How to Sleep On Your Back for Better Health and Better Looks

Learning how to sleep on your back has specific health benefits, and can improve your skin; however it can take some work to get comfortable with it.

By Sheryl Grassie

Aug 15th, 2022

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Why Sleep on Your Back?

Sleeping on your back has many positive effects on your body. There are exceptions of course, if you are pregnant or have certain health conditions like sleep apnea, back sleeping may not be ideal for you. But in general, it is believed to help with a number of chronic health conditions by relieving pressure. It can help with headaches, sinus problems, keep your spine straight, support less wrinkling, and more.

It is the position that has the most benefits for the back and joints. If you are waking with pain in the morning, especially neck, back, or joint pain, back sleeping just might be your ticket to relief. Also, if you are having trouble sleeping, and you don’t currently sleep on your back, this change is recommended to improve sleep. Sleeping on your back is also the best way for your mattress to support you as it is considered the most natural and neutral position.

The Benefits of Sleeping on Your Back

Although all sleep positions, except stomach sleeping, are considered okay, the back ranks as number one for health. It has some specific benefits worth noting:

Lessens Inflammation

Sleeping on your back helps to drain fluids and decrease inflammation resulting in less puffy skin and less pain in the joints. This is especially helpful for those with sinus buildup, looking to clear a stuffy nose. Sleep with your back propped up by a few pillows and gravity will help you drain your nasal passage.

Lessens Wrinkles

The pressure from side sleeping or stomach sleeping can exacerbate wrinkles on the face. Creases from your pillow, indentations from compression, along with tensed and crushed parts of the face, all add up to wrinkles. Dermatologists can even tell which side you sleep on by which side of your face is more wrinkled. When you sleep on your back your facial muscles relax and are not pressed into anything.

Reduces Acne

Bacteria on your pillowcase coming in contact with pores overnight can cause acne. Sleeping on your back helps you be free from this contact can clear up acne-related skin conditions.

Aligns the Spine

Having a straight spine while you sleep can help you decrease pain from inappropriate pressure in the back and neck. It also keeps nerves from being pinched and extremities, like hands and arms, from tingling or going to sleep.

Can Eliminate Acid Reflux

Back sleeping stops stomach acid from regurgitating up into the food pipe which causes the pain and burns associated with acid reflux. When sleeping on your back, it’s important to keep your head elevated 6-8″ to keep your stomach acid from refluxing.

Learning How to Sleep on Your Back

The goal is to find a comfortable way to sleep on your back that creates alignment in the body. If you think this might be a challenge, or you really dislike sleeping on your back, you are not alone, as only between 8% and 14% of people naturally sleep on their backs.

Related: Best mattress for back sleepers

However, learning to be a back sleeper is like anything else that you decide to learn, it requires engaging in a process and giving it time, but with the right supports it can be accomplished and it may well be worth it if you are looking to relieve certain symptoms.

Try some of the following suggestions to learn how to sleep on your back:

  • Decide why you want to sleep on your back: To eliminate back pain, to reduce wrinkles, etc.
  • Pick a day to start: Choose a day when you are not sick or overtired. Plan it for as soon as possible and don’t put it off.
  • Stretch before going to bed: This can help put you in a more relaxed state to sleep more comfortably on your back.
  • Expect to be uncomfortable and breathe through it: Learning to sleep on your back is not a one shot deal. It will take repeated attempts and you will need to be patient with yourself, you are learning something new and your muscle memory will try to move you to the old familiar position. Just stay on your back and breathe.
  • Put a pillow under your knees: This can help relieve pressure and make you more comfortable. It can also help discourage rolling over.
  • Tuck pillows around you to anchor your position: Pillows propped on your sides can act as a barricade to changing position while you are asleep.
  • Spread out: The spread eagle position can make lying on your back more comfortable, help you relax and induce sleep.
  • Use an eye mask: They help you relax and fall asleep. Choose a lavender scented one.
  • Find the right position: You may need to experiment with different pillows for your head or different arm and leg positions to get comfortable on your back.
  • Work at it and make adjustments: If you fall asleep on your back but keep waking on your side, use corrective strategies. Try barricading yourself with a pillow on the side you turn to, or sew a tennis ball on that side of your night shirt to act as a deterrent for turning over.
  • Keep motivated: New habits require persistence. Tell yourself the reasons you want to do this in a positive form like, “I will feel so good without that back pain” or “I am really excited to look younger.”
  • Practice good sleep hygiene: Get enough sunlight during the day, go to bed when you get sleepy, don’t eat late, and don’t be in front of a screen before bed.

With some effort, you can change your old sleeping habits and experience pain relief and better skin. You could lose that acid reflux at bedtime or see a decrease in overall inflammation. Determine if it is worth it and give sleeping on your back a try.