Sleeping Positions: What is the ideal position for sleeping?

Updated

July 7, 2021

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Are you a back, side, or belly sleeper? Choosing the right position to sleep for you can be difficult if you have health problems or are pregnant, which can alter how you normally sleep.  

Back and neck problems can be aggravated or caused by sleeping incorrectly. Furthermore, it could obstruct the airways to the lungs, causing problems such as sleep apnea. Several studies have even indicated that sleeping in the wrong position may cause toxins to filter out of your brain more slowly. Find out how the way you sleep can impact your health in many ways by reading on.

However, there are many adverse effects of sleeping on your stomach, and it should be avoided, as you’ll find out.

How to sleep on your side 

By far, side sleeping is the most popular position. Sleep scientists also call it lateral sleeping position.

Snorers may benefit from this position. However, if you have some forms of arthritis, sleeping on your side may make you sore. In addition, curled up bodies may restrict your diaphragm, preventing you from breathing deeply.

Side-Sleeping and Brain Waste

There is a possibility that sleeping on your side is good for your brain. Recent research suggests our brains eliminate waste more quickly while we sleep. We do not know whether the position in which you sleep affects waste removal. One study on rats suggests that side-sleeping may clear brain waste more efficiently than other positions.

Wrinkle Worries

Even though side sleepers enjoy many advantages, one disadvantage may appear as you age. In the lateral position, you press down on your face and may cause wrinkles on your face as well as causing the skin on your face to expand.

Sagging Breasts

Breast sagging may occur in side-sleeping women as their breast ligament (the Cooper's Ligament) slowly stretches over time. Science has yet to prove this, but many people are concerned. A simple solution to this is to support your breasts with a pillow. Larger breasted women may find it more comfortable to sleep with a bra to provide additional support.

Sleeping in the Fetal Position

Sleepers who curl inward with bent legs are in the fetal position. In many ways, sleeping in the fetal position is similar to sleeping on your side. According to research, sleeping in the side position significantly reduces the frequency of sleep apnea breathing irregularities.

Some people experience joint pain or stiffness when sleeping in the fetal position. Curl in a relatively loose position or with a pillow between your knees to reduce discomfort.

Is Sleeping on Your Side the Most Common Position?

Sleeping on your side is more common than sleeping on your back. The study shows that children sleep on the side, back, and front equally, with a preference for the side growing as they approach adulthood. Approximately 55 percent of the time spent asleep in bed is spent side-sleeping with an arm overhead. The research suggests that the preferred side position increases with age due to a loss of spine flexibility.

However, patients with heart failure instinctively avoid the left side of the bed during sleep, perhaps to avoid discomfort and shortness of breath. This population prefers to sleep on their right side.


Sleep on your stomach

Have you woken up with a sore neck? It’s probably because you fell asleep on your front. When you sleep on your front, it puts your spine in an overextended twisted position. This is fine. However, when you sleep in this position for an extended time, it puts a strain on your neck, which leads to neck pains the next day and possibly longer. 

It's also bad for your back, but you probably know that. This is because your spine and pressure points (hips and shoulders) don’t get enough support. If you are a front sleeper, the best sort of mattress you can get is a firm mattress to help keep your spine aligned. But watch the video below and learn more about how your spine twists from sleeping on your front.   


Sleeping on your back 

Back-sleeping has its advantages and disadvantages, too. Sleep experts refer to this as the supine position. Sleeping on your back can help align your spine and reduce pressure on injured limbs. Despite this, not everyone should sleep on their backs.

First, the bad news. It is possible to experience lower back pain when you sleep on your back. Studies show that sleeping on your back can worsen conditions such as snoring and sleep apnea. People with heartburn or GERD should not sleep on their backs. 

Sleeping on your back also has health benefits. The relaxed position of your neck, head, and spine can lessen neck pain. Sleeping on your back with your head slightly elevated and a small pillow is considered the best sleeping position for preventing heartburn.

Sleeping on your back while pregnant

A study published by the prestigious Lancet group journal EClinicalMedicine, analysed five datasets from across the world that assessed risk factors for stillbirth. From 28 weeks of pregnancy, sleeping while lying on the back was found to increase the risk of stillbirth by over two and a half times.


The Right Sleeping Position for You

The right sleep position depends on a number of factors. Personal preferences, as well as physical and medical factors, include:

  • Your age
  • Pain in the back and shoulders
  • Asthma/sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Pregnancy

Changing one's sleeping position can be a challenge. After we fall asleep, we may revert to what is familiar. Using pillows and back supports can help keep you in your new position during the night.


Sleep Positions for Sleep Apnea and Snoring

A person with sleep apnea experiences more light sleep and less deep sleep in comparison to a person without apnea. Snoring is also strongly associated with complaints of daytime sleepiness. Moreover, many adults sleep with a partner. Snoring and symptoms associated with sleep apnea can negatively impact the partner's sleep and function during the day. Among other negative health outcomes, inadequate sleep has also been linked to glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.

Body positioning can reduce snoring and improve sleep apnea. Researchers have also found that patients with obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea benefit from sleep on their sides.