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Are Couches Bad for Your Back? (Why They Can Be)

Are Couches Bad for Your Back? (Why They Can Be)

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There’s nothing better than dozing off on the couch when you’re feeling under the weather. While the TV is on and the lights are glowing, you pull the duvet tightly around your body, and you go into one of your life’s best naps.

But is that good for your back? You’ll likely wake up with a backache and a sore neck. Couches are generally not comfortable for your spine. They’re not designed for sleeping, so laying on them may cause you a backache.

Even when you’re sitting rather than sleeping, you may encounter some back pain.

So, are couches bad for your back?

Can Sleeping on a Couch Cause Back Pain?

Couches aren’t designed for sleeping. They don’t offer the same flat surface as your bed, nor do they offer soft cushioning.

When you sleep on a couch, your spine takes a C-letter shape, which puts pressure on the wrong points. It also stretches your ligaments and discs uncomfortably, which will ultimately lead to backache.

The right way to sleep is to keep both your neck and spine supported while sleeping. You’ll rarely get that when sleeping on a couch.

On top of that, if the couch’s length doesn’t fit your entire body when stretched, you’ll have to keep your legs bent and pushed against the side. This will cause joint pain and may hurt your knees.

What Causes Back Pain When Sleeping on the Couch?

You don’t actually get pain from sleeping on the couch; it’s merely a result of sleeping in a bad posture. If you sleep in the same pose on a bed, you’ll get the same pain when you wake up.

The science behind this is easy. When you sleep or sit in a bad posture for a long time, you’re putting unnecessary stress on your discs, ligaments, muscles, and joints.

The longer you sit or sleep, the more pain you’ll feel, and the worse the effect on your back in the long term.

When you sit with your back hunched, you reduce the blood flow to the muscles, which causes more pain.

Plus, if you maintain the position long enough or repeat it every night, you may eventually get a herniated disc.

It also commonly happens that you wake up with an area feeling numb or tingly. That’s due to nerve constriction, which occurs when you squeeze a nerve for a long time.

Why Are Couches Bad to Sleep On?

Couches are bad for sleeping for a couple of reasons. Aside from causing back pain, they also leave you with a sore neck, hurt your legs, and may be dangerous for infants.

Here’s why you should avoid sleeping on couches.

Bad Dreams

Sleeping on the couch while both the TV and lights are on can cause you to have bad dreams because of the lack of REM sleep.

You’ll also be prone to interruptions, especially if sleeping in the living room.

The sounds around you may also cause you to have disturbing dreams.

So generally, you won’t get a good sleep quality. It’s better to sleep in a bed with the lights off.

Leg Pain

More often than not, your body’s total length will be longer than the couch. So, when you sleep, you’ll unconsciously push your legs against the couch’s side, keeping them cramped and uncomfortably bent towards your body.

When you wake up, your calves may be numb as a result of poor circulation, and your knee joints may hurt you if you keep sleeping in the same position for long.

Neck Pain

For the safety of your neck while sleeping, your pillow should be supporting both your neck and head. Since that’s not provided when sleeping on a couch, you ought to hurt your neck.

Sleeping on the couch, you’ll leave your neck unsupported, resulting in tension in the muscles.

On top of that, if you roll your head on one side, your neck will stay twisted for the whole sleep. Of course, this may result in a sore neck because the muscles won’t be positioned comfortably.

Dangerous for Infants

If you’re sleeping with an infant, you should avoid dozing off on the couch at all costs. There won’t be enough room for both of you, and you never know how your body moves while you’re asleep.

When an adult sleeps next to an infant, the chances of suffocation increase, especially if there’s not enough room for both, so when your kid is sharing the couch with you, avoid sleeping or let them sleep somewhere else.

Do Some Couches Cause More Pain Than Others?

Yes, some couches may cause more pain, while other couches will be comfortable enough not to. For example, soft sofas cause more pain than firm ones because they keep your back slouched.

A rigid sofa is safer for your neck and back, but it won’t provide enough comfort, so you likely won’t be able to sleep on it. Sectional sofas are usually comfortable for sleeping because they include a lounger, so they won’t cause you pain.

Leather sofas and those with wooden sides are uncomfortable and more likely to cause you pain. The same goes for short sofas that don’t fit your entire length.

How to Sleep Comfortably on a Couch

If you love sleeping on couches, there are some tips that you can follow to get a better quality of sleep. That way, you can at least guarantee to wake up with no pain or sore legs.

  • Don’t sleep without a pillow. Get a firm one that can cradle your neck and head while sleeping
  • Turn off the TV before sleeping and avoid sleeping next to any sounds to avoid disturbing dreams
  • Preferably cover the couch with a cotton mattress sheet before sleeping because the upholstery will definitely be uncomfortable
  • Don’t give in to sleep without adjusting your position. Make sure your neck is supported, and your legs aren’t bent awkwardly. Your spine should be straight as well, or at least not turned in a C shape.

How to Sit Correctly on a Couch to Avoid Back Pain

If you want to avoid back pain while sitting on a sofa, the logical solution is to sit correctly. To do that, your feet need to be flat on the floor. Meanwhile, your knees should be at the same level as your hips, and the sofa’s back should be fully supporting your back.

Your shoulders should also be straight and in line with your head.

This position keeps your body correctly aligned, so you’re not stressing any of the muscles, ligaments, or discs in your back.

That said, the position isn’t comfy.

Let’s face it; no one wants to relax and watch Netflix with their backs straight and feet on the floor. So, don’t be too hard on yourself. Maintain the position for a short while, then change it. Just make sure not to stay in the same position for a long time, and avoid slumping.

Final Thoughts

So, are couches bad for your back?

If you don’t sit correctly, they’re bad for your back, neck, and shoulders.

If you can manage a correct sitting posture, they won’t hurt your back. However, that’s often hard to do, especially when you sleep on the couch.

Make sure not to stay in the same sitting position for long. And, avoid slouching your back because the position puts severe stress on the muscles.

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