Have you ever considered the importance of your sleeping posture? You may not have a preference, but your sleeping position can directly affect your health.
While the best sleeping posture is generally considered to be sleeping on your back with your arms by your sides, here are the common sleeping positions and their effects to help you discover how the way you sleep affects your well-being.
Pros: Many doctors agree that back is best. Snoozing in savasana pose is a boon for spine and neck health, because the back is straight and not forced into any contortions. Plus back sleeping helps the mattress do its job of supporting the spine. In a perfect world, everyone would sleep on their backs without a pillow, as this position leaves the neck in a neutral position. Using too many pillows, however, can make breathing more difficult.
Back sleeping is also a winner for the more cosmetically inclined. Spending all night with the face out in the air—and not smooshed up against a pillow—leads to fewer facial wrinkles .
Cons: Instances of snoring and sleep apnea are much more frequent when a person is sleeping in the supine position. In fact, back sleeping is so closely linked to sleep apnea that doctors prescribe side sleeping as a treatment for the condition . When we sleep on our backs, gravity forces the base of the tongue to collapse into the airway, which obstructs breathing and creates oh-so-pleasant snoring noises that keeps the neighbors up at night.
It’s also worth noting that a supported spine doesn’t always necessarily mean a good night’s sleep. A study comparing the sleep habits of good sleepers and poor sleepers noted the people with worse-quality sleep spent more time on their backs than the good sleepers .
Pros: Side sleepers, unite! Whether they’re curling up in the cozy fetal position or lying straight on one side, the vast majority of people report sleeping on their sides (although since everyone is unconscious during sleep, this information can never be entirely accurate).
Doctors encourage sleeping on the left side during pregnancy because it improves circulation to the heart, which benefits both mom and baby. Side sleeping is also a pregnancy winner because sleeping on the back puts pressure on the lower back (which can lead to fainting) and stomach-sleeping is impossible for obvious reasons . For those not expecting, sleeping on the left side can also ease heartburn and acid reflux, making it easier for people with these conditions to doze off.
Cons: At the same time, sleeping on the left side can put pressure on the stomach and lungs (alternating sides often can help prevent organ strain). And as almost all side-sleepers know well, this position can result in the dreaded squished-arm-numbness. Snuggling into bed with the arm behind the head is a common sleep position, but it may adversely affect muscles and nerves. Resting the head (or the whole body) on a single arm can restrict blood flow and press down on the nerves, which results in “rubber arm” or painful pins and needles. In this position, the shoulder supports a lot of the body’s weight, which can constrict the neck and shoulder muscles .
Pros: Stomach sleeping eases snoring and some cases of sleep apnea, but that’s pretty much the only good thing about going belly-down at night.
Cons: Resting on the tummy is widely regarded as the worst sleeping position. It flattens the natural curve of the spine, which can lead to lower back pain. Sleeping all night with the head turned to one side also strains the neck. If this is the preferred position, try using pillows to gradually train the body to sleep on one side. Lower back twinges? Try sticking a pillow under the hips and lower abdomen to give the bottom of the spine a boost.
1. On your back with arms at side
Sleeping on your back with your arms to the side is generally considered to be the best sleeping position for spine health and your neck, so long as you do not use too many pillows. That said, back sleepers tend to snore more than those in other positions and may be more prone to sleep apnea.
2. On your back with arms rested upwards
This so-called “starfish” position is also good for the back. Whether you have your arms up around your pillow or not, sleeping on your back may also help to prevent facial wrinkles and skin breakouts. However, like the arms-down back sleeping position, this one can also result in snoring and problems with acid reflux. Plus, having your arms up can place unnecessary pressure on nerves in your shoulders, causing pain and discomfort.
Sleeping on your stomach can improve digestion, but unless you have developed a way to breathe through your pillow, it most likely leads to you tilting your face in one direction or the other. This can put a lot of strain on your neck.
Sleeping face down can also cause back pain, since the curve of the spine is unsupported.
4. Foetal position
Sleeping curled up into a ball with your knees drawn in to your chest and your chin tilted down may be comfortable, but it can strain your back and neck.
The extreme curl of the foetal position can also restrict deep breathing. That considered, sleeping in a foetal position could have you sleeping like a baby if you experience problems with snoring or if you are pregnant.
5. On your side with arms at side
When you sleep on your side with both arms down, the spine is best supported in its natural curve. This can definitely help reduce back and neck pain, while also reducing the risk of sleep apnoea.
The downside is that sleeping on the side can contribute to skin ageing due to gravity, meaning facial wrinkles and sagging breasts.
6. On your side with arms out
This position has many of the same benefits as sleeping on your side with your arms positioned straight down. However, any side-sleeping can cause shoulder and arm discomfort due to restricted blood flow and pressure on the nerves, which may be exacerbated by having your arms out in front of you.
7. On he right side
If you are a side-sleeper, the side you sleep on also makes a difference. Sleeping on the right side can worsen heartburn, while sleeping on the left side can put strain on internal organs like the liver, lungs and stomach (although minimising acid reflux). For pregnant women, doctors typically advise sleeping on the left side, since this can improve circulation to the foetus.
8. Pillow Supplemented
Regardless of which sleeping position you prefer, it is highly likely that you can get a better night’s rest with less pain in the morning by supplementing your body with a pillow. Back-sleepers can put a small pillow under the arch of their spine, side-sleepers can place a pillow between their knees and stomach-sleepers can place a pillow under their hips to support the joints to allow for full, pain-free relaxation.