Training myself to be a back sleeper

My natural sleep position looks like I’m doing an army crawl, or climbing a rock wall. Sprawled out on my stomach, with one leg up, the other leg down, hips twisted, and neck twisted. I’ve tried for years to break that habit, in vain. I have no problem starting out on my back: I lay down, close my eyes, and I’m asleep in 30 seconds. But sometime in the middle of the night I roll over in my sleep, and I wake up all twisted with a sore back.

I know this is bad for my back. I’ve had many chiropractors and doctors tell me so. There are many good articles explaining why sleeping on your back is best. However, when I looked for advice on learning how to be a stomach sleeper, I couldn’t find anything great. The best I could find was asking Chrissy to nudge me (which depends on her being awake to notice), sewing tennis balls to my pajamas (to make me uncomfortable when I roll onto my stomach), or propping myself up with a variety of pillows (didn’t work for me). I thought to myself, I just need some straps or a giant clamp to keep me locked in position. Like an astronaut strapped in on the space station. So that’s what I made!

back-sleeper bed clamp

The top piece swivels out so that I can get into bed. After I’m in place on my back, I swivel it onto my hips and I’m locked in.

I’ve been using this for a couple of months and I haven’t rolled onto my stomach once. At first I would wake up a few times a night and fight it, and then semi-consciously realize what was going on and go back to sleep. Now I rarely wake up at all. Maybe one day soon I’ll be well enough trained to ditch the clamp.

Some notes & build tips, in case you’re stuck in a similar predicament and want to try this yourself …


Open position:

back_sleeper_clamp_open

I used scraps of pre-finished flooring, strong but thin boards, and didn’t bother sanding because the edge was already smooth. The swivel is a lag screw with a big washer.

Here’s the finished clamp before installing it. The thicker 2×4 board on the left goes in between the boxspring & mattress. The vertical board tucks into our bed frame and hugs the side of the mattress.

back_sleeper_clamp_finished

This DIY toddler bed rail was my inspiration for securing the clamp to the bed. You can see in that example that they run the side rail all the way down to the floor. The specifics will depend on your bed frame — mine had enough room to tuck the 3/4″ board in snugly beside the box spring.

I rough-fitted it first and then cut it down to size so that the height fits me and my bed perfectly. If I get a new bed or gain/lose a lot of weight I’ll need to redo it. If that ever happens (and I still feel like I need it), I might incorporate some hinges so that it folds down out of sight beside the bed. (It’s not too bad looking now though when the bed is made — it’s pretty well hidden by our big stack of throw pillows.)

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