What’s the Best Sleeping Position for a Great Night’s Rest?
written by/ April 29, 2022
Many things can influence the quality of our sleep, starting from our lifestyle to our mental and physical health. But unlike these, there’s one thing that we can change fairly easily—the position we prefer to sleep in.
Finding the best sleeping position for your body can mean a neck pain- and back pain-free day but also better digestion and a night without nightmares.
So, which sleeping position is adequate for you?
Go through the pros and cons of each one elaborated in this article. The given info should make your choice much easier and your sleep healthier.
About 41% of people like to take up this position during sleep, lying on their side with their knees high up. Therefore, this is definitely the most popular way to snooze. Interestingly, 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 because this position improves both the mother’s and the baby’s circulation. At the same time, it prevents the uterus from pressing against the liver as opposed to sleeping on the back, for example.
Bonus tip: Don’t curl up too much since that can restrict deep breathing in your diaphragm.
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. About 15% of all sleepers prefer this position.
Similar to the fetal position, the log position keeps your spine in good alignment and prevents you from snoring. That’s why it’s often recommended for this kind of sleeping trouble in addition to using an anti-snoring device.
Also, this is the best sleeping position for sleep apnea since it helps the airways stay open. This is true for apnea types except tongue-related obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Unfortunately, with this OSA type, a study shows, there’s no improvement when sleeping sideways.
What Is the Best Position to Sleep, Left or Right?
There’s one more choice to be made after adopting this or the fetal sleeping position, and that is: which side should you sleep on? Scientists dwelled on this question, focusing on breathing and health benefits.
It’s also said that sleeping in the log position on your left side is the best sleeping position for acid reflux. This is because it can prevent stomach acid from going into the esophagus.
In addition, this position makes it easier for our body to clean up the metabolites in our brain that build up during the day (brain waste). Needless to say, this keeps neurodegenerative diseases at bay.
Bonus tip: If you feel uncomfortable pressure on your hips in this position, try placing a pillow between your knees. Also, try to use neck-adjusted pillows for side sleeping since not all pillows are comfortable for side-sleepers.
Freefall Position (Sleeping on Your Stomach)
As its name suggests, people sleeping in this position look like they’re free falling. If you like to sleep on your stomach, you should know that you risk back and neck pain since your spine most likely won’t be correctly aligned.
Moreover, the freefall position supported by pillows—otherwise known as the proning position— recently became famous as the best sleeping position for COVID.
Experts say that it prevents the heart and liver from exerting pressure on the lungs, thereby allowing them to fill with more oxygen. Nevertheless, this advantage is more noticeable in hospitalized patients than in those fighting milder forms of infection.
Asthmatics can also benefit from this sleeping position, as it leads to milder airway defects during bronchoconstriction.
In addition to being the best sleeping position for breathing, the proning sleeping position also prevents snoring.
Bonus tip: To prevent severe neck pain, try facing the mattress instead of sleeping with your head turned to one side. In order to keep your airway open, place the forehead on your pillow.
This one is also called the supine position. You sleep like a soldier when you lie on your back with your arms resting by your side. This is healthy for your neck and back since it allows for the most natural alignment.
If you keep your head slightly higher than the rest of your body, the soldier position can be your ally in fighting acid reflux. There’s one condition, though—not to be overweight.
Moreover, for those with optimal body weight, together with the left log and fetal position, this one too can be beneficial for digestion if you use a firmer pillow.
The downside of snoozing this way is that people are more likely to snore when lying on their backs. Also, this is a terrible position for people with sleep apnea, as many studies suggest.
Namely, despite being the best sleeping position for posture, due to gravity, our airway gets obstructed more easily if we slumber on the back.
Bonus tip: The soldier position wards off acid reflux only if you sleep on a pillow that elevates your head at least 6 inches.
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 lying this way.
Nevertheless, just like the soldier position, it’s great for preventing or alleviating neck pain. The starfish is also good if you suffer from back pain.
Moreover, this is the best sleeping position for preventing wrinkles and acne. Your face doesn’t touch your bedding, and therefore doesn’t get infected or wrinkled.
Basically, the health risks and benefits are similar to those of the soldier position. Therefore, avoid the starfish if you tend to snore or suffer from sleep apnea. On the positive side, sleeping this way is beneficial for cooling your body on hot summer nights.
Bonus tip: To make the starfish suitable for back pain prevention, you need to check if there’s a gap between your lower back and your mattress.
How to Choose The Best Sleeping Position for Yourself
Before you snuggle up under your blanket, think about the effects your favorite sleep position may have on your health and whether or not it’s time to change it.
Back and Neck Pain
If you constantly wake up feeling 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 one can lead to neck pain if you don’t have an appropriate pillow.
Depending on your body’s constitution, you might need a pillow to put under your knees and another one to put under your neck.
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring can sometimes be a sign of sleep apnea, a severe sleep disorder. According to snoring statistics, about 30% of habitual snorers suffer from this disorder.
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 breathing or your partner’s sleep.
Acid Reflux and Heartburn
If you have problems with acid reflux or heartburn, avoid sleeping on your stomach since this will only worsen the situation. 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 this problem.
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.
High Blood Pressure
New scientific evidence suggests that side sleeping leads to more stable blood pressure. This may be due to the fact that apneic episodes are far less frequent when you sleep on your side, rather than your stomach or back.
Also, blood circulation is better when sleeping on the left side. In any case, more scientific research is needed to make a definitive conclusion on whether side sleeping is the best sleeping position for the heart and blood vessels.
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, you need a thinner pillow. This way, you won’t strain your neck, and proper spinal alignment will be maintained.
This group of sleepers should look for a thicker pillow. Although this position 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 all through the night. Pillow-supported side sleeping is also the best sleeping position for sciatica. In this case, place the pillow between your knees to keep the optimal alignment of your lower spine and hips.
Do you like snoozing on your stomach? Then, you don’t need a pillow at all! Or if you can’t say goodbye to it, make sure it’s really thin. Otherwise, you might end up with severe neck pain.
Another option is to sleep on your belly while 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 digging your nose into the bed.
Choose Your Mattress
When it comes to choosing the perfect mattress, things aren’t that simple. There’s a wide selection of modes that vary in terms of materials, firmness levels, cooling properties, and so much more.
Furthermore, we’re all different and have different needs. That’s why we’ll focus here on matching the right mattress to your position.
Since sleeping on your side isn’t the best sleeping position for shoulder pain, you should pick a softer mattress if you have this problem.
High-quality memory foam mattresses and those with pillow tops are unlikely to cause additional pressure on your joints so that you won’t get up in the morning with shoulder pain or hip pain.
If you usually 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 it isn’t praised for its beneficial effects on the spine, it’s the best position for chronic snorers.
If you’re a back sleeper, probably the ideal mattress for you is a medium firm one. With it, 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 probably need to take other factors into account when shopping for a mattress and accessories.
So, What Position Is Best for Sleeping?
To sum up, each position has its advantages and disadvantages. Generally, sleeping on your back or side is great 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 to feel instant relief since it takes some time for your body to adapt to a new position.
Also, consider replacing your old pillow and mattress. After all, even the perfect sleeping position won’t have any effect if your bed doesn’t provide you with adequate support.
What is the healthiest way to sleep?
There’s no common agreement on which of the four main sleeping positions is the best for one’s overall health. However, scientific evidence seems to point to the side-sleeping position, specifically sleeping on the left side.
This sleep position is good for:
- proper spine alignment
- better blood circulation
- more effective drainage of the lymph
- stopping apneic episodes
- preventing acid reflux and soothing heartburn
- boosting the health of the fetus.
Is it better to sleep on your left or right side?
Currently, scientists are more favorable to sleeping on the left side. This sleeping position is also recommended for pregnant women. In this position, the 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 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.
How do I stop sleeping on my stomach?
Changing your sleeping position might prove challenging at first. But every new habit requires some effort and perseverance. Here’s what you can do to aid your transition:
- Add a quality mattress topper to your sleeping equation. Softer memory foam toppers relieve pressure from your hips and shoulder, making it easier to switch to a side sleeping position.
- Use a positioning cushion. Placing it between your knees will prevent you from turning on your stomach. It can also help elevate your legs so you can assume the best sleep position for preventing or easing sciatica.
- Use a plush pillow. The plushier a pillow is, the harder it is to sleep on your stomach.
- Use a sleep position-correcting device that will vibrate when you turn to sleep on your stomach.
- Use another physical barrier like an uncomfortable belt that will prompt your body to turn on the side rather than on the stomach.
- Be persistent. Remember—a proper and permanent change takes patience and effort.
How to sleep with middle back pain?
The best way to ease or even avoid middle back pain is to sleep in the soldier position—flat on your back. In this case, an adjusting pillow that fills the gap between your back and mattress is a must. Don’t forget to place one under your neck as well.
While this is the best sleeping position for backache, it’s not ideal for those suffering from sleep apnea. In fact, most people experience worsening of their apneic episodes when adopting the soldier position.