sleep position

What Position Is Best for Sleeping?

Let’s face it. Sleep is a big part of our lives — even if we’re not getting eight hours — but there’s more to it than you might think. If you’re having problems getting enough sleep or have an injury, there’s more to it than laying down and catching some Zzz’s. Your sleep position plays a big role in your sleep quality, which means it might be time for you to switch it up.

Different sleep positions have different benefits. If you’re struggling with pain or other health issues, you might need to switch your sleep position in order to help manage it. And, while it might not be something you can do in one night, it can definitely be worth trying out.

Taking the time to train yourself to sleep in a new position gradually could be the secret to improving your sleep quality. However, if that’s something you aren’t comfortable with, don’t stress about it. You can also try modifying your favourite sleep position to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.

Every individual is different. What’s important is that you’re doing what works for your body and your sleep needs.

Do you sleep on your back, side, or belly? You may have a favourite sleeping position, or you may change it up now and then. And if you become pregnant, or have certain health problems, the way you sleep can sometimes change. In those cases, getting your sleeping posture right can make a big difference in the way you feel when you wake up. Are you choosing the best sleeping position for your situation?

Sleeping in the wrong way can cause or aggravate neck or back pain. It may also obstruct the airways to your lungs, leading to problems like obstructive sleep apnea. Some research even suggests that the wrong sleeping position may cause toxins to filter out of your brain more slowly. Keep reading to learn how the way you sleep could be impacting your health in several ways.

Not only can lower back pain get in the way of a good night’s rest, but poor sleeping posture may make the existing pain worse.

A poor sleeping position may even be the underlying cause of lower back pain. This is because certain positions can place unnecessary pressure on the neck, hips, and back.

It is important to maintain the natural curve of the spine when lying in bed. A person can do this by ensuring the head, shoulders, and hips are in alignment, and that the back is properly supported. The best way to do this is usually by sleeping on the back.

However, many people are uncomfortable sleeping on their back or find it causes them to snore. Everyone sleeps differently, so there are a variety of options for people who want to sleep better and reduce their back pain.

Sleep Deprivation

All parts of the sleep cycle are important, but REM sleep is the most restorative and vital for memory retention. REM sleep is that magical “deep sleep” when you dream and when your eyes rapidly move back and forth. Without enough deep sleep, you can wake up with a headache and a body full of aches. The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are serious. Here are a few downsides to consistent cycles of low-quality sleep:

  • Reduced skin health and accelerated signs of aging
  • Memory loss
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Increased risk of cancer

Overall grogginess and irritability (according to our own non-scientific observations)

There are many ways we humans prefer to do the comatose catnap. Flat on your back, arms up around the head. Smushed on your belly like a falling man. On your side curled up like a shrimp. Everybody does it differently, and that’s okay. But some positions, it turns out, are more “okay” than others.

Some Sleeping Positions Are Better Than Others

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Every sleep position comes with pros and cons, but if you get the best rest in a less-than-ideal position, that’s probably still the best choice for you. Therefore, we won’t judge you for getting your rest curled up like a dog or laid out like a chalk outline at a crime scene—whatever gets you the best rest. Good sleep hygiene is finding the right balance of comfort and practicality—the snuggling Yin and Yang of nocturnal bliss.

If you want to improve the quality of your sleep, we’ve got some tips for switching to a more comfortable sleeping position. And if you’re just too attached to the way you slip into a sweet slumber, we’ve got some tips for easing you into dreamland just the way you like it.

For people experiencing lower back pain at night, trying out the following postures and tips may provide relief.

Do you sleep on your back?

Back-sleeping has its advantages and disadvantages, too. Sleep experts refer to this as the supine position.

Let’s start with the bad news. Some people who sleep on their backs may experience low back pain. It can also make existing back pain worse, so this is not the best sleep position for lower back pain. If you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea, sleeping on your back may aggravate these conditions as well. Women should avoid this position during late pregnancy.

There are health benefits to sleeping on your back, too. Your head, neck, and spine are in a neutral position, so you’re less likely to experience neck pain. Sleeping on your back with your head slightly elevated with a small pillow is considered the best sleeping position for heartburn.

Sleeping on the Back With Knee Support

Lying on the back is usually considered to be the best sleeping position for a healthy back.

This position evenly distributes weight the full length of the body’s largest surface. It also minimizes pressure points and ensures good alignment of the head, neck, and spine.

Placing a small pillow under the knees can provide additional support and help maintain the natural curve of the spine.

To adopt this sleeping position, a person should:

  • Lie flat on their back facing the ceiling, and avoid twisting the head sideways.
  • Position a pillow to support the head and neck.
  • Place a small pillow under the knees.
  • For extra support, fill in any other gaps between the body and mattress with additional pillows, such as beneath the lower back.

Do you sleep on your stomach?

Approximately 7% of people sleep on their stomach. This is sometimes called the prone position. It may help ease snoring by shifting fleshy obstructions from your airway. But sleeping in this position may aggravate other medical conditions.

Your neck and spine are not in a neutral position when you sleep on your stomach. This may cause neck and back pain. Stomach sleeping can put pressure on nerves and cause numbness, tingling, and nerve pain.

It’s best to choose another sleep position if you are a stomach sleeper. If you can’t break the habit, prop your forehead up on a pillow, so your head and spine remain in a neutral position, and you have room to breathe.

If we had to rank sleeping positions, lying on your stomach might be at the bottom of the list. While it’s a good position for snoring or sleep apneaTrusted Source, the benefits don’t extend much further.

Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach can cause both neck and back pain. It can also add a lot of unnecessary strain to your muscles and joints, which is why you might be waking up sore and tired. Placing a pillow under your lower belly might help reduce back pain.

Sleeping on the Front With a Pillow Under the Stomach

Lying on the front of the body is usually considered the worst sleeping posture. However, for those who struggle to sleep in another position, placing a slim pillow underneath the stomach and hips can help improve spinal alignment.

Sleeping on the front may also benefit people with a herniated disc or a degenerative disc disease.

To adopt this sleeping position, a person should:

  • Get into bed and roll on to their front.
  • Place a slim pillow underneath the abdomen and hips to raise the mid-section.
  • Use a flat pillow for the head or consider sleeping without one.

Do you sleep on your side?

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The side sleeping position is the most popular by far. It’s also known as a lateral sleeping position by sleep scientists.

This position may be useful for those who snore. If you have some forms of arthritis, sleeping in the side position may make you sore, though. Curling up may also prevent you from breathing deeply because doing so may restrict your diaphragm.

Side-Sleeping and Brain Waste

It’s possible that sleeping on your side could be good for your brain. Scientists recently learned that our brains clear out waste more quickly while we sleep.

Whether or not the position you sleep in influences, this waste removal is unclear. But one study performed on rats suggests side-sleeping might clear brain waste more efficiently than other postures.

Wrinkle Worries

Although side-sleepers enjoy many advantages, one disadvantage may appear as you age. Because you press down on your face in the lateral position, this posture may both cause facial wrinkles and cause the skin on your face to expand over time.

Sagging Breasts

Side-sleeping women may find that their breast ligament (the Coopers Ligament) slowly stretches over time, causing breast sag. This hasn’t been proven scientifically, yet continues to be a concern for many. If this concerns you, a simple solution is to support your breasts with a pillow. Women with larger breasts may find it more comfortable to sleep with a bra for additional support.

Sleeping on the Side With a Pillow Between the Knees

Although lying on the side is a popular and comfortable sleeping position, it can pull the spine out of position. This can strain the lower back.

Correcting this is easy. Anyone who sleeps on their side can simply place a firm pillow between their knees. This raises the upper leg, which restores the natural alignment of the hips, pelvis, and spine.

To adopt this sleeping position, a person should:

  • Get into bed and carefully roll on to one side.
  • Position a pillow to support the head and neck.
  • Pull the knees up slightly then place a pillow between them.
  • For extra support, fill in any gaps between the body and mattress with more pillows, especially at the waist.

People who habitually turn to sleep on their front may also want to try hugging a large pillow against their chest and stomach to aid sleep and keep their back aligned.

The Fetal Position

Approximately 41% of people sleep using a specific side position by curling up on their sides with their knees bent. Side sleepers who slept with their legs bent and curled toward their torsos are sleeping in the fetal position.

Some studies suggest that more women than men sleep in this position, although other research disputes this. It may be a good choice for pregnant women because this posture improves circulation for both the mother and fetus.

If sleeping this way hurts your hips, placing a pillow between your knees may help relieve pressure.

There’s a reason why this is the most popular sleep position. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the fetal position has loads of benefits. Not only is it great for lower back pain or pregnancy, sleeping in the fetal position can help reduce snoring.

Unfortunately, sleeping in a fetal position does have a few downsides. Make sure your posture is relatively loose; otherwise, your comfy position could limit deep breathing while you snooze. Also, if you have any issues with joint pain or stiffness, sleeping in a tight fetal position might leave you sore in the morning.

As a variation of the side-sleeping position, the biggest benefit of the fetal position is transforming you into a tiny little package for the Sandman’s delivery to Sleepy Town. Beyond that, there’s not much to this return-to-the-womb position other than getting the side-sleeper benefits.

However, there is one downside to the fetal position. Being too curled up too tight can cause your lower back to arch in an unnatural manner, leading to aches and pains in the morning. The position can also put added pressure to your abdomen, not a good idea, especially for Taco Tuesday. On the whole, the fetal position is an all-around solid, restful sleep choice!

Can sleeping posture predict your personality?

That depends on what you consider “personality.” In the 70s and 80s, some researchers claimed they could use sleeping postures to predict if someone were impulsive, feminine, anxious, self-confident–even whether they could be hypnotized.

More recent studies have cast doubt on these theories. The research has been criticized for using “woefully small” numbers of sleepers. Many contradictions have been found between these studies as well.

A more recent attempt to associate personality traits to body positions during sleep came up empty-handed. It showed only a “very weak relationship between sleep positions and personality,” and, using predictions from earlier models, failed to reliably predict the participants’ personality traits.

Even if earlier studies are unreliable, there may be another way that our sleep positions say something about our personalities. Some sleeping positions are associated with well-rested sleepers. Maybe people who prefer them wake up less crabby and irritable and are more alert during the day.

Is your mattress comfortable?

Mattresses are made of a variety of materials. Some are softer or firmer. The type of material that a mattress is made out of affects your body temperature.

When it comes to the firmness of a mattress, you want one that is firm enough to support your spine, but also soft enough to conform to the shape of your body. People who suffer from back pain may be most comfortable on a mattress that is softer and more cushioning.

You can’t know for sure how your mattress will work out until you’ve been resting on it for a while. When shopping for a mattress, buy one from a store that will let you test it for several weeks and exchange it if it doesn’t work for you.

Regardless of health benefits, people sleep in the position they find comfiest. Experimenting with different sleep positions won’t do any harm, so feel free to try each position for a few nights and see which is the best fit. Whether it’s back, side, or stomach, people tend to wake up in the position that their bodies naturally snooze in. Unless a doctor specifically recommends switching, it’s probably best to keep doing what feels right.

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