The Best Sleeping Position for a Great Night’s Rest

written by / May 29, 2019
Best Sleeping Position - Featured

Doesn’t it seem logical that everything about sleep should come naturally? After all, it’s a natural state of our body and mind. However, this isn’t what usually happens. Some of us have trouble falling asleep, and others sleep longer hours than recommended—both of which can have negative effects on our health.

Besides the duration of your slumber, the way you curl up in bed can cause numerous ailments. So do you experience back pain? Or do you have problems with snoring or heartburn? Read on to find out what the best sleeping position is for people with these problems. We’ll also talk about the pros and cons of the most common sleeping positions and give you some tips to improve your rest time. This comprehensive infographic also gives a quick overview of the three most popular sleeping positions.

Fetal Position

About 41% of people like to take up a fetal position in their sleep, so this is definitely the most popular way to snooze. It’s interesting that more women than men prefer to sleep on their side. If you too are a fan of sleeping this way, the good news is that this is one of the most healthy sleeping positions.

It places your spine in perfect alignment and thus prevents back pain. In addition, according to certain studies conducted on rats, sleeping on your side can improve your neurological health. In particular, this position helps clear waste chemicals from the brain that can otherwise lead to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Pregnant women should also sleep in this position, especially on their left side. So if you’re expecting, this is the best way to sleep at night because this position improves both your own and your baby’s circulation. At the same time, it prevents your uterus from pressing against your liver.

Bonus tip: Don’t curl up too tight, since that will restrict breathing in your diaphragm.

Log Position

People sleeping in the log position also prefer dozing on their side, but they don’t pull their knees up high, and they keep their arms down. 15% of all sleepers prefer this position. Similar to the fetal position, this way of sleeping keeps your spine in good alignment and prevents you from snoring. That’s why it’s often recommended in addition to using an anti-snoring device. Plus, this is the best sleeping position for sleep apnea, since it helps the airways stay open.

Bonus tip: If you feel uncomfortable pressure on your hips, try placing a pillow between your knees.

Freefall Position

Best Sleeping Position - Freefall

As its name suggests, people sleeping in this position look like they’re falling through the clouds. If you like to sleep on their stomach, you should know that the only advantage of this position is that it prevents snoring.

Dozing this way causes back and neck pain since your spine usually isn’t properly aligned.

Bonus tip: To prevent severe neck pain after sleeping, try facing the mattress instead of sleeping with your head turned to one side. In order to keep your airway open, place your forehead on a pillow.

Soldier Position

Do you like sleeping on your back with the arms by your side? This is a great position for your neck and back since it puts them in the most natural alignment. Another good thing about this position is that it prevents acid reflux, so this is the best sleeping position for digestion.

However, the downside of snoozing this way is that people are more likely to snore when lying on their back. What’s more, this is a terrible position for people with sleep apnea, a condition characterized by pauses in one’s breathing. There’s a simple explanation for this: due to gravity, our airway closes more easily if we slumber on our back.

Bonus tip: The soldier position wards off acid reflux only if you sleep on a pillow that elevates your head enough.

Starfish Position

Snoozing on your back with your legs spread apart and arms stretched above the head is the least popular sleep position. Only 5% of people like to catch their ZZZs in this pose. Just like the soldier position, it’s the best sleeping position for neck pain. The starfish is also great for you if you suffer from back pain. However, stay away from it if you tend to snore or have sleep apnea.

How to Choose Your Position

Although you probably already have a favorite sleeping position, one that makes you feel comfortable and cozy in bed, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change it. Before you snuggle under your blanket, think about the factors that might affect you.

Back and Neck Pain

If you constantly wake up with a pain in your neck or back, you might consider sleeping on your back or side. Generally, the best sleeping position for lower back pain is the soldier or starfish position. In these poses, your spine is perfectly aligned, just like when you sleep on your side. However, the former dozing position can lead to neck pain if you don’t have an appropriate pillow.

Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Although it’s not always the case, snoring can sometimes be a sign of sleep apnea, a serious sleep disorder. According to snoring statistics, about 30% of habitual snorers suffer from sleep apnea. People with this health problem experience pauses in their breathing during sleep because the muscles in the back of their throat relax and close the airways. To prevent this from happening, you should sleep either on your side or on your stomach. Although snoozing on your belly isn’t the best sleep position for other ailments, this way, snoring won’t disrupt your slumber.

Acid Reflux and Heartburn

If you have problems with acid reflux or heartburn, avoid sleeping on your stomach since this will only make the situation worse. Instead, try dozing on your back with your head supported with a somewhat thicker pillow. Alternatively, you can catch your ZZZs on your left side. Several studies confirm that sleeping in this position will alleviate your problem.

Healthy Complexion

Snoozing on your side or stomach with your face constantly pressed against the pillow can cause breakouts or even make your face wrinkle. So if a healthy complexion is your primary concern, it’s best that you sleep on your back. This is the best sleep position for maintaining healthy skin.

Pick the Right Pillow

The main purpose of a pillow is to keep your neck in a natural position and maintain a healthy spinal alignment. When choosing a pillow, you should consider several things. First, how comfortable it is. Then, your pillow should easily adapt to different sleep positions, and it shouldn’t lose its shape quickly. In fact, it’s recommended you change your pillow after 12–18 months of use. Finally, the choice of a pillow greatly depends on your preferred sleep position.

If you prefer sleeping on your back, which is the best sleep position for neck pain, you need a thinner pillow. This way, you won’t strain your neck, and your spine will maintain its proper alignment.

On the other hand, you should look for a thicker pillow if you doze mostly on your side. Although this pose is great for spinal alignment, it can place strain on your neck if your pillow doesn’t provide adequate support. It’s very important that it fills the space between your neck and bed surface.

Do you like snoozing on your stomach? Then, you don’t need any pillow! Or if you can’t say goodbye to it, make sure that it’s really thin. Otherwise, you might end up with serious neck pain. However, keep in mind that this isn’t the best sleep position for back pain.

Another option is to sleep on your belly facing the mattress. In this case, you’ll need a small, firm pillow that will support your forehead, since you don’t want to block your breathing by tucking your nose into the bed.

Choose Your Mattress

Best Sleeping Position - Mattress

When it comes to choosing the perfect mattress, things aren’t that simple. There’s a wide selection of mattresses that vary in terms of materials, firmness levels, cooling properties, and so much more. Furthermore, we are all different and have different needs. That’s why we’ll focus here on choosing a mattress according to your sleep position.

Since sleeping on your side isn’t the best sleeping position for shoulder pain, you should pick a softer mattress. A mattress with a plush feel won’t cause additional pressure on your joints, so you won’t get up in the morning with shoulder or hip pain.

If you normally catch your ZZZs on your stomach, your greatest concern should be that your hips don’t sink too deeply into the mattress. That’s why a firmer mattress is the best pick for you. This kind of mattress provides the best support for your spine, keeping it properly aligned. Although this pose isn’t praised for its beneficial effects on the spine, it’s the best position to sleep in if you’re a chronic snorer.

Are you a back sleeper? Probably the ideal mattress for you is of medium firmness. This way, you’ll get the right amount of body contouring and adequate spinal support.

Of course, all these guidelines are rather general and apply to people of average height and weight. So keep in mind that you’ll need to take many other factors into account when shopping for a mattress.


Is it better to sleep on your left or right side?

It’s usually recommended for pregnant women to sleep on their left side. In this position, their uterus doesn’t press against the liver. In addition, dozing on the left side improves their circulation as well as the circulation of their growing baby. This sleeping position is also good for people who have trouble with heartburn. According to some studies, sleeping on the left side can ease acid reflux and heartburn.

Why is it that sleeping on your stomach is considered bad?

If you suffer from lower back pain, you should definitely avoid sleeping on your stomach. In this sleep position, your hips easily sink into the mattress, thus putting your spine in an inadequate position. Also, snoozing on your belly with your head turned to one side can lead to neck pain.

Is it bad to sleep with your arms above your head?

When sleeping with your arms above your head, the nerves in your shoulders might suffer due to excessive pressure. This can even cause nerve damage. No matter what, it’s common to feel a tingling sensation and numbness in your arms upon waking when you sleep this way.

What Position Is Best for Sleeping?

To sum up, each sleep position has its advantages and disadvantages. Generally, sleeping on your back or side is best for alleviating back and neck pain. On the other hand, dozing on your stomach will help you with snoring and sleep apnea.

So if you wake up with any of these ailments, try changing your sleep position. Just don’t expect that you’ll feel instant relief since it takes some time for your body to adapt to a new pose. Also, consider replacing your old pillow and mattress. After all, even the best sleeping position won’t have any effect if your bed doesn’t provide you with adequate support.

Before I started working as a sleep expert, I always envied people who were passionate about their jobs. Now I finally have an opportunity to do something I truly enjoy, and no, I can’t sleep at work! For me, it’s definitely as good as it gets—as I spend a considerable amount of time lying down on various mattresses, testing sleeping products, and reviewing them to help guide you to your ideal sleeping situation. Plus, I work tightly with other sleep experts and doctors to provide you with valuable information and helpful advice about sleep.