When deciding on what the best sleeping positions are for your health, there are certain things to consider, most importantly, your health. While you sleep, your body works to repair and restore itself. The position you sleep in can help significantly with this process or hinder it. This can depend on things like how effectively your sleep position supports the natural curvature of your spine or ensuring you sleep in a way that your airways remain open. An unhealthy sleep position can cause problems like neck, back, arm, or shoulder pain and induce restless and low-quality sleep. To find a sleeping position that’s healthy for you, keep reading!
Why Is Sleep Important?
As previously mentioned, your body works to repair and restore itself while you sleep. However, besides assisting you physically, sleep is also essential for your mental functioning. Furthermore, it aids in fighting disease and strengthening the immune system, all to ensure that the next day your body and mind are ready for the challenges to come. Below are a few reasons why sleep is so important:
- Reduces risk of disease
- Improves productivity and concentration
- Lowers inflammation
- Lower risk of weight gain and better calorie regulation
- Improves emotional intelligence
- Aids in healthy mental functioning
Sleeping On Your Back
Sleeping on your back has many benefits. It helps ensure that your spine is in alignment and evenly distributes your body weight. Sleeping on your back also prevents potential pain in your neck or back and can also relieve the congestion of allergies or a blocked nose, depending on how upright your position is.
Lying on your back while you sleep is the best position for neck pain as it helps prevent the misalignment which can occur when you sleep on your side or stomach. The best way to avoid neck pain is to use a pillow that supports your neck and, at the same time, lets your head sink deeper into the pillow. It is also essential to keep your arms in similar positions, like having them both lie at your side while you sleep. Having your arms in different positions, like one under your head as you sleep, can cause unevenness in your spine and contribute to neck or shoulder pain.
If you are suffering from a congested nose or allergies, this sleeping position can benefit you. It can enable your airways to remain open and may help drain your nose. By sleeping in this position you can also guarantee that your skin will benefit greatly. This is because by facing upward, your face will not be pressed against the mattress or pillow, which can contribute to the development of wrinkles.
While sleeping on your back is the best position for neck pain and some forms of back pain, it may contribute to uncomfortable tension in your lower back. This problem can be resolved by placing a pillow under your knees or a thin pillow below your lower back, as this will relieve pressure on that area while supporting the natural curve of your spine.
Sleeping On Your Side
Sleeping on your side is the most common sleep position among adults (1). Children usually split their sleeping positions equally, however, by adulthood a clear preference for sleeping on one’s side is developed. As you age, the spine’s flexibility decreases which may be the reason why sleeping on one’s side is more comfortable. Sleeping on your side is also said to offer many benefits. It is the position least likely to hurt your back and promotes correct spinal alignment, especially when supported with pillows. This position can also reduce snoring and heartburn, which is ideal for those who suffer from these ailments.
Experts have touted that sleeping on your side with your knees bent is the best position for pregnant women (2). Sleeping on your side while pregnant can relieve the pressure of a growing belly while enabling the heart to pump and the blood to flow easily throughout your body. Placing pillows in certain positions like between the legs, under the belly, and at the small of your back can also help greatly relieve tension.
If you suffer from back pain, particularly lower back pain, sleeping on your side with a pillow or blanket between your knees can help tremendously (3). It can also help those that suffer from neck pain, by ensuring that a thick pillow is used to help your neck stay aligned with your spine as you sleep.
Left Is Best
While sleeping on your side is beneficial, there is one side that is better than the other. The left side is much better for your health than the right side because when you sleep on your right side you exert increased pressure on your internal organs. Sleeping on your right can also worsen and intensify the symptoms of heartburn. This is the reason experts recommend the left side for pregnant women. It is also the reason you should choose this side if you suffer from acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Although sleeping on your side has many benefits, there are a few drawbacks to this position. Side sleeping can lead to pain or tightness in your shoulders which is why choosing the correct pillows and mattress to placate this is important. Sleeping in this position can also contribute to an increase in facial wrinkles since your face is pressed against the pillow while you sleep.
Sleeping On Your Stomach
Stomach sleeping is the least popular sleep position and has several drawbacks. This sleeping position can help you if you snore by opening up your airways. However, it does put pressure on your ribs because they have to work against gravity to breathe in this position, which can cause your sleep to be restless.
In particular, this sleeping position is not recommended for people with back or neck pain, pregnant women, or those who are worried about wrinkles. Sleeping on your stomach does not provide the necessary support for your back. Since you need to twist your neck when you sleep in this position, your neck and head are out of alignment with the rest of your spine. Over time this asymmetrical sleep posture can negatively impact your spine.
However, sleeping on your stomach with a very thin pillow or none at all will help you with the misalignment of your neck and spine while adding a pillow below your hips will further help even the spine.
So, What Are The Best Sleeping Positions For Your Health? It Depends!
The best sleeping position for you is the one that guarantees you enjoy a night of restful and uninterrupted sleep. If you wake up feeling refreshed and have no aches or pains then your current sleeping position is perfect for you. However, if you do suffer from things like neck or back pain, sleep apnea, GERD, acid reflux, or anything else that may cause you discomfort, then it might be time to change your sleeping position.
Want to read more about sleep? Check out our other sleep related posts:
- Common Myths About Love and Sleep
- The 5 Best Adaptogens For Sleep
- The Link Between Sleep and Low Levels of Omega-3
- What Is The Best OTC Sleep Aid To Stay Asleep Longer?