Best Sleeping Position
written by sleep expert Lauren Hall
What Is The Best Sleeping Position?
The best sleep position can help promote healthy spinal alignment all the way from your hips to your heat. But finding the right sleeping positions for you depends on your health situation and what position you find most comfortable.
What may work for you may not work for your partner or a friend, so your sleep position is unique to you.
That being said, some sleeping positions are healthier than others, such as sleeping on your back is much more beneficial than sleeping on your stomach, as sleeping on your stomachs puts your spine in compromised positions, which can cause pressure buildups and cause aches and pains.
It is also easier to keep your spine supported and balanced on your side or back, which helps relax the muscles and ease pressure points, so you wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free, rather than restless and stiff. Sleeping in the right position is key to letting your muscles relax and recover.
Now, wait, let me tell you something.
Buying the right mattress and pillow for side sleeping can help improve your sleep posture and sleep quality as it will lift pressure points where needed and offer support where needed. So you can sleep in your preferred sleeping position and achieve a good night’s sleep.
So that’s the first step. What is the best sleeping position? Well, I’m going to run through the best sleeping positions for certain wants and needs. Whether you’re dealing with back pain, allergies, acid reflux, or pregnancy, I’m here to help you achieve a more restful sleep.
Different sleep positions offer different benefits, and some more than others, so it might be best to start training yourself to sleep in a better position. This will take time, but it is possible; with some support pillows and some discipline, you can achieve the best night’s sleep possible easily.
So let’s delve in!
Sleeping On Your Side:
More than 60% of the population sleep on their side, with men spending more time on their side than women. As children, many of us are combination sleepers, but as we get older, we begin to find more of a preference for side sleeping, especially as our spine decreases as we age.
There are many benefits of sleeping on your side, it helps promote healthy spinal alignment, and it is best for those with back pain when supported correctly with posture and pillows. Side sleeping can also help reduce heartburn, snoring and is the best position for those with obstructive sleep apnea and acid reflux.
Pregnant women also benefit from sleeping on their side as it helps promote blood flow from their heart to the fetus. Sleeping on your left side is the best side to sleep on when pregnant, as it also takes the pressure off of the liver and prevents acid reflux.
Best Sleeping Position For Pregnancy
The fetal position is best for pregnant women, so sleeping on their side with their knees bent. This helps relieve the pressure of a growing belly and helps circulate blood flow easily throughout the body while taking pressure of important organs.
It also prevents the baby from putting too much pressure on the vein that carries the blood from the mother’s leg to their heart. It helps facilitate healthy blood flow to the fetus, uterus, kidneys, and heart.
It is best to sleep on your left side when pregnant as it prevents pressure on your liver, but if this is uncomfortable, then it is best to switch to your right side to relieve pressure on your left hip over sleeping on your back. Using a full-body pillow or pillows under your belly, between your knees, and behind your back can help make sleeping on your side more comfortable.
Best Sleeping Position For Lower Back Pain
The best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your side with a thin pillow in between your knees. This can help take pressure away from your lower back and pop your spine in a neutral position so the pressure points and muscles can relax and repair.
While sleeping on your side is brilliant for relieving pressure around your hips, using the wrong mattress or pillow when sleeping on your side can actually make this worse. You need a medium-firm mattress, preferably with memory foam or latex layers.
Innerspring mattresses are not recommended for lower back pain or hip pain as they are too firm and don’t offer many conforming features like memory foam. Memory foam molds around your curves and shapes to relieve pressure points to help with back pain and even neck pain.
Using a mattress that is too firm can put pressure on your muscles as they are working overtime to keep your spine aligned; this can also put a strain on your pressure points, causing aches and pains. So it is recommended that you go for memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattress for side sleepers.
The pillow loft should also be the distance between your neck and shoulder; the thicker the pillow, the better your spine will stay aligned, which helps prevent pain and soreness and help you wake up feeling well-rested.
Best Sleeping Position For Acid Reflux:
Sleeping on your side is actually the best sleeping position for acid reflux and sleep apnea.
People snore up to 50% more often when sleeping on their back instead of their side. When sleeping on your back, your tongue tends to fall back into your throat, which causes an obstruction that results in snoring. This can damage sleep quality for both you and if you sleep with a partner.
It can help ease symptoms of sleep apnea because it helps open airways and makes it easier to breathe throughout the night. It can help those with sleep-related breathing disorders as it helps keep airways open and prevents you from swelling your tongue.
Sleeping on your left side is much better than sleeping on your right side if you suffer from acid reflux or sleep apnea, as it prevents acid from leaking up your esophagus. This can worsen heartburn and sleep apnea symptoms. This can happen when sleeping on your right side.
Sleeping on your side can also help gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as it prevents acid from leaking into your esophagus.
What Side Should You Sleep On?
So which side is best to sleep on? Left vs right side? Typically provide medical advice it is best to sleep on your left side; it can really help those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea or acid reflux as it prevents acid from leaking up your esophagus, which can worsen heartburn and sleep apnea symptoms. This can happen when sleeping on your right side.
There are some serious benefits of sleeping on your left side.
If you are pregnant or experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), then sleeping on your left is best. But for those who suffer from heart failure, then sleeping on their left side may be uncomfortable, so many prefer to sleep on their right side.
Drawbacks To Sleeping on Your Side:
The only time that it is not recommended that the side sleep position is used is if you suffer from chronic neck pain or shoulder pain. This is because when sleeping on your side, you are putting a lot of pressure on one shoulder. With the right mattress and supportive pillows, you can help this.
Ensuring that your mattress has enough give to help your hips and shoulders sink further into the mattress to help provide support and prevent shoulder and hip pain. Memory foam is best for side sleepers to help relieve these sensitive pressure point areas.
If you suffer from hip pain or shoulder pain but still want to sleep in this sleep position for the other benefits, then maybe consider getting a full body pillow; it can help lift your upper body and help promote spinal alignment by lifting your knees. It can help ease these pressure points and add comfort.
If you’re worried about facial wrinkles, then sleeping on your side might not be ideal as the pressure on one side of your face can cause one side to soften and cause wrinkles. Temporary wrinkles can be reduced with a silk or satin pillow, plus permanent wrinkles are only accelerated with smoking or sun damage.
Sleeping On Your Back:
Sleeping on your back is the second most popular position; there are many benefits similar to the side sleeping positions, but when you’re lying flat, you can easily keep your spine aligned and evenly distribute your body weight, preventing potential aches and pains in your neck or back.
Sleeping on your back is also the best sleeping position for sinus drainage, making it ideal for those with allergies or for those recovering from winter flu or a seasonal cold as it props you in a slightly more upright position.
Your skin also benefits from sleeping on your back as you’re facing upwards, and there’s no pillow smushed up against your face, so you’re less likely to get sleep wrinkles from this sleeping position. But knowing how to sleep on your back is important.
Best Sleeping Position For Neck Pain:
Lying on your back is the best way to relieve neck pain; it prevents misalignment, which occurs when sleeping incorrectly on your side or by stomach sleeping. To help relieve neck pain, you can use a pillow that supports your neck while letting your head sink deeper into the pillow.
Memory foam pillows work wonders for relieving neck pain, as they contour around the curves and help relieve sensitive pressure points in your head and shoulders. Or you can roll up a towel and pop it underneath your neck, and use a flatter pillow for your head to help with neck pain.
While resting, you should also try to keep your arms in the same place, for example, keeping them both by your side or on your stomach rather than one flying off one way and the other one next to you as this can cause your spine to be put in a non-neutral position which can lead to neck or backache.
Your sleep position plays an important role in relieving pressure points, so if your back is your prone position, make sure you have enough support.
Best Sleeping Position For Shoulder Pain:
Sleeping on your back or sleeping on your side with the right support can help ease shoulder pain. Using the right mattress and pillow will go a long way in relieving pressure across your body; it will lift pressure points around sensitive areas like your neck, shoulders, and back, so you wake up ache-free.
You should try sleeping on your back with a small pillow nested between your shoulder blades; this will help provide relief around your shoulders as most often, shoulder pain is caused by your body’s flatness during the night. So the best sleep position for shoulder pain would be on your back.
Best Sleeping Position For Sinus Drainage:
If you suffer from allergies, then the back sleep positions would be best for sinus drainage, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Just use some pillows to prop up your upper back, so you’re in a slightly more upright position without collapsing the spine– you can also use a wedge pillow for this too.
This will help your airways stay open, which will help drain your sinuses; laying flat on your back can increase congestion in your nose, so the best sleeping positions for sinus drainage are side and propped up back sleep positions as both help open airways and clear your nose.
Drawbacks To Sleeping on Your Back:
There are a few people back sleeping is not recommended for, such as pregnant women, sleep apnea sufferers, those with certain types of back pain, GERD or acid reflux sufferers, and overweight sleepers. Some elderly sleepers would also benefit from side sleeping over the back sleeping.
Back sleeping is the worst sleeping for snorers or those suffering from sleep apnea as your tongue is likely to roll back when sleeping in this position which can block your airways, causing you to snore and making sleep apnea symptoms worsen.
While some people find relief from sleeping on their back for their back pain, however, if your mattress is too firm, it can cause a gap between your lower back and the mattress surface, which can cause tension buildup in your lower back which can cause you to wake up with aches and pains in the morning.
Just a small pillow in that area or placing a pillow under your knees can really help relieve pressure while supporting the natural curve of your spine.
Back sleeping is strongly advised against when pregnant because this can cause the baby to put pressure on your heart and make blood flow more difficult. Sleeping on your back in the third trimester can also increase the risk of stillbirth over side sleeping.
Also, sufferers of acid reflux and GERD should also avoid sleeping on their back, and if they must sleep on their back, then sleep with a wedge pillow. GERD episodes become far more frequent when sleeping on your back than when sleeping on your side as the airways tend to be blocked.
Also, as we grow older, our body becomes heavier, which makes it harder to breathe when lying on our backs due to the gravity on the body; switching to a side sleeping position is a much better alternative for older individuals and those who are overweight as it helps keep airways open.
Sleeping On Your Stomach:
Sleeping on your stomach is the least popular sleep position; much research suggests that we spend less than 10% of the night in this position, and some who prefer sleeping on their stomach, may suffer from back and neck ache as it puts your spine in a compromised position.
Stomach sleeping can help relieve snoring by opening up your airway. However, your ribs have to work against gravity to breathe, so it makes your sleep less restful as you’re using a lot more energy to breathe. So your muscles can not only not relax, but it can actually make the pain worse.
Why Is Sleeping On Your Stomach Bad?
There are a few reasons why stomach sleeping is bad and why it is the least common sleep position. It is because it comes with its fair drawbacks, and it isn’t the comfiest sleeping position for most people. It is a no-no for pregnant women, those with back pain, and those worried about sleep wrinkles.
Stomach sleeping provides the least back support in comparison to other sleeping positions as it increases pressure on the spine, which causes pain when waking up. When sleeping on your stomach, you twist your neck, so your head is facing one side. This puts your head out of alignment with the rest of your spine.
Knowing how to sleep on your stomach properly is also key to help reduce this pain and discomfort.
This pops pressure on your spine and puts it out of alignment. This asymmetrical sleep posture can have negative effects on your spine over time. It can also contribute to facial wrinkles since your face is pressed against a pillow or the surface of the mattress.
Without the right pillow or mattress either, it can cause you to wake up with a hundred different aches and pains when you wake up in the morning. It is recommended that you sleep on your stomach with a thin pillow or no pillow at all to promote the natural curve of your spine and prevent tilting your neck back.
Then place a flat pillow underneath your hips to help even out your spine to relieve pressure. A firm mattress is recommended for stomach sleepers to keep your spine aligned and prevent you from sinking into the mattress, as this can put your spine in a compromised position.
So there you have the best sleep positions for all kinds of wants and needs. Training yourself to sleep on your back or side has an insane amount of benefits for relieving aches and pains as well as relieving issues like sleep apnea and GERD– especially when sleeping on your side.
Knowing how to sleep on your side is also super important as sleeping incorrectly on your side can just cause a whirl of pain and discomfort as your spine might not be supported enough, and there might not be enough pressure relief. Sleep hygiene is also super important for a good nights rest.
Choosing the right mattress for sleeping position will also go a long way too, so be sure to check out my full guide of the best mattresses of 2021 to find the right match for you.
Your precious Zzzs await!
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