Which Sleep Position is Best for Your Health?

January 27 2023 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.

At a Glance:

How Do Sleeping Positions Affect Your Health?

Back Sleeper

Side Sleeper

Stomach Sleeper

Fetal Sleeper

How Do Sleeping Positions Affect Your Health?

Different sleep positions have different effects on the body. For example, sleeping on your back can cause wrinkles over time, while sleeping on your stomach can lead to neck pain. So, which sleep position is best for your health?

The answer may depend on your individual health needs. For example, if you have back pain, you may find that sleeping on your side is the most comfortable position. If you have acid reflux, sleeping on your stomach may help to reduce symptoms.

There is no one “perfect” sleep position for everyone. The best position for you may change over time, depending on your health needs.

Sleeping on Back

Woman sleeps on her 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.

We Recommend Sleeping on Your Back

✓ If you have back pain

Back Sleeping Variations You Should Try

✓ Soldier sleeping position

✓ Starfish sleeping position

Back Sleeper FAQ

Q: Is back sleeping the healthiest?

A: There is no one sleep position that is best for your health. However, many people find that sleeping on their back is the most comfortable position. This position allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position and minimizes the chances of experiencing pain in those areas. Additionally, back sleeping helps to keep your airways open, which can reduce snoring and improve your breathing.

Q: What does it mean to be a back sleeper?

A: Back sleeping is one of the best sleeping positions for your health because it aligns your spine and neck perfectly. This decreases the chances of experiencing pain in those areas during the night. Additionally, back sleeping allows your lungs and stomach to fully expand, making it easier to breathe and digest food.

Studies have found that individuals who sleep on their back are generally more self-confident. Back sleepers are more open to new experiences and sensations.

Discover the Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers

Sleeping on Stomach

Man sleeps on his 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.

Stomach Sleeping Variations You Should Try

✓ Freefall sleeping position

Stomach Sleeping FAQ

Q: Is sleeping on your stomach bad?

A: There are pros and cons to both sleeping on your stomach and sleeping on your side. Sleeping on your stomach can cause neck and back pain, while sleeping on your side can cause discomfort in the hips and shoulders. Ultimately, the best sleep position for you depends on your individual preferences and health concerns.

If you have a history of neck or back pain, sleeping on your stomach may not be the best option for you. When you sleep on your stomach, your spine is forced into an unnatural position which can aggravate existing pain.

Q: Is stomach sleeping uncommon?

A: Yes, stomach sleeping is uncommon. Most people find that sleeping on their side or back is more comfortable. It is estimated that 16% of adult sleepers consider themselves stomach sleepers.

Learn About the Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers

Side Sleeping

Man sleeps on his 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.

We Recommend Sleeping on Your Side

✓ If you snore

✓ If you have heartburn

Side Sleeping Variations You Should Try

✓ Log sleeping position

Side Sleep FAQ

Q: Is it bad to sleep on your side?

A: Sleeping on your side is fine as long as you do not experience any symptoms. For example, some people report an increase in shoulder pain. If done on the wrong mattress, sleeping on your side can cause alignment issues.

Q: What side should you sleep on?

A: It is fine to sleep on either side. However, sleeping on your left side is thought to bring about the most health benefits.

Q: Is sleeping on left side bad for heart?

A: There is no evidence that sleeping on your left side is bad for your heart. In fact, sleeping on your left side may even be beneficial, as it allows for better blood circulation.

Discover the Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers

Fetal Sleeping Position

Woman sleeps in 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.

Fetal Sleeping Variations You Should Try

Yearner sleeping position

Fetal Sleep Position FAQ

Q: Why is sleeping in fetal position comforting?

A: People often find fetal sleeping position comforting because it helps maintain the sense of security and protection they felt as a fetus. It's also been found to be beneficial in terms of spinal alignment and avoiding snoring.

Q: What does sleeping in a fetal position say about you?

A: Sleeping in the fetal position can imply that an individual is introverted or particularly sensitive.

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Learn More: What Mattress Do You Need for Your Lifestyle?