We all want better sleep – both in quality and quantity. Satisfactory slumber is crucial to our physical, mental, and emotional health – not to mention the well-being of our relationships and coffee budget. Most of us tend to sleep the same way every night, or toss and turn between a couple of key positions on a rougher evening. You are likely aware of your favorite sleeping position – but do you know its benefits, drawbacks, and ideal pillow choice? Below is a rundown of the pros and cons of each common sleeping position, as well as tips on how to optimize sleep quality in your chosen pose.
Pros: This is the most common sleeping position for a reason. Side sleeping has been proven to significantly protect against cervical, scapular and arm pain. The same study proved that sleeping in this position also yielded the highest sleep quality ratings. Sleeping on the left side has been shown to ease heartburn and acid reflux, as well.
Cons: Sleeping on your side can put pressure on the liver, heart, stomach, and lungs. Therefore, you may want to think twice about sleeping this way if you suffer from a heart condition. However, switching sides throughout the night can help to mitigate this.
Tips: Doctors encourage sleeping on the left side during pregnancy because it improves circulation to the heart and relieves pressure on the back. However, if you are not expecting, it is recommended that you switch sides throughout the night in order to improve circulation and prevent any one organ from undergoing too much pressure. You may also want to try using a body pillow, or putting a pillow between your legs, in order to alleviate back pain. Another way to avoid back pain as a side sleeper is to steer clear of the fetal position. Stretching your back out for eight hours a night is far more beneficial to your spine than curving it.
Pros: Sleeping on your stomach can ease snoring and sleep apnea. Unfortunately, this position does not have much else going for it.
Cons: As a stomach sleeper myself, I was disappointed to discover that this may be the most harmful sleeping position of them all. Stomach sleeping, although very comfortable, can put pressure on your internal organs including the lungs, which can impact your ability to breathe. This position can also cause neck stiffness and back pain.
Tips: It is recommended that those of us who sleep best this way put a pillow under our hips in order to minimize the impact on our backs. We should also consider not using one under our heads, as this adds an unnecessary curvature of the spine. If possible, it is advised to avoid this sleeping pose altogether.
Pros: This is the absolute best position for your spine and neck health, because the back is perfectly straight and well supported. Sleeping on your back is also the optimal position for your internal organs. Your weight is evenly distributed in this pose, which minimizes pressure points and relieves stress on your body and nervous system. It can also help to prevent wrinkles and acne, since your face is not squashed into the pillow, soaking up bacteria and creating unnecessary folds. Congratulations, back sleepers – you will always be beautiful!
Cons: This position can sometimes put pressure on your hips. Also, it is the worst position to sleep in if you have a problem with snoring or sleep apnea. This can raise the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
The good news is, Dr. Steven Park does not recommend changing your preferred sleep position unless you have a medical reason to do so. I, for one, fully intend to keep sleeping on my stomach, because that is how I sleep best. However, it is important to realize any possible consequences of this, and take steps to avoid them wherever possible. After all, bedtime is one of the best times of the day. Mahatma Ghandi once said “Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.” Choose to be reborn happy, healthy, and full of life!