All sleep positions are not created equal. Everyone has their own preferences and sleeps in the way that feels most comfortable to them: on their stomach, on their back, tucked into a ball, spread-eagle, you name it.
However, despite personal preferences, there are actually some sleep positions that are better than others for your health.
The way we sleep not only affects the rest we get, but sleeping in suboptimal positions may contribute to neck and back pain, sleep apnea, muscle cramps, poor circulation, headaches, and digestion issues. Taking care of your body while you sleep is just as important as taking care of it while you are awake if you want to feel your best.
With that in mind, here are the ways several positions affect your health.
Sleeping on your back is actually the best position for your health, even though it is one of the least popular. This position puts your spine in a neutral position, which takes pressure off your neck, head, and spine. This position can also help ward off acid reflux, as long as the pillow is underneath your head for extra support.
One slight warning is that if you suffer from sleep apnea or snoring, it may make it easier for your tongue to block your breathing. You should consult with your doctor if you suffer from one of these problems that keeps you from sleeping.
Sleeping on your side is the next best option when it comes to sleeping position. This helps to elongate your spine and offers a lot of the same benefits of sleeping on your back.
This is the best position for those who deal with sleep apnea and snoring, as it is the best option to keep your airways open. If you use a soft mattress instead of a firm one, this can also provide cushioning for your ankles and hips.
However, since half your face is pushed against a pillow all night, it can cause premature wrinkles.
The fetal position is great for expectant mothers because it improves circulation. However, it can also cause other health problems.
Sleeping in the fetal position can restrict breathing to your diaphragm and cause your body to be sore in the morning if you are curled too tightly. It may also cause strain on your spine and hips, but you can mitigate this by putting a pillow between your legs to help put your spine in a more neutral position.
Sleeping on your stomach is the worst possible position to sleep in with regards to your help. It may help snorers, but in general, it has no other benefits. Stomach sleeping can lead to back and neck pain because it puts the most strain on your spine, and it can lead to numbness, tingling, aches, and irritated nerves because of the added pressure on your muscles and joints.
Alleviating Sleep Position Pain
No matter how much you tell a stomach sleeper that it’s better to sleep on their back, some people just won’t be able to accustom their body to the change. If you’re set in your ways of stomach- or side-sleeping, there is some hope for you yet.
Using a luxury mattress that’s designed for your health and comfort can help alleviate the downsides of your sleeping position. If you sleep on your side, a softer mattress can help the curvature in your spine and lessen pressure on hips and knees. A mattress with a thicker and softer comfort layer is ideal for this position because it fills in the gaps left by the curve of your spine to give you even support.
For back sleepers, a firmer mattress gives support that will keep the spine in place. This is also the best kind of mattress for stomach sleepers. Having too soft of a layer on top will add to the unnatural curvature of your spine, so it should be avoided.
Overall, recognizing the effects your sleeping position has on your body can go a long way toward helping you understand and improve your health.