What is the healthiest position for sleeping

Most adults settle into bed without giving a second thought to how they are situated. It is such a routine habit that many do not consider the health effects of sleeping one way or another. Yet, sleep researchers and doctors say that our sleeping position matters.

Sleeping on your stomach, back or side can make a difference in terms of snoring, symptoms of sleep apnea, neck and back pain, and other medical conditions. Find out what the best sleep position is for your health.

What Is the Most Common Sleep Position?

The majority of people sleep on their side or back and the smallest percentage of people sleep in a stomach position.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

Check out this chart to see the most common sleep positions. Source: Nature & Science of Sleep.

What Is the Best Sleep Position?

It is not news that sleep is important to health in many ways. But you may be surprised to find out that the way you sleep at night may have an impact on sleep quality and other health conditions. So, what is the best body position for sleeping?

Worst: Sleeping on Your Stomach

If you like to sleep face down, you are not alone, but you are in the minority. About 7% of adults sleep on their stomach, or in the prone position. It may help decrease the sound of snoring, but in general, stomach sleeping is not recommended.

With your head raised on the pillow, it can be difficult to keep the spine in a neutral position. Sleeping on your stomach puts a strain on the back and neck. With the middle of your body being the heaviest part, it causes the spine to overarch. With time this can lead to pain and nerve issues. You may notice numbness or a tingling sensation in the extremities. Additionally, turning the head to one side while lying down can limit blood circulation and reduce the size of the airway.

If you find it difficult to change your sleeping position, try to modify it. Keep the neck straight and prop only the forehead on the bottom edge of the pillow. In this way, the spine will be in a more neutral position while allowing room to breathe freely. You can also try elevating the pelvis with a thin pillow to help alleviate the pressure on the lower back.

Bad: Sleeping in the Fetal Position

It is important to note that the fetal position is not recommended, however. Though the body is situated on the side, the extreme curvature of the spine can cause strain and discomfort in the neck and back. Being tightly curled while sleeping can also limit space for the diaphragm and restrict breathing.

Better: Sleeping on Your Back

The supine position is the second most common sleeping position. Sleeping with your back flat on the bed enables the spine to stay in a more natural position. This prevents some of the neck, shoulder and back pain experienced with other postures. By elevating the head with a pillow, it can also be helpful in reducing problems associated with acid reflux.

However, this position exacerbates snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. This is because as the tongue and soft tissues in the throat relax, gravity will pull them down into the airway. If you have been diagnosed with this sleep disorder, you should talk to your clinician about how to best modify your sleeping habits.

If you enjoy sleeping on your back but notice that it leads to lower back pain, try modifying the position. Use a low pillow or cervical cushion to support the neck and a medium-sized pillow or large neck roll for propping up the knees. This will help reduce discomfort and strain on the lower back.

Best: Sleeping on Your Side

The majority of people find this sleeping position to be the most comfortable, and for good reason. The lateral posture is recommended by physicians and sleep specialists because it has a number of benefits. With the right mattress, the spine can remain elongated and relatively neutral while on your side. This helps prevent undue neck, back, and shoulder pain.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

We made this handy visual chart to clarify the advantages and disadvantages of the three main sleeping positions: stomach, back, and side.

Anyone who struggles with loud snoring or sleep apnea is advised to sleep on their side because the airway is less likely to become restricted even when the body is relaxed. Studies have shown that it can decrease the number of apneas at night and provide better quality, more restful sleep. The lateral position is also recommended for people with arthritis, acid reflux, neck and back problems. For women who are pregnant, sleeping on the left side of the body is best, especially in the second and third trimesters. This is due to enhanced blood flow to the placenta and improved kidney function, which helps decrease swelling in the mother’s legs and feet.

Side sleeping is best when the chest and legs are kept relatively straight, with the spine in an elongated, yet natural alignment. You should use a firm, medium-height pillow or ergonomic cushion to support the head and neck. To ease pressure on the lower back, you may be more comfortable with a pillow between your legs. This provides more support for the hips, pelvis and the lower back.

Are You Struggling to Get a Good Night’s Sleep?

If you are feeling the effects of sleep deprivation or worry that you may have a sleep disorder, request a referral from your physician. Sleep Health Solutions can get you set up for sleep testing in-home or at our specialized overnight clinic. Our professional team can provide the information that your doctor needs to form a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

Call our sleep clinic today at (330) 923-0228 to schedule a consultation.

Want to know what is the best sleeping position for you? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

We all have our favorite position to sleep in but which is the best sleeping position? While it may be a matter of personal preference, the position in which you sleep is key not just to the quality of your night’s rest and how well your body recuperates after the day, but also how you manage to maintain a healthy spine.

A 2017 study by the Better Sleep Council (opens in new tab) revealed that not only does the position we adopt affect the quality of our sleep, but some positions, such as sleeping on our back or the side, can make people more prone to sleep-related disorders such as sleepwalking.

This study also found a marked difference in the preferred sleeping positions in different generations. Millennials and Generation Xers, for example, were more likely to sleep on their stomachs, with arms and legs outstretched, while Baby Boomers opted for side sleeping.

However, putting aside generational differences or personal preferences – what is, objectively, the best sleeping position?

What’s the best sleeping position?

The best sleeping position is one that promotes healthy spine alignment. While some positions offer more support than others, an individual’s choice will be determined by their own circumstances. Perhaps they have a medical condition that dictates the way they have to sleep, or maybe their age or weight prevents them from sleeping in a particular way?

As Samantha Briscoe, Lead Clinical Physiologist for the London Bridge Sleep Centre (opens in new tab) explained to Live Science, what works for one person won’t always work for someone else. “Which sleeping position is best? Well, the simple answer to this is the one that is most comfortable for you and your situation,” she said. “But some sleeping positions may cause or aggravate, say, back or neck problems although this is highly individualized and may vary with time, or with pregnancy or many other health conditions.”

Sleeping on your side

According to a study published in the Nature and Science of Sleep journal (opens in new tab) in 2017, more than 60% of people choose to sleep on their sides, making it by far the most commonly adopted sleeping position.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. From reducing the risk of snoring to even improving your gut health (the body’s digestive system works more efficiently when you’re not flat on your back), it’s also the ideal position for pregnant women who by sleeping on their left side, with the knees slightly bent, can improve blood flow to the fetus and the uterus.

We are also more likely to sleep on our sides the older we get, as Dr Angus Nisbet, Consultant Neurologist and Sleep Physician, told Live Science. “As we age we encounter more and more ailments. So if, say, one of your hips is arthritic, you will naturally tend to sleep on the side that offers relief from any pain you’re experiencing.”

But is it the best sleeping position? There are some drawbacks. Shoulder pain may become an issue if you stay in one position for too long while the risk of facial wrinkles also increases the longer your cheek is pressed down on one side. It’s important, then, that you have a pillow that adequately supports the alignment of neck and spine and to change sides regularly through the night, circumstances permitting.

Sleeping on your back

Sometimes called the ‘supine’ or the ‘soldier’ position, think of sleeping on your back as a horizontal version of standing, with your neck and back in much better alignment than you might experience with other sleeping positions and a more even distribution of the body’s weight, ensuring better circulation. It’s also good for those suffering with nasal congestion (as long as you prop yourself up with a suitable pillow, like a wedge pillow) and can even help to reduce the chance of developing wrinkles as your face isn’t buried into a pillow or a mattress.

While sleeping on your back may be beneficial for those with lumbar spinal pain or issues with the neck, it’s not recommended for the elderly or the overweight or obese. Indeed, one study published in the European Journal of Heart Failure in 2015 (opens in new tab) , found that “sleeping in the supine position increases the frequency and severity of respiratory events.”

It’s a view backed up by Dr Angus Nisbet. “If you’re old or overweight you are far more likely to suffer with sleep apnea when you sleep on your back because you have a narrower oropharynx [the area of the throat behind the mouth],” he said. “Sleep apnea is actually an extension of snoring, the key difference being that it’s gone from partial obstruction during snoring to complete obstruction. Inevitably, that is going to wake you up and disturb your sleep.”

Sleeping on your stomach

Also called the ‘prone’ position, there isn’t a lot to be said for sleeping on your stomach, especially as it carries the greatest risk of leaving you with a very stiff neck when you do wake up. Poor neck alignment when sleeping can also lead to headaches during the night, further ruining your chance of a sound night’s sleep.

However, if you are going to sleep on your stomach then it’s best to do so without a pillow, as it will at least make your body straighter and, crucially, won’t force your neck into an uncomfortable angle that will inevitably lead to aches and pains the following morning. Try placing a pillow under your pelvis to reduce the pressure on your spine and make sure your mattress is firm too.

That said, Dr Angus Nisbet advises against it. “Different people prefer different sleeping positions but I really wouldn’t recommend sleeping on your stomach it as it’s really bad for the neck and provides the least support for your back,” he said.

Sleeping in the fetal position

Sleeping in the fetal position boasts many of the benefits of sleeping on your side, such as reducing the likelihood and severity of snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. This is shown in a study by the European Journal of Heart Failure (opens in new tab) . Additionally, as one study by the American Journal of Gastroenterology (opens in new tab) showed, it can even help to lessen the chances of heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems.

However, the fact that the knees are drawn up to the chest means that the curvature of the spine is exaggerated, leading to additional strain on the back and the potential of pain in the next as well. By curling up into a ball, you will also be restricting your diaphragm and lungs, potentially making your breathing more difficult.

If you are fond of the fetal position, try curling up into a looser ball instead. It will give your body a better chance of breathing correctly.

Discover the best sleep positions for your body—and the ones you may want to avoid.

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More than 40% of Americans sleep less than they should (according to a Gallup poll), leaving us weary, bleary, and at greater risk for depression, weight gain, high blood pressure, and several chronic health conditions. But even if you are clocking the expert-recommended 7 to 8 hours a night, your time in bed may be messing with your health in unexpected ways. According to sleep experts, your preferred sleep position could be giving you back and neck pain, tummy troubles, even premature wrinkles.

Here, discover the best p.m. pose for your body—plus the one you may want to avoid—so you can score the refreshing snoozetime you deserve.

The Best: Back Position

Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts

Bad for: Snoring

The scoop: Sleeping on your back makes it easy for your head, neck, and spine to maintain a neutral position. You’re not forcing any extra curves into your back, says Steven Diamant, a chiropractor in New York City. It’s also ideal for fighting acid reflux, said Eric Olson, MD, a sleep medicine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “If the head is elevated, your stomach will be below your esophagus so acid or food can’t come back up.”

Back-sleeping also helps prevent wrinkles, because nothing is pushing against your face, said Dee Anna Glaser, MD, a professor of dermatology at Saint Louis University. And the weight of your breasts is fully supported, reducing sagginess.

Back Sleepers: Consider This

“Snoring is usually most frequent and severe when sleeping on the back,” said Dr. Olson.

Perfect pillow: The best pillows for back sleepers are puffy, and their goal is to keep your head and neck supported without propping your head up too much. Try the Coop Home Goods Adjustable Shredded Memory Foam Pillow, which is stuffed with shreds of memory foam so you can adjust the density.

Next Best: Side Position

Good for: Preventing neck and back pain, reducing acid reflux, snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy

Bad for: Your skin and your breasts

The scoop: Side-sleeping is great for overall health—it reduces snoring and keeps your spine elongated. If you suffer from acid reflux, this is the next best thing to sleeping on your back. The downside: “Sleeping on your side can cause you to get wrinkles,” said Dr. Glaser. Blame all that smushing of one side of your face into the pillow.

This pose also contributes to breast sag, since your girls are dangling downward, stretching the ligaments, said Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, Health‘s contributing medical editor.

Side Sleepers: Consider This

If you’re pregnant, sleep on your left side. It’s ideal for blood flow.

If you’re a side sleeper, you should know about mattresses best for this position.

Perfect pillow: The best pillows for side sleepers are thick and firm, helping keep your spine in alignment as you snooze. “You need to fill the space above your shoulder so your head and neck are supported in a neutral position,” said Ken Shannon, a physical therapist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Many sleep experts recommend side sleepers choose a pillow with a divot in the middle, such as the Tri-Core Cervical Pillow.

Not Ideal: Fetal Position

Good for: Snoring less, sleeping during pregnancy

Bad for: Preventing neck and back pain, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts

The scoop: When you snooze with your knees pulled up high and chin tucked into your chest, you may feel it in the morning, especially if you have an arthritic back or joints, said Dr. Olson.

“This curved position also restricts diaphragmatic breathing,” said Dody Chang, a licensed acupuncturist in Irvington, NY. And if you make this your nightly pose, you may bring on premature facial wrinkles and breast sag.

Fetal-Position Sleepers: Consider This

Just straighten out a bit—try not to tuck your body into an extreme curl.

Perfect pillow: One plump pillow—the same as side position, to give your head and neck support. Try the Sleep Restoration Gel Pillow.

The Worst: Stomach Position

Bad for: Avoiding neck and back pain, minimizing wrinkles, maintaining perky breasts

The scoop: “Stomach-sleeping makes it difficult to maintain a neutral position with your spine,” said Shannon. It puts pressure on joints and muscles, which can irritate nerves and lead to pain, numbness, and tingling. “Think about the soreness you’d feel if you kept your neck turned to one side for 15 minutes during the day,” said Dr. Diamant.

In this position you have your head to one side for hours at a time. You won’t necessarily feel it the next day, but you may soon start to ache.

Stomach Sleepers: Consider This

Do you snore? “Stomach-sleeping may even be good for you,” said Dr. Olson. Facedown keeps your upper airways more open. So if you snore and aren’t suffering from neck or back pain, it’s fine to try sleeping on your belly.

Perfect pillow: The best pillows for stomach sleepers are thin; one that’s about 3 inches thick will keep your spine aligned while you sleep. Try the DC Labs Ultra Slim Sleeper Memory Foam Pillow.

You Don’t Move at Night?

Think again. While you generally spend the most time in the position you fall asleep in, even those who barely have to make their beds in the morning move two to four times an hour, which may add up to 20 or more tosses and turns a night, said Dr. Olson. “That’s completely normal, and you’ll still go into deep REM sleep, the restorative kind,” he said.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

After your nightly wind-down routine, once the lights are out and it’s time to drift off, you likely gravitate toward the same sleep position, night after night. You may find yourself lying on your back, sprawled on your front or curled up on one side or the other. The question is: Does this nightly choice matter?

Video of the Day

“The short answer is it depends,” says Rahul Shah, MD, a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon.

The goal is comfort and restful sleep, he says. “Instead of recommending a particular posture, I would recommend first judging the quality of sleep one gets,” Dr. Shah says.

For some people, certain sleep positions might not make sense. For instance, anyone who snores — or sleeps beside someone who does — knows that back sleeping is often bad news.

Indeed: “Sleeping position needs tend to change with age, various health conditions and pregnancy,” says Chelsie Rohrscheib, PhD, a neuroscientist and sleep specialist at Wesper.

Here, a look at the advantages — and potential drawbacks — of various nighttime positions.

1. Back (aka Supine)

“Back sleeping is better for the spine and joints,” Rohrscheib says. The Cleveland Clinic deems it the “optimal sleep position” when it comes to back pain.

And it’s not just about comfort.

Opting to sleep on your back “helps keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay,” says ​​Debra Jaliman, MD​,​ board-certified NYC dermatologist, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of the book ​Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top New York Dermatologist​. This position is “gentler on your skin,” Dr. Jaliman says, because your face isn’t scrunched into a pillow.

Still, getting shut-eye on your back isn’t for everyone — and it’s often a poor choice for people with sleep apnea or anyone who tends to snore.

“When you sleep, the muscles that maintain the tone of the tissues in the back of your throat relax. For some people, those tissues relax too much and can cause overcrowding, which may result in snoring or the blockage of air into the lungs,” Rohrscheib says.

Opt for the supine position at night, and gravity pulls those tissues even more down your throat, she says. The result: Increased chances of snoring or obstructive sleep apnea.

Don’ dismiss snoring as merely a nuisance. Very often, it’s a symptom of sleep apnea, which reduces your sleep quality and can potentially lead to serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and liver problems, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Sleeping on your back can also trigger symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), according to the GI Society. If you’re committed to sleeping on your back but have acid reflux, try elevating your bed — raising it by about 6 to 8 inches is the target, according the University of Michigan Medicine.

The Bottom Line on Sleeping on Your Back

Good for back pain and joints

May worsen snoring and sleep apnea

Gentle on your skin

Can trigger acid reflux symptoms

2. Side

For people prone to snoring, or those with sleep apnea, side sleeping is the better option, Rohrscheib says. (In fact, it’s the No. 1 remedy for snoring.)

“Side sleeping is beneficial to a person’s overall health, as the position does not inhibit or put any pressure on our organs,” Dr. Shah says.

The position is especially ideal during pregnancy. Sleeping on your side “keeps the baby and uterus from pressing on organs and blocking circulation,” Rohrscheib says. Plus, sleep-disordered breathing is common during pregnancy, per a December 2015 paper in ​Breathe​. “Side sleeping helps to keep the airways open,” Rohrscheib says.

Still: “It’s not for everyone,” Dr. Shah says. It can irritate the muscles holding the legs away from the pelvis, he says. Side sleeping can also lead to pressure on your shoulders and hips, potentially causing pain, Rohrscheib says.

Over time, sleeping on your side can cause fine lines that will eventually transform into wrinkles, Dr. Jaliman says.

The Bottom Line on Side Sleeping

Doesn’t put pressure on organs

Can increase fine lines and wrinkles

Can reduce snoring and sleep apnea

May cause uncomfortable pressure on joints

Healthiest position during pregnancy

Is One Side Better Than the Other?

In fact, yes, one side is considered advantageous. The best side to sleep on is your left.

“There is some research that shows sleeping on your left side to be most beneficial to your health,” Rohrscheib says. It may improve your circulation, she explains.

Plus, opting for your left side can ease acid reflux, per the GI Society, due to gravity and the anatomy of your stomach and esophagus.

3. Stomach

Just over 7 percent of people slept on their fronts, per one November 2017 observational study in ​Nature and Science of Sleep​. (Most people — just over 54 percent — opted to sleep on their side, with around 38 percent sleeping on their back, per the same study.)

This is another position that isn’t ideal if you’re looking to avoid wrinkles, Dr. Jaliman says.

Plus: “For those who are comfortable sleeping on their stomach, the neck can sometimes be forced into an awkward posture and cause neck pain,” Dr. Shah points out. And, according to the Mayo Clinic, this position “can be hard on your back.” Strategic placement of pillows can help reduce these issues.

As with side sleeping, though, this position can reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The Bottom Line on Sleeping on Your Stomach

Can reduce snoring and sleep apnea

Can increase fine lines and wrinkles

May lead to back and neck pain

Props Can Sometimes Help

If your chosen sleep position leads to some discomfort, you might consider changing to a different one (more on that in a moment). Or, consider trying some props.

Pillows

If you sleep on your side, slipping a pillow between your knees can help with alignment, Dr. Shah says.

If you sleep on your back, a pillow under your knees so they bend slightly can ease back pain and promote proper alignment, Dr. Shah says.

“Additionally, some may also experience benefits from using a pad cutout for the head, allowing the neck to be better supported,” Dr. Shah says.

When it comes to sleeping positions, most of us have a go-to. But your choice of snoozing situation might be impacting your overall health.

WATCH: Adam and Juliet transform an old bedroom using shiplap boards

Is it the choice of pillowcase affecting your slumber? Or perhaps could it be the pillow itself? No it’s the new mattress you’ve chosen. Instead of blaming the products, have you ever thought it actually might come down to the position you’re nodding off to.

In his book, A Life Less Stressed, Dr Ron Ehrlich outlines the five pillars of health and wellness that help us live happier, healthier and more resilient lives. And sleep tops this list.

The holistic health expert says it’s the most important part of the day, affecting physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, and it’s the foundation for any wellness journey. It’s not just the quantity of sleep that’s important but the quality. In particular, how well you breathe while you sleep and the way you hit the hay plays an important role in this.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

Here’s his take on the most common sleep positions.

Stomach

“Stomach sleeping is the worst. It places strain on the muscles of the head, neck and jaw, strains the jaw joints, can also twist the lower back and pelvis. Imagine wringing out a wet towel and that’s pretty much what you do to your muscles and joints while you are asleep on your stomach. It can also restrict your ability to breathe well while sleeping.”

Back

“Sleeping on your back is better, but it may also predispose your lower jaw, to which your tongue is attached, to drop to the back of the throat and restrict or even completely block your breathing and airway. It’s a problem that sometimes appears as snoring, but can also be obstructive sleep apnoea, which can dramatically affect your mental and physical health and even be life-threatening.”

Side

“Side sleeping is probably the best, particularly with a well-supported pillow for your head and an additional pillow down by your side to support the leg not resting on the mattress. From a structural, neurological and muscular perspective, as well as for your airway it is kinder to the body. It also happens to be better for digestion, particularly lying on the left side, considering where the oesophagus enters the stomach.”

This article originally appeared on Women’s Health.

Do you wake up with a backache? Do others complain that you snore? Does heartburn give you fits at night? You might try simply changing the way you sleep. As it turns out, your sleep position has a lot to do with your sleep quality and overall well-being.

When you crawl under the covers and settle into your favorite position for the night, you probably don’t think much about it. We typically fall asleep in a way that feels natural to our bodies. But, what’s comfortable for you may not be the best for your overall health.

The most important thing? Focus on the alignment of your back.

“It is best to sleep in a position that maintains normal curves of the back,” said Kimberly English, MSN, RN, FNP, a nurse practitioner at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple.

Here are three common sleeping positions and their effect on your health and sleep quality.

Sleeping on your back

If you’re a back sleeper, there’s good news for you. This is the best position for keeping with the normal curves of your back. Lying flat on your back makes it easy for your head, neck and spine to maintain a neutral position. Even better: add a small pillow underneath your knees for added comfort.

“Use a pillow with a size and thickness that keeps the neck in a normal position,” Kimberly said.

  • Prevents back pain and sagging breasts
  • Fewer wrinkles on your face and neck
  • Fights acid reflux
  • More likely to snore or experience sleep apnea
  • Avoid back sleeping if you’re pregnant. This position can cause problems with backaches, breathing, the digestive system, hemorrhoids, low blood pressure and a decrease in circulation to your heart and your baby

Side sleepers

More than 60% of adults sleep on their side. If side sleeping is comfortable for you, align your spine by placing a pillow between your legs. Avoid crouching into a fetal position as this extreme curl strains your body.

Also, keep in mind that if you tuck your arm behind your pillow, you might wake up with a numb arm. Instead, use a thick pillow to fill the space above your head and neck.

  • Promotes healthy spinal alignment and causes less back pain
  • Side sleepers experience less snoring
  • It’s particularly beneficial if you are pregnant or suffer from sleep apnea or acid reflux
  • Shoulder pain or numbness
  • Poor circulation to other areas, like your arm or hip, if they are resting underneath your body
  • Impacts on your skin and your breasts, as your face is smashed against a pillow and your breast ligaments are stretching downward

Stomach position

Sleeping on your stomach can be bad for your neck and back. Over time, you can try to transition to a side sleep position, but if you can’t sleep any other way, use a pillow wisely.

Position the pillow under your pelvis and lower stomach. As for your head, use a thin pillow or not one at all. When you sleep on your stomach, it forces you to turn your head to one side and can strain your neck.

  • Less snoring
  • Strains your neck
  • Can cause back pain
  • Smashes breasts
  • Can impact skin

The best sleep position is the one that gives you proper spinal alignment from your hips all the way to your head. What that looks like for you depends on your personal health situation and comfort. A spine expert or chiropractor can help determine this for you.

No matter how you sleep, make sure you get enough of it. Kimberly recommends a regular sleep and wake schedule.

“Loss of sleep can lead to difficulty with memory, impaired performance, daytime drowsiness and mood changes,” she said.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

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It’s a well-known fact that people spend one-third of their lives sleeping, but for as much time as you spend sleeping, how much do you think about your sleeping position?

There’s a lot more to sleep than you may expect— we don’t just get comfortable in bed, fall asleep, and wake up in the morning. Your sleep position actually matters a lot when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep. That’s because your sleep position affects your sleep posture. And your sleep posture has a major effect on your sleep quality.

So what’s the best sleeping position for great sleep? Learn more about what sleep posture is, how your sleeping position affects your sleep, and the best sleep position.

What is Sleep Posture?

You’ve likely had an occasion or two when you slept “wrong,” and woke up in a world of pain. Similar to your posture during the day sitting or standing, your posture at night while sleeping ensures your body is in the correct alignment.

Your posture day or night is directly responsible for how your body feels. Poor posture leads to a stiff and sore body, or worse, pain. It can especially worsen any chronic pain you feel during the day.

For good sleep posture, you must support your body and allow your spine to follow its natural curves. These curves are in your neck, your mid-back, and your lower back. Your hips, shoulders, and head will all line up.

You don’t need to jump through hoops to achieve good sleep posture, but you should invest in the right pillow or mattress. They’re often to blame, especially if you’ve had them for a long time and they’re worn out.

When your mattress or pillow don’t feel comfortable, it’s a good idea to replace them with something more supportive.

If you’re not quite ready to replace your mattress, you can try a supportive mattress topper. It’s an easy and inexpensive way to ensure your sleep posture is healthy, supportive, and that you sleep in the right position.

There are many affordable pillows and mattress toppers on the market. We personally recommend the line-up of pillows, mattresses, and mattress toppers from Luma Sleep.

How Your Sleeping Position Affects Your Sleep

You likely don’t have one way you sleep at night. The ways you can position your body for a good night’s rest are as numerous and unique as each person out there.

Here are several of the more popular sleep positions as indicated by The Better Sleep Council, plus their pros and cons.

The Fetal Position

This is a popular sleeping position. Most Americans actually sleep in the fetal position— with women favoring the position over men. 54 percent of women sleep in this position, versus 39 percent of men.

One reason this position may be a popular choice is because the fetal position makes you feel as if you’re back in the womb. It’s a form of side sleeping, where you’re curled up almost in a C-shape— your head is down, your spine is curved, and your arms and legs are pulled closer to your body.

Although it’s many Americans’ nightly default position, it isn’t ideal for sleep posture. This is because of the curvature of your body when you’re sleeping in the fetal position. It disrupts the alignment of your head, shoulders, and hips, and can contribute to aches and pains the next day. It may also cause breathing issues, as being curled too tightly can restrict your diaphragm.

Although it isn’t ideal for sleep posture, it can work well enough if you don’t curl up too tightly. For better sleep in the fetal position, use a body pillow to keep your body in a loose and unrestrictive curl.

The Yearner Position

This is the third most popular sleep position, with 13 percent of Americans favoring this position. Here you lay on your side with both arms in front of you.

Sleeping on your side in the yearner position can be beneficial in relieving insomnia and body pain. In addition, sleeping on your side can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea symptoms.

Side sleeping is also recommended for pregnant women to sleep most comfortably and safely— particularly on the left side.

Side sleeping on your left side is also beneficial if you experience nighttime acid reflux or GERD symptoms.

The Log Position

Unlike the popular fetal position, very few people sleep in the log position. A mere 6 percent of sleepers report sleeping in this position. In the log position, you sleep on your side with your arms and legs straight, as the name suggests, like a log.

The Freefall Position

Almost one in five people are stomach sleepers, sleeping in a prone position or the freefall position. Here you lie on your stomach with your head to the side and your arms wrapped around or under a pillow. Despite its popularity, 26 percent of people believe it’s the worst sleeping position.

Be wary, if you’re a stomach sleeper, and experience lower back pain, as well as neck pain and shoulder pain— this may be the cause.

You may be more likely to toss and turn in this freefall position as well. However, it can reduce the risk of snoring and sleep apnea, so that’s something to consider if you or your bed partner have struggled with snoring.

The Soldier Position

If you sleep on your back with your legs straight and your arms lying close to your body, you’re in good company. It’s referred to as the soldier position, and it’s the fourth most common sleep position. Eleven percent of adults favor this position.

The good news, if you sleep in this position you’re less likely to change positions or toss and turn during the night. It’s also good for your spine and alignment. It’s a neutral sleeping position without unusual curves in your spine.

The Starfish Position

In the starfish position, you’re sleeping on your back similar to the soldier position. But instead of sleeping with your arms close to your body like you would in the soldier position, your arms are positioned away from the body and turned upward at a 90-degree angle.

Only 7 percent of sleepers report sleeping this way.

So Is There a Best Sleeping Position?

No, there is not. While one sleep position may be comfortable and supportive for some, it may be completely inadequate for others. The best sleeping position for each person depends entirely on their unique needs based on their physical or medical needs.

For instance, side sleeping can hint at more than just your preferred position while sleeping. It potentially points to an instinctive survival mechanism.

Many people with untreated sleep apnea prefer sleeping in a side position because it reduces compression of the airway, allowing for more oxygen to get in. If you’re a side sleeper, especially one who snores, you may want to dig deeper to find out if your preference for side sleeping goes beyond comfort.

Sleeping on your back can help keep your spine aligned, reduce pressure or compression throughout your body, and relieve sinus build-up. However, back sleeping can also cause lower back pain, or worsen snoring or sleep apnea symptoms.

Although there isn’t a “best” sleeping position in general, there’s likely a best position for you.

Your sleep position influences how healthy your sleep posture is at night, and sleeping in the correct position can be the difference between a restful night’s sleep, and dragging your feet during the day.

To learn more about how you can start sleeping and living better, contact us today at the Sleep Centers of Middle Tennessee.

Do you sleep on your back, side or front? Each sleeping position has different benefits and different drawbacks to be aware of. Here are our expert insights on sleeping positions, from the team at Bedpost.

Sleeping on your back – pros and cons

Back sleeping provides many benefits, although one small study suggests that poorer sleepers tend to sleep on their back more often than those who enjoy higher quality sleep. As long as you have the right pillow, sleeping on your back makes it easy to keep your head, neck and spine in alignment. Sleeping on your back can prevent acid reflux, but it is known to worsen snoring – which might not bother you, but will probably bother your partner!

Sleeping on your side – pros and cons

Side sleeping is the best position to prevent snoring and sleep apnea because it leaves your airways open (unless you tuck your chin in). It is also the best sleep position if you are pregnant. If you use the right pillow and mattress, you can sleep on your side with correct spinal alignment, which prevents neck and back pain. A con of side sleeping is that it can cause facial wrinkles because your face is putting pressure on your pillow. If you sleep on your side, you could try a silk pillowcase to avoid wrinkles!

Sleeping on your front – pros and cons

Most experts agree that sleeping on your stomach is a bad idea. Your front is less rigid than your back, so your core is more likely to sink into the mattress while your limbs and head stay higher up. This wreaks havoc on your spinal alignment and increases pressure on your muscles, joints and organs. Because your body is less comfortable, you are unlikely to get a restful sleep and will probably wake up still feeling tired. Front sleeping also pushes your face into your pillow, which can cause premature wrinkles.

So, what is the best sleeping position?

The best position for sleeping completely depends on you. If you aren’t having any issues with back pain, joint pain, snoring or heartburn, it isn’t necessary to change your sleep position. Do what feels most comfortable for you; the most important thing is that you’re sleeping deeply, without discomfort, and waking up feeling well rested.

The best mattresses and pillows for your sleep position

For side sleepers:

  • Legend Medium Mattress by Sleepmaker

If you sleep on your side, a foam mattress offers deep contouring to support your impact points. The combination of wool and foam comfort layers, along with the innerspring unit of the Legend mattress, will promote correct spinal alignment and ensure you have a great sleep.

For back sleepers:

  • Majestic Mattress by Sealy Posturepedic

The Majestic mattress is ideal if you sleep on your back. It combines the benefits of latex and innersprings and offers zoned support, particularly in the centre third of the mattress to protect your lower back.

For front sleepers:

  • Augusta Firm Mattress by Sealy

If you sleep on your stomach, you should choose a firm mattress so that your core is less likely to sink and misalign your spine. The Augusta mattress is a great option for anyone who sleeps on their belly.

Pillows

Sometimes, your mattress may not be the issue. The wrong pillow will misalign your spine, particularly around the neck and shoulder area. Consider an ergonomic pillow with a shape designed for your body shape and predominant sleep position. We recommend the Tempur Symphony pillow, engineered to relieve discomfort for people who sleep on their side or back.

Get in touch with the Bedpost team to learn more about which mattresses and pillows are right for your sleep position!

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

What is the Best Way to Sleep?

Your Best Sleeping Position?

Everybody has their favourite sleeping position. However, some are better for you than others. Try to sleep in a posture that helps you maintain the curve in your lower back. We recommend lying on your back with a pillow under your knees (if more comfortable) or on your side with your knees slightly bent.

It is preferable to not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest (the foetal position). However, some back conditions will find this preferable. You should seek the advice of your physiotherapist if you are in doubt.

If you are suffering from back pain, you could try lying over a lumbar roll or peanut cushion at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may also be helpful. You may wish to avoid sleeping on your stomach, especially on a saggy mattress. This sag can cause back strain and can be uncomfortable for your neck.

What is Your Best Mattress?

Select a firm mattress or an ensemble that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your bed’s mattress. You can also set the mattress on the floor temporarily if needed. If you’ve always slept on a soft surface, it may be initially painful to change to a more rigid shell. Try to do what’s most comfortable for you.

How to Rise from Bed

When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs over the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Bend forward at your waist with your core muscles activated.

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

What is Your Best Pillow?

The human neck curves slightly forward (to sustain the head’s weight when upright), and it is crucial to maintain this curve when in a resting position. If the pillow’s height is too high or low when sleeping, your neck is bent abnormally out of alignment, causing muscle and joint strain. You can even wake up with headaches.

Poor pillow support can also cause narrowing of the air pipe, resulting in obstructed breathing and sometimes snoring, hindering sleep.

The best lying or sleeping position may vary, depending on your symptoms. No matter what posture you lie in, the pillow should be under your head, but not your shoulders, and should be a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position.

To give your body the proper rest it needs and ensure your spine’s health, physiotherapists recommend only two sleeping positions: Side sleeping and supine sleeping.

Sleeping Tips

Proper alignment can help to reduce the number of neck aches, backaches, pinched nerves, shoulder and arm referred pain, insomnia, and mental fatigue from a lack of adequate sleep. Try sleeping on your side, with the spine straight, or sleeping on your back, maintaining the primary curvature of the cervical spine. Both of these positions prevent poor alignment of the neck and upper back.

  • Medical Author: Karthik Kumar, MBBS
  • Medical Reviewer: Pallavi Suyog Uttekar, MD

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

The best way to sleep is usually the position that allows you to get sufficient rest. However, your sleeping posture can have a favorable or unfavorable impact on your body, especially if you have underlying medical issues.

Sleep postures generally fit into one of four categories, but there are some exceptions. The benefits of each category may differ depending on various factors, such as the placement of arms or other body parts or the strategic usage of a cushion for support.

Furthermore, research shows sleeping on your back or sleeping sideways is better than sleeping on your stomach or sleeping in the fetal position.

Sleeping on the back

  • Advantages
    • The head, neck and spine are in a neutral position, which is good for overall health
    • Acid reflux may be relieved in this sleeping position
  • Disadvantages
    • Snoring and sleep apnea may be worsened

When you sleep on your back, make sure your head, neck and spine are all in a neutral posture (in a straight line). This is considered the finest sleeping position because it relieves pressure on the spine and back while simultaneously relaxing the entire body. A pillow under the knees relieves pressure on the spine and helps retain its natural curve.

Side sleeping

This is by far the most common sleep position.

  • Advantages
    • Reduces acid reflux
    • Reduces snoring due to breathing difficulties
    • Reduces the symptoms of sleep apnea
    • Prevents back and neck pain
  • Disadvantages
    • Side-lying fetal position causes back and neck pain

Because this position may not always be comfortable, sleep sideways so that your legs are properly aligned with your back. Placing a pillow between your knees as a preventative measure can assist to stabilize your posture.

Sleeping on the abdomen or face down

  • Advantages
    • Reduces sleep apnea symptoms, such as snoring
    • May help with digestion
  • Disadvantages
    • Causes pain in the back, neck and joints
    • It may make acid reflux symptoms worse

This is one of the worst sleeping positions because it messes with your spine’s natural bend. Sleeping in this position for lengthy periods can cause major injury to the neck and spine muscles.

Sleeping in the fetal position

  • This is a sleeping position in which a person’s knees are curled up into the tummy or chest.
  • One of the most prevalent sleeping postures, however, most people do not realize that it is an unhealthy position to sleep in.
  • It causes the spine to flex, resulting in an abnormal C-shape rather than the normal S-shape, which can impact the discs in the spine, causing severe back pain.
  • Apart from this, when you sleep in this posture, your discs are forced in the backward directions causing a disc bulge and increasing your risk of spinal disorders, such as a slipped disc. Hence, sleeping in the fetal posture is unhealthy.

Sleeping on your back and sides rather than on your stomach is generally more pleasant and less taxing on your spine. It is crucial to remember and maintain your spine alignment while sleeping because poor posture can lead to persistent and painful ailments in the future.

How does your sleeping position affect posture?

Maintaining an upright stance at your workstation is only one of the aspects of good posture. Because people spend one-third of their life sleeping, it is no wonder that sleeping positions have an impact on the overall alignment.

The natural curve of a healthy spine is an “S” form. When awake and asleep, it’s critical to support the body along the length of this curve. A healthy sleeping position allows the muscles and ligaments to fully relax and repair when you sleep, as well as improves circulation and reduces back pain.

How to ensure a good posture while sleeping

An appropriate mattress plays a significant role in maintaining good sleep posture. Choose a mattress that will support your body and allow you to sleep in a variety of positions. You may wish to select a mattress and pillow that complements your preferred sleeping position.

If your hips are wider than your waist, a soft mattress is recommended. If your hips and waist are in one line, a hard mattress is preferable. The mattress must be neither too hard nor too soft.

The same can be said for your pillows. After roughly a year, your pillows should be replaced. The natural curve of your neck should be supported by a decent cushion, which keeps your neck aligned with your chest and lower back.

Table of Contents

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

We all have a favorite sleep position—the way we feel most comfortable and let our body sink into sleep. Many people need only a soft pillow and their favorite sleeping position to fall asleep in seconds. That said, most of us probably haven’t given much thought to how our sleep position affects our health or our body over time. We probably think of our sleep position simply as a preference or a decision that improves our comfort. But it’s so much more .

Believe it or not, your sleep position has a huge impact on how you breathe, and your favorite sleep position can actually improve or exacerbate your sleep apnea .

How to Sleep with Sleep Apnea

You probably have always had a preferred sleeping position—whether it’s on your stomach, back, or side. But what you may not know is that regardless of if you have mild , moderate, or severe sleep apnea, there is actually such a thing as the best position to sleep in. This is because the different parts of your body that regulate your breathing while you sleep are positioned contingent on how you lay in bed (e.g.: your mouth being inadvertently covered by your pillow if you sleep on your stomach).

If you do take a sleep study test, and it shows that you have one of the three types of sleep apnea , you may need to work with your body to adapt your sleeping position to the one that’s best for your breathing during sleep. If after trying different ways to adjust your sleeping position you are still not able to adapt or get used to it, there are other alternatives to CPAP therapy that may end up working best for managing your sleep apnea without compromising your preferred sleeping position.

But, do you know which sleeping position is best for those with sleep apnea? Read on below as we rank them, starting from the most to the least ideal.

Sleep Position #1: Left-Side Sleeping

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

You can’t go wrong with side sleeping in general, according to the Sleep Better Council because it helps alleviate issues like insomnia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can both contribute negatively to sleep apnea. And since the quality of sleep is as important as the quantity of sleep, it’s crucial to choose a sleep position that allows for our best possible rest. For those reasons, left-side sleeping takes the gold.

Specifically, sleeping on your left side is highly recommended because it allows for the best blood flow and creates little to no resistance for breathing conditions. If you want to become a left-side sleeper, start by finding a good, firm pillow that can support your neck and back. And with a little will-power, you can make it happen.

One thing worth noting about this position is that people who have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure should check with their doctors before choosing this sleep position because left-side sleeping is generally discouraged for them as it can cause discomfort or add unnecessary stress on the heart.

Sleep Position #2: Right-Side Sleeping

Right or left side side-sleeping actually makes a difference if you have sleep apnea. Right-side sleeping is a good choice as it reduces the likelihood of snoring and promotes good air and blood flow throughout the body.

However, a study has found that right-side sleeping can aggravate symptoms of reflux because it can relax the lower esophageal sphincter. If you struggle with acid reflux, talk to your doctor before sleeping on your right side.

One of the right-side sleeping variants, the fetal position, is actually the most popular sleeping position for Americans. It’s not a threat to sleep apnea, but it can create other issues with your neck or back especially as you get older. If you prefer to sleep in the fetal position, consider staying on your side but stretching out a little bit. Another option is to consider putting a pillow between your knees to allow for additional comfort and good back and neck support. You may find that this is a healthier and more pleasant alternative.

Sleep Position #3: Prone (Stomach) Sleeping

What is the healthiest position for sleeping

Next on the list in third place is prone (stomach) sleeping. Stomach sleeping works with gravity because it pulls the tongue and soft tissue forward, eliminating airway obstructions and lessening the likelihood of snoring.

It’s not the worst position, but it is common for a stomach sleeper to bury their face too far in the pillow or to allow the pillow to cover some or most of the mouth, which can actually work against good breathing and sleep apnea.

Stomach sleeping can also put additional, unnecessary stress on the neck, which can create a host of issues that affect good health and rest. If you choose to sleep this way, be sure you make safe decisions with regard to your pillow and your posture.

Sleep Position #4: Supine (Back) Sleeping

Ending our countdown to the last sleep position for sleep apnea is supine sleeping—or sleeping on your back.

Supine sleeping is not generally recommended and receives the lowest rating. Back sleeping is the least recommended position as it causes the sleeper to be more likely to snore and twice as likely to experience sleep apnea.

Back sleeping works against gravity and causes the soft tissues in the upper airway (including the adenoids, the tongue, and the uvula) to crowd and create upper airway resistance. The term for this type of obstruction is positional obstructive sleep apnea . Simply put, when the tongue relaxes back, our sleep apnea gets worse. Many people who struggle with sleep apnea have historically chosen back sleeping as their sleep position of choice.

The best thing you can do is avoid back sleeping and train yourself to sleep in one of the other positions on this list.

If you are currently a back sleeper, get a better pillow, and try experimenting with side sleeping to see what it can do for your rest As a bonus, you may find that it is more comfortable over time!

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Already a left-side sleeper? Congratulations! We hope your CPAP therapy is helping you achieve quality sleep.

How we sleep is as important as how much we sleep. Both quantity and quality have a direct impact on our health and quality of life, and our sleep position has a lot to do with it. The good news: if you don’t like your current sleeping position, you’re not stuck with it. With a little education and effort, you can pursue positional therapy for sleep apnea and train yourself to sleep differently.

Bottom line: the fewer the obstructions, the better. We take sleep seriously and want to help you get good rest. If you are not a side sleeper and have sleep apnea, check out our positional sleep apnea treatment options here .

Aaron McCann has been working in the CPAP industry for nearly five years researching and learning about the latest and greatest in CPAP therapy and equipment. Aaron is committed to helping the CPAP community achieve better sleep and a better quality of life!