In many of my pillow reviews, I discuss the health implications of different sleeping positions. Several people have asked me what the best sleeping position is. If you google this, there seems to be many conflicting opinions. Some say you should sleep only on your back. Others say you should sleep on your side, with a proper pillow.
The answer is not quite that simple. Everyone’s body is different. Different sleeping positions each have their own pros and cons. In this article, I’m going to discuss the most common sleeping positions and what they imply about your health.
#1 Sleeping on Your Back
Sleeping on your back is considered to be the healthiest position by many. Laying on your back allows your mattress to properly support your spine. This position also guarantees that your body is not going to be contorted into some weird angle.
It is important not to use a very thick pillow, or stack multiple pillows on top of each other in this position. Doing so can kink the neck, and inhibit breathing. Another bonus of sleeping on your back is that your face is exposed to the cool air. This prevents buildup of natural oils and sweat on your skin, reducing wrinkles and acne.
There are a few disadvantages to sleeping on your back. Scientists have linked back sleeping to a higher instance of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common health issue where breathing is irregular or inhibited during your resting hours. For mild cases, doctors actually prescribe side sleeping as a treatment!
#2 Sleeping on Your Side
Whether you are sleeping in the fetal position or laying straight, side sleeping is the most common sleep position. Because your esophagus is not completely straight, sleeping on your side prevents your stomach acids from settling against your esophagus sphincter. This prevents or reduces the effects of heart burn and acid reflux.
If you are pregnant, side sleeping improves circulation to the heart and reduces pressure on the spine. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to side sleeping. This position can reduce circulation to the arms and cause numbness.
Broad shouldered individuals may find that their shoulders are forced forward, which can cause postural issues or winged scapula. This position can also put unwanted pressure on the lungs and stomach, although this can be addressed by alternating the side that you sleep on.
#3 Sleeping on Your Stomach
People that snore, take solace! Sleeping on your stomach opens up your airways and can reduce the volume and regularity of sleeping. Aside from snoring, there are unfortunately very few benefits to resting on your stomach.
Resting flat on your belly flattens the normal curve of the spine, leading to “forward head posture” and weakening the muscles that help you sit up straight. Because it is impossible to sleep face down, most stomach sleepers leave their head turned to one side. This is extremely hard on the neck. Neck problems can be very hard to address, and will compound and get worse later in life.
#4 Multiple Sleep Positions
Since each sleep position has its own set of positives and negatives, many people feel that you should switch up your position regularly. This is not entirely true. If you find that you change positions multiple times throughout the night, this can indicate a sleep disorder.
When your body falls into deep sleep, a neurotransmitter called glycine is activated. This neurotransmitter paralyses the muscles, and prevents you from physically acting out your dreams. Individuals who change up their sleeping positions multiple times throughout the night are likely not spending as much time in deep sleep, which is essential to a good night’s rest. Being unable to enter deep sleep can be caused by a few different things.
The most common cause is back or neck pain. If you are suffering from one of these conditions, it is essential to talk to a medical professional (Ideally a chiropractor or massage therapist). These people will be able to help you understand what might be going wrong, and suggest stretches or treatment to address the problem.
The doctor may also be able to recommend an idea sleep position for your body type. Although this may be uncomfortable for a night or two, the body is very capable of adapting and you will quickly find yourself getting a deeper, more restful sleep. Another simple explanation for improper rest could be environmental.
Do you live in a very loud urban environment? Do you sleep with pets that regularly wake you up throughout the night? Think about some simple ways to address these problems. One possibility is sleeping with your doors closed. For noise, many people benefit from sound dampening curtains.
The Bottom Lines
While there are many advantages to every sleep position, the “best” one is essentially whatever makes you feel the most comfortable! If you feel good and sleep well, there is no reason to change up your routine. However, if you are suffering from any of the conditions I have discussed in this article, it may be a good time to consider trying something new.