What is the Best Sleeping Position?

Read to find out how your sleeping position may be affecting you.

By Jayna Nickert

What type of sleeper are you? Do you sleep on your back, side, or stomach? Or do you switch from one position to the next throughout the night?

Believe it or not, the position that you sleep in can have an influence over a variety of health issues such as snoring, sleep apnea, stomach problems, headaches, muscle cramps, circulation, fatigue, heartburn, and even wrinkles. It can even cause neck and back pain if you’re sleeping in a position that isn’t ideal for you.

While there is no universal best sleeping position for everyone, there may be a position that is more ideal for you to sleep in depending on your unique health and comfort needs. Read on to learn how your sleeping position could be affecting you.

Side Sleeping

Whether sleeping on your side or in a side fetal position, side sleepers account for 56% of the adult population.

This position is wonderful for reducing acid reflux and snoring. It’s more difficult to snore in this position as the airways are kept open—making this position ideal for someone who suffers from sleep apnea.The one downside of sleeping in this position is that it can lead to premature wrinkles since the face is pushed up against a pillow.

While fetal position sleeping is the most popular (41% of adults sleep this way) there are also some wonderful benefits that sleeping with the torso and legs stretched out can bring, such as pain relief for the back and neck. Sleeping on your side in the fetal position is ideal for pregnant women, as it improves the body’s circulation, as well as that of the fetus. It also helps alleviate discomfort when sleeping on one’s left side as the uterus can put pressure on the liver on the right side of the body.

Snoring is also more difficult to do in this position, but the reasons why add a few more potential issues for side sleepers. If a person is curled up too tightly it can restrict breathing in the diaphragm and cause a bit of soreness in the morning in the joints and back for those who suffer from arthritis.

To help prevent this it helps to stretch out the torso and legs as much as possible. Placing a pillow between your knees is also helpful for eliminating any strain on the hips caused by sleeping in this position.

Stomach Sleeping

Only 7% of adults are stomach sleepers. This may be because the cons of sleeping in this position outweigh the pros.

The one benefit of sleeping in this position is a reduction in snoring. Other than bringing benefits by saving your sleeping partner the annoyance of hearing you snore at night, stomach sleeping doesn’t have too much to glorify itself on.

Sleeping in this position can cause neck and back pain since it’s difficult for the head, neck, and spine to stay in a neutral position. There is also added pressure placed on muscles and joints when you sleep on your stomach. This can lead to aches, irritation of the nerves, tingling, and numbness.

People who sleep on their stomachs would benefit from trying a new sleep position, but for those who cannot, it can help to try sleeping facing down with the forehead propped on a pillow rather than turning one’s head to the side to allow for more room to breathe.

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping in the log position is the healthiest way to sleep for most people, although only 8% of people sleep this way. This position allows the head, neck, and spine to stay in a neutral position so there is no extra pressure that can cause pain or soreness. This position is also great for preventing acid reflux.

Thin pillows are not recommended for this sleep position, as you’ll want to ensure the pillow is elevated enough to support the head and help prevent acid reflux. This is not an ideal position for those who have sleep apnea, however, as the tongue can block the breathing tube. It is also easier to snore in this position. This position is ideal for those who suffer from lower back pain as it helps support the natural curve of the spine while laying in bed.

Matching Sleep Accessories to Your Sleeping Position

It’s important that the sleep accessories you choose align with your needs for your specific sleeping position. This includes both pillows and your mattress.

Choosing a Pillow to Match Your Sleeping Position

Having the right pillow to compliment your chosen sleep position is important for your comfort and health protection. Depending on how you sleep, you will want a pillow that is designed to provide your body with the optimal support it needs.

  • Stomach Sleepers: You are best suited to sleep on soft, thin pillows to avoid putting extra pressure on the spine.
  • Side Sleepers: You need firm, thick pillows that can support the head and neck.
  • Back Sleepers: You will want a supportive pillow as well, but not one that’s as high as a side sleeper.

Choosing a Mattress to Match Your Sleeping Position

Memory foam mattresses of medium firmness are ideal for side sleepers as it gives them the support they need for the neck and shoulders. It’s also helpful to sleep with a pillow between the knees to help keep the spine aligned.

Back sleepers are best suited with a firm mattress that can give ample support to the head, neck, and spine while preventing a person from moving around throughout the night.

Stomach sleepers need a mattress with flex support technology to help alleviate added strain to the muscles and joints while conforming to the body in a supportive way that prevents sinking, as that will only add more pressure to the neck and spine.

Sleeping is a very delicate practice that has a big impact on our overall well-being. Seeing that we spend 1/3 of our lives in bed, it’s important to make sure that we’re spending that part of our life right and providing ourselves with the best support possible.

If you’d like to learn more about the best mattress for your unique sleep preferences we welcome you to take our mattress quiz and check out our mattress buying guides to learn more.


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