Do you struggle to sleep at night? Perhaps your sleep feels really disrupted, or you wake in the morning feeling more tired than when you closed your eyes the night before. It’s a common problem, with over 30% of all US adults stating they sleep for less than seven hours per night. Many reasons can contribute to a lack of sleep, but did you know that your sleeping position could be a key factor? Today, we’re going to discuss the best sleeping positions for your health, helping you sleep better every single night. At the same time, we’ll look at the worst ways you can sleep - along with some general tips on how to get more sleep and feel refreshed in the morning.
The Best Sleeping Positions
There are debates on what we mean by the “best” sleeping positions. Some people feel more comfortable sleeping on their stomachs, while others prefer sleeping on their side or back. When we talk about the best sleeping positions for your health, we’re looking at things from a medical perspective. It has nothing to do with personal preferences and everything to do with what science has to say on the matter!
The fact is, some sleeping positions are just better for your health than others. In this section, we’ll pinpoint the two best ways you can sleep.
The Number One Best Sleeping Position: On Your Back
According to sleep experts and scientists, sleeping on your back is the best approach. There are a few reasons for this, all of which are backed up by reviews and medical studies. Primarily, sleeping on your back can provide the following benefits:
- Reduce chronic neck/back pain
- Improve breathing while you sleep
- Alleviate nasal congestion
- Improve skin health on your face
There was a study in 2017 that looked at different sleeping positions in relation to chronic pain. It found that sleeping on your back is the best way to reduce pain in your back and neck as it helps the spine align naturally. You take the pressure off your spine and let it sit in its natural curvature while you sleep. This has a profound effect on your quality of sleep - and your quality of life. In 2011, a study looked at the prevalence of sleep disturbance in patients with back pain. Of the 1,936 participants, 1,128 reported that their sleep was disturbed by their back pain. When you suffer from back pain, you wake up during the night because of it. So, sleeping on your back is the best way to relieve yourself. It’s also suggested that you place a pillow under your calves to further relieve the pressure on your lumbar (lower) spine.
Moreover, sleeping on your back can improve breathing while you rest. This is because it reduces the compression on your diaphragm - the must that helps you breathe. Therefore, you can breathe deeper when you’re asleep, which can help you sleep for longer. Studies back this up, with one in 2018 reporting that deep diaphragmic breathing increases melatonin production, which gets your body to relax, shut down, and go to sleep.
Sleeping on your back with your head slightly elevated by a pillow will also alleviate nasal congestion. Lots of individuals struggle to sleep because they suffer from allergies or chronic rhinitis. This gives them a stuffy nose that makes it harder to breathe or get comfortable. By sleeping on your back, you can relieve stuffy noses and sleep better.
Lastly, while improving your skin health won’t impact your quality of sleep, it does aid your general well-being. Pillows tend to harbor lots of germs and oils, which get on your face if you sleep on your tummy. Sleeping on your back prevents your face from coming into contact with the pillow, keeping your skin in a much better condition and stopping breakouts or wrinkles from forming.
The Second-Best Sleeping Position: On Your Side
No matter how many benefits back sleeping provides, some of us can’t sleep this way. It feels uncomfortable and unnatural, so the second-best sleeping position for your health is to sleep on your side.
Again, there are many advantages to this position - some of which may make it a better option than back sleeping for certain individuals. Here’s an overview of the benefits of sleeping on your side:
- Take the pressure off your lower back
- Reduce the risk of snoring
- Aid digestion and reduce heartburn
Sleeping on your back can ease back pain, but sleeping on your side is optimal for people with chronic lower back pain. It lets you align your spine without putting pressure on your lower back. Sleep experts suggest putting a pillow between your legs while side-sleeping to further alleviate any pressure.
Snoring affects around 44% of men and 28% of women in the US. It’s a major cause of sleep disruptions, meaning you often wake up in the middle of the night as a snorer. Sleeping on your side is the best way to combat this as it reduces the compression of your airways. Your airway also stays open and is unlikely to be obstructed by your tongue, which is often what causes snoring while laying on your back.
Sleeping on your left side can encourage your digestive system to work better at night. It’s a good position if you are bloated, but it’s most useful for people suffering from heartburn. The symptoms of heartburn include acid reflux, which can lead to many sudden awakenings during the night. Plenty of studies have indicated that sleeping on your left side reduces acid reflux episodes per night. This is due to the alignment of your body preventing stomach acid from being brought back up. Thus, you can avoid annoying disruptions when you’re sleeping.
The Worst Sleeping Position: On Your Front
Unfortunately, sleeping on your front will present no health benefits at all. It may feel comfortable for some of you, but it’s a suboptimal way to sleep. In fact, you will actively see some negative health effects when sleeping on your stomach:
- An increased chance of lower back pain
- Much worse breathing
- An increased risk of skin problems
As mentioned before, back and side sleeping ease the pressure on your spine. Sadly, stomach sleeping does the opposite. It encourages an aggressive arch in your lower back, which can lead to chronic back pain. Plus, you can’t sleep with your face directly down into the pillow, meaning you twist it to the side. This can cause a lot of neck pain that will leave you sore in the morning - and probably keep you up at night.
Moreover, sleeping on your front compresses your diaphragm and restricts your airways. As a result, you will not be able to breathe as deeply as you would when on your back or side. This makes it harder for your body to fully relax and enjoy uninterrupted sleep.
Finally, we touched upon this when talking about the benefits of back sleeping, front sleeping leads to skin problems. There’s a higher chance of developing pimples or acne breakouts when you sleep on your front as your face is constantly in contact with the pillow. Evidence also suggests that keeping your face pressed against a pillow every night can increase the likelihood of wrinkles forming from a young age.
How To Get The Healthiest Night’s Sleep Possible
After seeing the best - and worst - sleeping positions for your health, we can now look at how to optimize your sleeping habits.
To begin, pick one of the two sleeping positions mentioned earlier. Back sleeping is generally the best, but some individuals will benefit from side sleeping. If you suffer from sleep apnea, snoring, or heartburn, side sleeping may be a better option for you. Regardless, don’t sleep on your stomach!
Then, you should follow these steps to create a better sleep environment:
- Ensure your bedroom is as dark and quiet as possible
- Turn off all screens at least half an hour before going to bed
- Put comfortable bedding on that isn’t too hot or too cold
- Avoid drinking caffeine past 4 pm every day
- Don’t drink anything for at least 30 minutes before sleeping
- Set yourself a bedtime routine to follow each evening - this helps set your body clock
You should have a much healthier night of sleep if you follow the tips above and sleep in the correct position. However, some people may still need some assistance, particularly if they struggle to switch off. In this case, opting for a sleep aid like NaturalRest Plus+ can be highly beneficial. It contains a relaxing blend of natural ingredients designed to calm you down and elicit a deeper night of sleep.
In conclusion, the best sleeping positions for your health are sleeping on your back or on your left side. Both provide different benefits, such as reducing pain and improving your breathing. Stomach sleeping is the worst option and should be avoided as much as possible!
Sleeping in the right position is just one step on your journey to a better and healthier night’s sleep. Ensure you focus on developing a good bedtime routine, and an optimal sleeping environment to help you drift off with fewer disruptions every night. Now, you can wake up feeling well-rested and refreshed!