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Which Sleep Position is Best for Your Health?

by Pam Silvia

When it comes to sleep, there are many factors that can impact the depth and duration of your slumber. Your sleep position is one of them. And while other variables can nuance this single factor even further (including pregnancy and bed sharing), for the purposes of this article, there are 4 positions that are noted to be the most common ways we tend to lay atop our beds. 

Spoiler alert! To answer the question posed by the title of this blog article: there is no fit-for-all. Research suggests that there are no strong findings to conclude that certain sleep positions are detrimental to your health compared to others; however, there are compelling correlations between the following 4 sleep positions and relief for specific sleep afflictions.

1. On Your Back

You may not find it surprising that back sleepers constitute a small fraction of the population, but you may be intrigued to learn that sleep experts deem this position to provide the most relief for those who suffer from sleep-related afflictions.

For one, sleeping on your back allows your head, neck and spine to rest in a neutral position, alleviating pressure from those areas. Translation: less pain! And if you suffer from chronic acid reflux, this position keeps the potential for stomach cramps at bay. Laying on your back while you sleep positions your stomach below your esophagus, which helps prevent acid from traveling up your digestive tract to trigger unpleasant symptoms such as gagging and vomiting. What’s one drawback for sleeping on your back? Well, if you suffer from sleep apnea, your snoring may increase by a few decibels.

2. On Your Stomach

If you’re a notorious snorer, your bed partner would probably rejoice if you slept on your stomach to suppress the cacophony.  But be careful! Stomach sleeping does not keep your spine in a neutral pose and places pressure on muscles and joints, which could cause (or prolong) neck and back pain. Too much pressure on your muscles and joints can lead to numbness, tingles and nerve irritation. To curb these negative effects while still sleeping on your stomach, it is recommended that you sleep facedown to avoid contorting your neck. If you do this, we suggest propping your forehead on a pillow—but not the rest of your face, to keep your upper airways open and give room for unhindered breathing. You can also slip a pillow under your pelvis to reduce lower back pain.

3. On Your Side

As is the case with sleeping on your back, snoozing on your side also helps prevent symptoms of acid reflux since this position keeps your torso elongated and your legs relatively straight, which also means—you guessed it—less pressure and pain felt on your muscles and joints. Along with curbing pain, this position is said to reduce heartburn! We only suggest switching sides to supplement these digestive health benefits.

No snoring to worry about here, either, since this exposed-face position promotes open airways. If there’s a downside, it’s that it may take away from the “beauty” in your beauty sleep. Since half of your face is on your pillow, crow’s feet may take flight on your stretched-out skin.

4. In the Fetal Position

The most popular sleep position of all, the fetal pose promotes blood circulation in your body and can relieve lower back pain. With this position having you sleep on your side with a hunched torso and bent knees, experts recommend making the position more comfortable by keeping it loose rather than tight—so as not to restrict diaphragm breathing. And sleeping in a tightly held fetal position might also leave you feeling sore in the morning, which could worsen symptoms for those with arthritis.

Tip? Tuck a pillow between your knees to reduce strain on your hips.

A mattress that is compatible with your sleep habits and body type can alleviate many of your sleep-related issues. Ideally, your bed should be firm enough to support your back and sleep position but soft enough to comfortably contour your body. This balance isn’t always easy to figure out—which is where we come in. Swing by Mattress Land to try our in-store BedFIT test bed! Our computerized system will yield the mattress and product recommendations to fit your needs. Visit any of our store locations today!