One of the best ways to wind down the day and get yourself ready for sleep is to immerse yourself into a good book that will allow you to relax and prepare your mind for sleep time.
Reading before bed has many benefits: It reduces stress, it improves creativity, and it helps to boost brain power to name a few.
But while the activity of reading in bed is good for your brain, it doesn’t always fare well for your neck and back.
In fact trying to read in bed without hurting your neck is pretty common problem for avid readers who routinely read before getting some shut-eye.
Fortunately there are some great solutions…
Being careful about your body position and posture while you lose yourself in that book can mean the difference between an amazing night’s sleep and waking to neck and back pain.
Let’s look at why good posture is important for our bodies overall, then some great ways we can read in bed comfortably while not straining our necks.
Why Posture is Important
To start off, it is good to know and understand good posture in general. This is important to keep our spine in the correct form when standing, sitting or lying down.
The natural curves in your spine are between your head and shoulders and then again on your lower back just before your buttocks.
Why are these important?
These areas both require a certain amount of support in seated or lying positions to keep them from hurting due to fatigue.
Of course lying flat as a board or sitting straight up is not what you are thinking when it comes to reading in bed comfortably, so a few other positions need to be considered when you want to read in bed without hurting your neck.
Best Positions for Reading in Bed without Hurting Your Neck
Lying Flat: The Optimal Choice
We just said flat as a board is not what you are thinking, but in reality, this is a very good position for you to be in when it comes to reading in bed and avoiding injury.
Lying flat on your back as you would if you were sleeping with your head on a pillow, again as if you were considering sleeping, is a great way to keep your spine aligned and in a natural state.
Your pillow should be comfortably situated under your head and neck suitably, offering enough support to this very sensitive area.
What you don’t want to do is try and get two or three pillows under your head, thereby forcing your head and neck into a position that can have lasting negative effects to your upper spine and shoulder areas.
Unfortunately, what you naturally end up doing is holding your book or tablet against your chest and tilting your head down to read the words on the page.
This would be completely wrong and be very hard on your neck if you sustain this for any length of time.
How to fix this problem?
First what we would want to do is add a good size pillow under our elbows and forearms across the chest.
This will elevate your arms higher and bring your reading material to a better line of sight with a more natural position for your head.
This position will still require you to look down slightly, but you are not needing to put your chin to your chest which will create a lot of strain on your neck and upper back as well as stretching out your shoulders at the same time.
It may work as a stretch before working out but not something you want to be forcing your body to do for any length of time.
The lying down position is very good for your lower back, but this is an unnatural position to be in when trying to read.
This video helps illustrates how to properly read in this flat position:
Inclined Position for Pain-free Reading
The most typical position we are in when reading is propped up against a headboard or a few pillows.
While this may feel very comfortable at first, over a long period, it can create issues and pains that you may not have considered before.
So how can we best use this position?
Since this is a comfortable position to be in, let’s take a look at what we can do to make this better for your neck and spine so you can sit like this for long periods.
Starting right at the feet, it is best to be sure you are not crossing your feet.
This feels completely natural to do, but it creates pressure in your pelvis if you are sitting on a bed in a semi-reclined position.
Place a pillow or cushion under your knees as well, and this will help keep the pressure off your hips and your lower back.
Right behind your back, you want to place a pillow in the small of your back.
You can fold up this pillow to provide a little support, and this will keep your lower back at a good angle to keep from compressing disks.
This works similar to lumbar support in the seat of your car.
Placing a pillow right behind your head and neck will keep everything nice and comfortable and in place.
You don’t want to lean your head forward, sorest your head right against the pillow so that it takes the pressure off your neck.
The last thing you want to do is place a pillow across your belly and under your elbows.
This will help to raise your arms and will try to keep your book at a more decent eye level position.
This way you can keep your head at an upward angle, lower just your eyes slightly and then read without subjecting any of your vertebrae to undue stress.
This video helps explain these tips in further detail:
Reading on Your Side
Another great position for resting and reading in your bed without hurting your neck would be on your side.
As long as you keep a good pillow under your head to support it at the proper height (where you spine stays straight), you should be able to read in this manner for indefinite lengths of time.
This is not the most comfortable position for everyone, because the top arm holding the book is not resting on the bed and can get tired.
Otherwise, this is a great position for your head and neck not to be strained.
Reading Pillows to the Rescue
Another consideration that is great for you if you prefer to read in bed is a reading pillow or backrest pillow.
These pillows are designed to hold your body at correct angles to keep your neck and back in the right positions for those night time reading sessions.
There are many different styles to these pillows, from a basic wedge shape to more complex designs that help to keep arms and hands as well as your head and neck in good positions while reading in bed.
Benefits of Good Posture Beyond Just Reading Time
Good posture is something that we should be considering all of the time and not just when we are reading in bed.
As we get older, good posture can make a very big difference in everything from sleeping well to being more attractive to others.
We All Need to Be Aware
Bad posture is something that affects more of us than we want to admit.
So many of us who work in an office and others who sit at desks all day are prone to slouching in chairs and other very bad postures in an effort to keep themselves in what they feel is a more comfortable position.
Is this you?
Unfortunately, this can lead to all sorts of problems later in life. And it isn’t just when you’re reading in bed each night.
People who sit in a car all day or who have to sit and work machinery are also subject to the same back and neck problems over time.
Sitting straight with feet firmly on the ground can feel very awkward at first, but it will keep your spine in its most natural position.
This means you are less likely to experience back pain and other back issues, such as hunchback, over time.
Good Practice Goes a Long Way
Good posture can be easy to maintain, but it does require some effort to break those bad habits.
This is especially true when it comes to reading in bed to avoid neck pain and other issues.
Other situations like standing straight while walking takes some awareness and thought at first.
Keeping shoulders back and head up is what we are all told time and again while growing up but doing this regularly definitely takes some practice.
How to Sit and Read?
Sitting in a chair and reading can be a lot easier if you have an ergonomic chair that will give the seat enough padding and offer some lumbar support.
A good chair allows you to place your bottom right at the rear of the chair and use the back as your lumbar support.
Then hold your head so that your ears are over your shoulders to ensure that you keep everything aligned correctly for years to come.
There are plenty of benefits to good posture other than being able to sit in your bed for extended periods reading the latest amazing novel.
Good posture just leads to a better and healthier lifestyle altogether.
Standing and sitting for any period of time can be taxing for anyone.
But if you are sitting or standing in the correct position, you will find that you can do it for longer without experiencing back and neck aches than if you were slouching all the time.
Your muscles have a standard relaxed position, and if you are forcing your body to be in a posture that is not natural, then it will flex muscles to hold these positions even if you are not aware of it.
This leads to prolonged muscle pains and is what you feel in your neck while reading in bed
More Muscle Endurance
This goes hand and hand with muscle pain. If you are in a single position for long periods of time, your muscles are working to keep you there.
If you are in a natural position, then your muscles have to work less to keep you there, and so they are working more efficiently. You won’t feel that tired feeling creeping in so quickly.
Preventing Old Age Complications
While issues of bad posture can take years to manifest, once they do they are pretty hard to reverse and often require treatment of some kind.
Slouching can lead to a hunchback form as you get older and will expose the back to many possible further complications as the vertebrae are left in a more exposed state with a lot of stress on joints and nerves as well.
Bad posture can also lead to herniated disks and other deformities of the spine that can have lasting painful repercussions.
While this may seem like an odd one on this list when it comes to posture, it is very true that body language is something we all detect and project and it can say a lot about a person.
Someone who walks with their head high and back straight just has a higher attraction level on the subconsciousness that someone who is always slouched over does not have.
Proper posture actually helps to build confidence, and this confidence is projected to others just by the way you stand or sit.
At the end of the day (literally), learning how to read in bed without hurting your neck comes down to comfort and what is good for you.
If you find that you already have bad posture and trying to correct it all at once causes a painful experience then it’s best to try smaller steps at a time.
Also, try to be conservative with your time.
No matter how good your posture is, if you are sitting in the same position for too long, it can have negative effects on your neck and back.
Try to keep bed reading to a reasonable amount of time before turning off the light and going to sleep.
If you are looking to read for the next five hours, it may be more beneficial to find yourself a proper chair or sofa that will hold you in a more proper seated position.
Even then, it is wise to try and move about every hour or so.
If your problem persists even after attempting to correct any bad posture then be sure you check with your doctor for any possible damage.
This article is for information purposes only. If you are experiencing backache for any reason, you should see a doctor.