Reading in bed is one of the best ways to unwind after a long day. It helps de-clutter your mind and allows your body to relax. However, one of the most common problems for nighttime readers is finding a comfortable position to lie in. Should it be on your side?
On your back? Sat up? Whichever position you seem to choose leads to a stiff neck and tired arms, depending on how long you read for. Luckily, there is a correct way to sit in bed that allows your body to relax while maintaining a good posture.
How To Read Properly In Bed
If you enjoy reading in bed it’s important to maintain good posture. The last thing you need is to fall asleep with tense muscles, as this could increase your chances of waking up with a stiff neck and back.
If you already spend lots of time reading in bed, and after a while notice a pain in your neck, it probably means you’re not sitting in a good position. If this is the case, it might take a while to teach your muscles their correct alignment again.
Here are some different ways to sit when reading in bed, although the same logic applies to watching TV or spending time on your phone or laptop.
Method 1 – Sitting In Bed
The goal here is to keep your spine in alignment while supporting your neck and arms. Making it so your muscles don’t have to do much work will decrease the chances of muscle tension and spasm.
- Start by putting a pillow under your knees, which allows your legs to bend slightly. This will relieve tension on your hips, knees, and ankles.
- Sit against several pillows, adding another under your lumbar region. The correct alignment for your spine is an S shape, and so you need extra support for your lower back. Make sure this is a thin pillow, otherwise you’ll be pushing you back too far out.
- If you feel it necessary, place another pillow behind your head to keep your neck straight. If you’re sitting properly, your head will support itself, although it can help to give your neck a rest too.
- Finally, place a pillow on your legs to support your arms. Just as with sitting at a computer, your eyes need to be level with the top of your book. This relieves stress on your neck and head by stopping you from looking down. It also means your arms and shoulders do less work, because even though a book isn’t heavy, holding an object in the same place for too long will cause muscle fatigue.
If you have bad posture, you might find your back aching a bit the first few times you sit like this. This is completely normal, and it’s just the feeling of your muscles going back to where they should be.
The main objective is to support your spine without squishing your vertebrae, while also supporting your neck. Reading a book for too long can strain your neck regardless of where you’re sitting, and so it’s best to prioritize keeping your book at eye level.
Method 2 – Lying In Bed
Reading a book while lying in bed follows the same principles as sitting, but means you need different neck and back support. Lying down on a firm mattress will lead to your spine naturally aligning itself, and so there’s little you really need to do to help.
- Start by lying on your back in a comfortable position. It can help to raise your legs slightly, either with a pillow under your knees, or drawing your feet up to your bum. This will also give you something to lean your book against.
- Support your neck with a pillow or two. Although it might seem tempting to pack loads of pillows behind your head, this will cause you to bend your head too far forward. It’s better to bring your book closer to your head than to prop yourself up.
- However if you want to sit somewhere between upright and lying down, build your pillow support at a gradient so your back can relax against it. The key is to keep everything in line and to prevent your muscles from working too hard.
If you choose to lie down to read in bed, it’s best to spend less time doing so. Although it can feel more relaxing, it’s not a natural position for your spine and so can lead to bad posture faster. It’s best to sit in bed while reading, as this will keep your back and neck straighter.
Why Is Good Posture Important?
More people suffer with the problems of bad posture than they realize. Having poor posture is particularly common in office workers and people who sit at desks all day, and those performing repetitive physical motions.
Bad posture is something that develops with age, and over time your muscles tighten and loosen into new shapes because of bad posture habits. These are usually things like hunching over a keyboard or slouching in a chair, and lead to a whole range of problems.
One of the most common symptoms of poor posture is backache. Depending on your posture issues, this either manifests as lower back pain, or pain in the shoulders and neck. This can be generally unpleasant, but can also lead to more serious issues such as hunchback and rolled shoulders.
People with poor posture can also suffer from knee and hip issues if their arches collapse or their hips rotate. Over time this can lead to serious complications, sometimes resulting in surgery.
Thankfully it’s quite easy to maintain a good posture, it just means consciously working on it until it becomes a habit. Buying an ergonomic chair with lumbar support can help your back, and special ergonomic office equipment can prevent RSIs.
If you find you have issues with your hips, it can be as simple to correct as some orthotic inserts for your shoes. If you catch any problems early enough they can be reasonably easy to correct.
What Are The Benefits Of Good Posture?
The benefits of having a good posture are quite varied, and go beyond your back or legs. Good posture can help in the following ways:
- Helps prevent muscle fatigue. This might not seem massively important to the non-runners out there, but reducing your muscle fatigue will benefit your overall wellbeing and keep you feeling energetic for longer. Having a good posture means your muscles are working more efficiently because they’re not having to strain or flex, and so won’t feel tired as quickly.
- Reduce muscle pain. If you’re sitting or standing (or lying) properly, you won’t experience as much muscle ache. Maintaining a good posture puts less strain on your spine, and helps your vertebrae to stay flexible and healthy. If your back and legs are properly aligned you won’t find yourself aching by the end of the day.
- Improved digestion. Slouching causes your internal organs to compress, which means they can’t function as normal. If you’ve just eaten, this can have a big effect on how efficiently your body can process your food. It can cause acid reflux, wind, and constipation. Keeping your spine in the correct position allows your organs to function normally, and should prevent things from getting stuck.
- Keeps your head high. Have you ever seen an ancient-looking person walking around, almost bent in two? It’s likely that their issues related to bad posture at some point. Having a bowed head is called hunchback, and it’s not the nicest thing in the world. Having correct posture at all times, including in bed, will help you to keep your neck straight and your head held high!
- Makes you look better. Body language is a big thing among humans, whether we notice it or not. Bad posture can have a massive impact on the way people view you. Hunching over can make you look older, or can make you look depressed or unconfident. Imagine letting bad posture have this much impact on people’s perceptions of you. Standing straight can makes you taller too.
The most important thing to remember is to do what feels comfortable. It’s about relieving tension on your back, not forcing it to work harder.
If your posture is already poor and you find it painful to sit in the suggested position, consider taking other measures to correct your posture first. Sitting in a supported position on a comfortable bed shouldn’t lead to neck and back pain.
Also, remember to not overdo it. It can be easy to lose track of time, especially with a good book, but sitting in one position for too long can be bad for your back, even if it is supported. Just as with sitting at a desk, it’s best to sit for a maximum of an hour in the same position before getting up and stretching.