Problems Creep as We Sleep

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The clock strikes 6:00 am and my phone starts vibrating and playing tranquil chime sounds. Time to get up. I tap the screen to silence the alarm and roll out of bed.

I know I only have 5 minutes before I need to hop in the shower and get going with my regular shower-shave-dress-breakfast routine, so I grab a few of my Yoga Tune Up® balls and bring them down to my bedroom floor…

‘Why?’ you may be wondering? Well, because other than days when I’m forced to sit for hours on end, sleeping is the longest held position I find myself in day-to-day.

Assuming someone sleeps for 8 hours a night, that’s a third of the day in what can be a less-than-optimal position in terms of soft tissue health. That, plus the shallow breathing that tends to come at night, allows various problems to creep up on us, often unknowingly.

Connective Tissues & Sleep-Issues

sleep positions


Even if you sleep in an ergonomic position, you can still compress many of your soft tissues while you lie on your back, side, or stomach each night.

The compression caused by these long-held positions can create adhesions between the sliding surfaces of your body, which can lead to pain, discomfort, limited range of motion, and lessened proprioception (kinesthetic awareness), among other consequences.

For example, there are parts of my body (right side of my neck, left shoulder, mid right-side ribcage, lower back) that consistently ache through my day after certain nights of sleep, if I don’t give them a little TLC when I get up.

To better understand the anatomy of sliding surfaces and what an adhesion is, check out Gil Hedley’s fabulous ‘Fuzz Speech.’

Sleepy Breathing

Another observation I’ve made is that my breathing tends to become shallow during sleep. My diaphragm (a muscle vital to proper breathing) seems to become accustomed to not using its full range of motion because my body doesn’t need it to during sleep.

So how do you reset these sleep-induced changes to prevent muscle pain from sleeping?

Check back on Friday for my next installment with recommendations on some Yoga Tune Up® quick-fixes to add into your morning routine to improve your overall sleep experience! If you can make time to brush your teeth, you can surely fit in a quick fix.



Enjoyed this article? Read Breathe Right For Better Sleep

Max Bayuk

As a competitive high school athlete, Max developed several chronic over-use injuries that left him on the sidelines for his senior year. His journey of fixing these injuries over the past 6 years has taught him the value in integrating one's movement practice -- be it sports, yoga, or any other kind of exercise -- with body work. He has developed a passion for self-myofascial release and its therapeutic effects, especially in combination with strategic stretching, correct posture, and a balanced lifestyle. Max completed his 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through YogaWorks while at school at UC Santa Barbara in spring 2013, and is now combining his athletic background with his knowledge of yoga, Yoga Tune Up®, and embodied anatomy.

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Jenn Austin

I have described the feeling I have when I wake up with and carry throughout the day as “layers of plastic saran wrap twisted up and down my torso, pulling and contorting me in every which way.” I am REALLY hoping that I am slowly getting closer to the answers of how to be my own best pain therapist.

Kristin Harris

Max, excellent points on observations of shallower breathing upon waking and compression in the soft tissues as a result of long held positions during sleeping. Each morning I have a quick 2-minute routine for joints that I do in my bed, quite lazily, but effective. But just before I begin small movements I keep my eyes closed and begin to deepen my breathing, listening to my heart beat and trying to sync myself into a more expansive inhale breath. The exhale always feels easy to me, but the first attempt at deeper inhales sometimes takes me a few tries to… Read more »


My husband and I will switch sides of the bed every so often. It feels strange at first but I think it adds some reconfiguring of our typical sleep postures. Like anything else – when we do the same things again and again our tissues have an expectation of what’s comfortable and habitual. It’s interesting that we think of moving in our sleep as ‘restless’ as opposed to a healthy way the body signals that even in rest we need some movement.

Cindy Lou Kelley

So insightful to realize that we made suffer due to sleep patterns! I know if I have my elbow by my head, my shoulder will suffer the next day. Starting the day off with a few keys roll, for my specific issues, is so helpful.

marie josée packwood

Remember the commercial : “Time to make the donuts
“? A lot of Fuzz LOL

Edwina Ferro

This is so useful! Thank you for sharing. I didn’t realize that sleeping, especially if we’re positioned well, impose our soft tissue health. I am a side and belly sleeper and I was not aware that you can compress many of your soft tissues if you choose only one way to sleep whether on your back, side, or stomach each night. It makes sense even when you are sleeping that compression can happen because we’re holding positions for a long period of time (1/3 of your day) can create adhesions between the sliding surfaces of your body, which can lead… Read more »

Sun Kim

I am everything about everyday life habit that creates tension in body! and I know Bad sleep postures could be the worst! But I never thought about breathing during sleeping because it was an unconscious act! Now I have to read the next article!!!

Jane Thibodeau

Thanks, Max. I never thought about how sleep is the longest position we hold. That really puts things into perspective for me and will be great motivation to start rolling in the morning.


There are so many mornings that I actually don’t feel fresh and relaxed after a whole night sleeping, but I never thought about sleeping positions in this way. (I blamed “shortened sleeping hours even if I had a 7.5 hours the other night as well as “that phone on my nightstand maybe influenced my nerve system”.)
Thanks for the sharing, I would definitely start rolling tomorrow morning with my balls (I actually got them a while ago but haven’t really taken them out of my drawer yet) and also try to do something adjust my sleeping positions.

Monika Bansal

The fuzz speech is amazing and quite a revelation. And sleeping in all sorts of positions can cramp up so many of the soft tissues. I have often got up in the morning with stiff or frozen shoulder. So yes therapy balls is the key.

Katrina LK

I had never seen the fuzz speech until my YTU Level 1 training. It blew my mind! I hadn’t really considered how sleep, lovely, glorious, restful, necessary sleep… can also negatively affect our fascial fuzz build-up and how native breath in sleep can also de-condition our diaphragms. The more I look at my life and my movement patterns, the more I realize that my YTU balls are necessary!

Marie-Michelle Darveau

Never thought about sleep this way. It is true that we stay in the same position for a long time…

Katiana Paré

Thanks for your blog, it’s a struggle to get out of bed some mornings, but I am eager to try your way and grab my YTU balls tomorrow morning and work out my Fuzz.

Amanda Burchert

The Fuzz Speech was played during my Level 1 Teacher Training, it really brought home what happens to fascia over long periods of time with little to no movement. My Mom recently had surgery (for a full supraspinatus tear) and I showed her this video to drive home the importance of completing her prescribed exercise and self care routine daily.

Isabelle Côté

Wow ! What a great visual view of auto-momification of ourself ! I learn and understand so much with the exemple and the video. I have a new look and potential of new speech very yummy for de use of balls. Merci !

Robert Ouellet

I am a lucky man. And, I didn’t know that I was that kind of Spider-Man inside me. All those tidy tissues working at night or when I do nothing they continue to work like underground mushroom. They try to modified me. It will be nice to be a dreamer in the cadaver but the reality make me smile because I get the ball to destroy all those spiders, mushrooms, whatever. And the Gulliver can move again in a normal and awareness of the reality of a lucky he is.

Noelle Carvey

I LOVE the fuzz video! I am aching to do a cadaver lab with him! How beautiful is that. I am so inspired by “having time in our fascia”. Can that relate to easing slipping in early dementia? Our memories so cramped and bodies confused. I sleep in less than optimal positions and am finally, at 30 years old, paying the price. I am proudly addicted to these Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls!


I love the fuzz speech! I don’t think about using the YTU balls in the morning after waking up, so that’s a great suggestion. I have a funky low back thing, and some days I don’t notice it at all and other days I notice it all day long – and other days something in between those extremes. When I do have pain, I ALWAYS notice it in the morning when I wake up. I’ve always figured it was the position I slept in the night before. I have never contributed it to the potential of shallow breathing all night… Read more »


This article resonates me as there have been many times where I realize the stiff neck I woke up with occurred because of my misalignment while sleeping. Just as keeping the back upward and straight for good posture, we must remember to have good “posture” while we sleep. Additionally, I appreciated the author’s tip on using the yoga therapy balls first thing in the morning to alleviate tension. I’ve often used the therapy balls after a work out, or at night, but I have yet to try right after waking up!


So insightful! I never really put two and two together; we spend most of our day in a static position (during sleep) – I think we’ve all become consciously aware that we tend to sit 8 hrs./day with work, but I feel most of us have overlooked the other large stagnant chunk of time (when we sleep). I’ve always enjoyed rolling in the morning, and your explanation of why makes total sense. Gil Hedley fuzz speech is awesome as well!


I love morning stretches. This blog and video helps to reinforce that AND add to increase to make sure I am moving more fully and completely.


Thank you for your blog and adding the amazing “fuzz speech” video which shows the adhesions that can built up after sleeping.

Sophie Desmarais

Thank you for sharing. I think it’s worth setting my alarm as few minutes early and rolling in the morning from now on!


True True Consistency in movement especially in the morning after waking up is vital. I’m inspired to create my own therapy ball sequence just for the morning routine! Woohoo Gil Hedley!


I sleep on my stomach with my head turned to one side pretty much every night – it’s no wonder i wake up with a stiff neck and shoulders! I’ll start to make use of my YTU balls when I wake up each morning.

Laurel Crane

I have often wondered what is the best position to sleep in for my body and frequently finding myself moving each time I wake during the night as I usually wake with stiffness in some area of my body. Love Gil’s fuzz speech!!


Interesting…never thought about sleeping as the longest held position and naturally its effect on the fascia. Thank you for pointing this out. Looking forward to your next write up.

Charmaine Garry

Really never thought about how sleeping position would affect the fascia. Thank you for the article! I will have to be more mindful about sleep.

François Gosselin

I often sleep on my back and sides and unfortunately don’t have a pillow that works well for both. I really should take time more often to stretch and roll until I find a solution.

Janine Watson

I never thought about breathing at night being more shallow as a problem for me. But I am going to do a bit of research into the difference between awake and sleeping breathing.

Suzanne Drolet

Your post validates my own experience, waking up tight, stiff and sore – despite all the work I do daily both teaching and practicing yoga – and I have got a great bed, so I know it’s not that! We spend a lot of time in bed sleeping and those hours can undo much of the good work we do to correct poor posture habits and live well in our bodies. My days now start with a quick movement session to get the tissues working and then at least a few minutes working with the balls. Keeps me happier in… Read more »


I have now seen the Gil Hedley ‘Fuzz Speech’ four times now over the past few months, and can honestly say it captures my complete attention every time. It has also become one of the main ways I explain the yoga tune up therapy balls to people as they ask about them. I have always been one to wake up feeling a bit like cement – a lot of creaking and cracking even back as a teenager – now i’m just so glad to have found the therapy balls to help juice my tissues back up! After reading this, I… Read more »


Now I finally understand how I can wake up with aches in pains, even though I didn’t work out the day before. A great reminder that stretching in the morning is an integral part to a healthy body. This video has also made me a Gil Hedley fan. Thank you for sharing!

Juliana Attilio

I had never thought about sleep in this way! It is so true and simple, just had never thought of it like that. Thanks for framing it this way. Now when I wake I will make sure to unwind from my “long” night of sleep. (And the Fuzz speech is just awesome!)


I absolutely love the fuzz speech and how it breaks down what happens to our fascia over long periods of little to no movement, whether it be sleeping or minimal activity due to injury or illness. Our diaphragm is no exception, such an essential muscle yet so widely overlooked.

Lori Palmer

The more aware I am about my posture during the day the more aware I have become of the shape I am holding when I am asleep… the rounded shoulders and adaptive lengthening of the muscles of the upper back from sleeping on my side with my arms curled in is a compounded shape by having a job at a computer most of the day. I have been trying to change my sleep shape, but find I just end up back in the same fetal position developed over decades. I think adding some movement and rolling first thing in the… Read more »


the classic example of this is when i wake up with the “crick” in the neck-and then it radiates down into my shoulder. its usually gone within 24 hours, but i never stop to think about all of the ways in which i am creating “cricks” that i may not necessarily feel but are building up in my tissues over time. one of my favorite teachers, katy bowman, sleeps on a thick pad on the floor with no pillow-she has adapted her body over time to be able to manage those loads, which allow her to align more naturally while… Read more »

Curtis Blimkie

I agree with your observations that sometimes are breathing can become quit swallow when we are sleeping. In the past I have actually woken myself up gasping for air after a long stressful day of all clavicular breathing.


haha i think i sleep in all of those positions in the pictures. Interesting concept on fuss. I like to think of it as the importance of dynamic movement and keep all the body parts and joints moving. I would be so interested to see how much fuss my shoulder and neck muscles have. Hoping an avid routine with these YTU balls will help decrease my morning stiffness.

Simran Khalsa

So true! Working these ‘sleepy’ muscles and connective tissue first thing really makes a big difference! Most people will balk, but I also take a cold shower to help get the circulation moving, along with a few Udiyana Bandh to wake up the diaphragm before eating or drinking.