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.

Types of Sleepers

There are four types of sleep positions: back, side, stomach, and combination. Most people are naturally combination sleepers, sleeping comfortably as you move around the bed throughout the night. But how do the rest differ?

Back sleepers are the ones who have chosen the best sleep position. They usually have great spinal alignment, but trouble with snoring. Side sleepers are the most common type, and they also have great alignment but often lose the feeling in the arm they sleep on. Stomach sleepers are the ones that professionals urge to change their position. They usually don’t have a problem with snoring, but are at an increased risk of neck and back pain.

Regardless of how you sleep, you want the comfort layer of your mattress to offer you pressure relief. Memory foam makes a good comfort layer for a great night’s sleep, and most mattresses feature this material.

There is more that goes into getting a better night’s sleep than just mattress material, however. Knowing what type of sleeper you are is an important step in improving sleep health.

How to Know Which Type of Sleeper You Are?

The best indicator of what type of sleeper you are is to think about how you fall asleep versus how you wake up. Chances are, they aren’t the same position. 

This makes you a combination sleeper, so take advice for both sleep positions you find yourself in. However, if you wake up in the same position you drifted off in, then congratulations! You’ve found out what type of sleeper you are.

Side Sleeping

Pros

  • Eases acid reflux
  • Eases snoring
  • Good for pregnant women

Cons

  • Can lead to premature wrinkles
  • Fetal position puts pressure on stomach and is bad for spine alignment
  • Can cause numbness tingling on side you lay on

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

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.

Related: Health benefits of side sleeping

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

Pros

  • Eases snoring

Cons

  • Can cause neck pain
  • Can cause back pain
  • Added pressure on muscles and joints
  • Difficulty breathing

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

Pros

  • Allows for best spine alignment
  • Avoid aches, pain, numbness, and pressure
  • Eases acid reflux

Cons

  • Not ideal for those with sleep apnea
  • More prone to snoring

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.

What’s the Best Sleeping Position? 

Sleeping on your back is the healthiest and best sleeping position for your body and sleep health. The only issue is for those who snore or have sleep apnea. On your back, your tongue can block your airways. To avoid this, use a pillow to sleep at an incline. 

Related: What does your sleep position say about you?

Stomach sleeping is the worst sleeping position. This position puts excess pressure on your spine and can make it difficult to breathe. If you’re a stomach sleeper, try to change your sleeping position. If you can’t, at least use a thin pillow so you don’t put so much pressure on your spine.

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

Best Pillow Guides by Sleeping Position: 

Choosing a Mattress to Match Your Sleeping Position

You should choose your mattress firmness based on 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.

Best Mattress Guides by Sleeping Position: 


Summary

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.

Sleeping Position FAQs


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