Whenever we climb into bed at the end of a day, the first thing we do is assume our preferred sleeping position. This could involve lying on our back, side, or stomach.
The relative healthiness of a sleep position depends on the individual and their objectives.
Sleeping on the side is recommended for pregnant women, chronic snorers, and those with back pain. Back sleeping may boost the health of people with joint pain, nocturia, or blocked noses.
If you enjoy high-quality, restful sleep and don’t experience physical pain or discomfort in the morning, your sleep position is likely okay. However, many people find that everyday aches, pains, and ailments can be resolved by changing sleep positions.
Why Do We Sleep in Different Positions?
We all have a preferred side of the bed and a favored sleeping position. Sometimes, this is born of necessity. If you share a bed, you may find that you can only get comfortable in certain positions.
In other instances, chosen sleeping positions can be revealing about our personalities. A study by Sleep and Hypnosis, which surveyed the sleep positions of university students, links feelings of anger to preferred sleep positions.
Everybody has reasons for a favored sleep position, and it’s believed that these selections can be attributed to particular personas. Of course, sleeping positions aren’t always subconscious.
Health concerns and considerations will play a role in what position we choose to sleep. For example, somebody experiencing chronic back pain will be keen to keep pressure off their spine overnight.
Can I Change My Sleeping Position?
We all change our sleep positions at night, and it’s rare for anybody to lay statue still for eight hours straight. If you find the right sleeping position before dozing off, you may enjoy better rest.
When we’re exhausted and ready for bed, we automatically assume a position we find comforting. If you want to change your default sleeping position, you’ll need to train yourself.
You should keep assuming this new posture, even after the occasional nap, to gain more experience. Prop yourself up and lock yourself into position with pillows, if necessary.
Specialist pillows and mattresses are designed for varying positions. Maximize your comfort – and by extension, good health – by pairing the apparatus with your preferred position.
Can Sleeping Positions Influence Health?
Sleeping posture will dictate the quality of your rest. You’ll struggle to enjoy a whole, uninterrupted night of sleep if you’re uncomfortable.
Finding the perfect sleep position can also reduce symptoms of day-to-day ailments.
If you struggle with back pain, relieving the pressure on your spine by adjusting a sleeping position will likely help, while other conditions can be aided.
Be mindful of your position while sleeping, as poor nocturnal posture can lead to acid reflux, and other digestive concerns can worsen if you adopt a less-than-ideal sleeping position.
What Is The Most Healthy Position to Sleep in?
There’s no one perfect sleeping position for everybody, so there’s no default ‘healthiest’ sleeping position. Many factors play into finding the ideal position to sleep.
We all have unique circumstances that dictate our preferences:
- Somebody carrying extra weight will be better off sleeping on their side, as it’s easier to breathe.
- If you need to pee at night, sleeping on the back reduces pressure on the bladder.
- Some people are most comfortable sleeping on their stomachs.
It can take a little trial and error to find the right position, so let’s review the health advantages:
Sleeping on the Back
Back sleeping (known as the supine position) has mixed results.
Some people find sleeping on the back more comfortable, especially as it takes up little space. Others can’t control their snoring or sleep apnea issues while on their back.
If you prefer to sleep on your back, you must distribute your weight equally throughout a mattress. If you have backache when you wake up, train yourself to sleep in a different position or upgrade your mattress to a model with more springs for superior support.
Back sleeping isn’t for everybody, so don’t force yourself into this position, especially if you’re prone to snoring, as this can be detrimental to a partner’s sleep routines.
Do you breathe through your nose or mouth in bed? If so, sleeping on your back may be beneficial.
It’s advisable to breathe through the nose when sleeping, as this allows more oxygen to enter the blood, enhancing the performance of the organs and muscles. The prone position, elevating the upper back with a pillow, makes this easier.
Clearing your airways reduces pressure on the head, resulting in fewer headaches.
Joint, Muscular, And Lumbar Pain
Pain can be one the biggest obstacles to high-quality sleep, as it’s likely to keep us awake or unwillingly rouse us from slumber at a moment’s notice. Back sleeping can be beneficial if you experience discomfort in the neck, muscles, shoulders, or lumbar regions.
As explained, adopting the supine position on a premium mattress leads to an even distribution of weight and pressure points throughout the spine. That keeps weight off any sore or injured body parts.
Neck pain is best managed by sleeping on the back. As explained by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, this is known as the ‘soldier position’ – lying flat on the back with arms straight at the sides.
Nocturia (Urinating in the Night)
Few things can be more frustrating than needing to urinate multiple times in the night (known as nocturia). This ailment grows increasingly commonplace as we age, and sleeping on your back can reduce the need for bathroom breaks.
Sleeping on your back won’t put pressure on the bladder. So, you’ll still need to urinate if you wake up for any other reason. A full bladder is less likely to rouse you from sleep, though.
Sleeping on your back won’t resolve any health concern that leaves you needing to pee at night. If your comfort breaks result from diabetes or an enlarged prostate, your sleeping position will be immaterial.
None of us like facial wrinkles, so many of us dedicate time and resources to slowing the aging process. Adopting the supine position can aid your skincare regime.
When you sleep with your face on a pillow, fluid rushes to and pools within the area, making the skin puffy, and leading to bags under the eyes. When less pressure is placed on your face, there’s less scope for your face to become misshapen or wrinkled.
Of course, sleeping on your back has other advantages to a skincare regime. The skin sweats while we rest, but remaining on your back prevents sweat from pooling.
Sleeping on the Side
Most side sleepers find it easier to breathe overnight, making this position safer for anybody with sleep apnea. Side sleeping is also good for bad backs, reducing pressure on the spine.
If you have historical pain or injuries in your shoulder, hip, or other muscles, they can be aggravated while you doze. Position yourself to minimize the impact on any pressure points.
Sleeping on the side, especially in the fetal position, remains popular. Many experts consider it the healthiest sleeping position due to easy breathing.
It’s tempting to sleep on the back because it alleviates pressure on the stomach.
According to Early Human Development, this can negatively impact the heart. Healthcare professionals advise pregnant women to sleep on their side, bending their knees.
This position ensures that you don’t accidentally roll onto your stomach and maintains healthy hemodynamics for mother and baby.
Pregnant sleepers should rest on the left-hand side, as this keeps pressure off the liver, a vital organ during the gestation of a child. Switching to the right is okay if the left hip starts to hurt.
Consider applying a cushion or pillow for additional support and protection.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Medical intervention is often needed when treating sleep apnea, but as per Sleep Medicine Reviews, sleeping on the side can have a positive impact.
While back sleeping opens the nasal passages, sleeping on the side allows more air into the lungs. This reduces the impact of apnea, making it less dangerous.
Even if somebody doesn’t have severe sleep apnea, snoring can be reduced by up to 50% by sleeping on the side. This will be a relief to anybody who sleeps alongside a snorer.
We’ve mentioned how sleeping on the back can reduce aches and pains in the body. What if the pain revolves around the spine? The impact of a damaged back can be relieved by sleeping on the side.
This is especially relevant if you can’t access a superior mattress. Sleeping on the side keeps emphasis off pressure points on the spine. Box yourself into position with pillows to keep yourself on your side, and slip a cushion between the knees to maximize comfort.
Sleeping on your side won’t cure long-term damage to the spine unless it’s a case of impact bruising that will ease with time. If you stay off your back while sleeping, you’ll feel refreshed in the morning.
Sleeping on the Stomach
Nature and Science of Sleep stated that sleeping on the stomach is comparatively rare in adults, and only 10% of people are believed to prefer the prone position.
Sleeping on the stomach rarely offers any health benefits, but it opens the airways, which can assist breathing and sleep apnea.
Alas, sleeping on the stomach also defies the laws of gravity. Sleeping this way takes energy, resulting in waking up feeling unrested.
You risk a crick in the neck by sleeping on the stomach, as you’ll have no choice but to twist your face to one side. This can eventually cause misalignment with the spine, resulting in neck and back pain.
Consider supporting your chest with a specialist pillow for front sleepers.