Brurah (work of Jewish law) (239:6), we should only sleep on our sides. What the Mishna (first major redaction of oral Torah) doesn't mention is that sleeping on your side can cause your arms and legs to fall asleep. Putting a pillow between your legs can help ease some of that tension. We are also permitted to say the nighttime shema on our sides. In general, having a nighttime routine like saying the shema helps the body relax and fall asleep more easily.
Another common problem when people sleep is their pillows are too puffy, or they just have too many pillows altogether. The more we elevate our necks, the tougher it is on our bodies. Try to sleep with one pillow or no pillow at all, ensuring your spine is more aligned. Other minor changes you can make to promote a more restful night are washing your pillowcase frequently and wearing socks to bed. Washing your pillowcase cleans any allergens off your pillow, which may be causing you to not sleep well or wake up feeling drowsy. Cold feet can also be the root to your restless night. If before you go to bed you feel cold, put on socks to warm your body faster for a better night's sleep.
There is no right way to sleep because everyone's body is comfortable in different positions. Be conscientious of how you sleep, but don't let it drive you crazy. It is important to figure out ways to accommodate your preferred position to ensure the best night's sleep. Hopefully these suggestions can help you make the Rambam's (Deot 4:4) recommended eight hours of sleep a night restful and pain free.
Dana Fine is owner of Dana Fine Acupuncture, LLC in Northbrook, and a board certified acupuncturist and herbal medicine practitioner. She loves Judaism and Chinese medicine, and is currently writing a book connecting the two. For more on Dana, visit www.danafineacu.com .