It might seem that sleeping position has very little to do with the quality of your sleep. However, if that’s actually what you think, you’re very wrong. Our lives are constantly changing and so are our bodies as we age.
We get through different periods in our lives, starting from occasional cold, to pregnancy, sleep disorders, and health issues that we’re not prepared for. Thus, if you want to take as much as you can from your sleep, you should make sure to adjust your sleeping position to the specific period of your life.
What is the best sleep position?
What is the best side to sleep on?
In this article, I will give you the answer to these questions and also introduce you with different sleepers out there, explain how your sleep position should be changed based on your health condition and provide you with additional information.
What is the Best Sleeping Position?
In reality, most of us are combo sleepers, meaning that we tend to change our sleeping positions throughout the night. While it’s evident that sleeping on your side and back is better than laying on your stomach, there are both pros and cons of each of the positions.
On Your Back
The studies showed that sleeping on your back is the best sleeping position. It has many benefits associated with your health. If you’re sleeping on the right pillow, your spine, head, and neck stay in a healthy position and if you find a good mattress then there’s no pressure in problematic areas. It also can:
- Prevent wrinkles and sagging. Many women prefer to sleep on their backs to slow down the aging processes. Truth is, it actually makes a major difference and long-term results are indisputable.
- Prevents acid reflux. If you have this problem, you should use a pillow that can lift your head slightly up, and keep stomach below your esophagus. It’s proved to be working.
On the other hand, the study also showed that people who tend to sleep on their backs, do not experience as high-quality sleep as per se those who sleep on their side. It also seems that some people who sleep on their back, tend to experience lower back pain, or if you already suffer from this problem, make it worse.
Now, sleeping on the back is also not the best option for people who have such sleeping disorders as sleep apnea and snoring, it can even make it worse. And, women in their late pregnancy should avoid this position. But all things considered, if you choose the right mattress and pillow based on your weight and preferred firmness, you can highly benefit from sleeping on your back.
Here are some of the most favored positions by the back sleepers, you might even recognize yourself:
- Soldier. 8% of people sleep in this position. When you sleep, your arms are pressed down closely to the body and you look a little bit tense. This position may not be the best option for those who suffer from snoring.
- Starfish. Just like the name says, your arms above your head create a starfish figure and knees are away from each other. This position is preferred by 5% of sleepers, such people may be prone to snoring and sleep problems.
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On Your Side
Many say that the best sleeping position is on your side. 63% of sleepers prefer this position and I completely understand why - it super comfortable and cozy to sleep on.
This position is best for people who suffer from:
- Chronic back pain
- Sleep apnea
- Acid reflux
When you sleep on your side, your esophagus is slightly elevated, and your head and neck are in the same position, which makes it perfect for people who suffer from chronic back pain. Also, while people who experience snoring and sleep apnea cannot sleep on their backs (at least it’s not recommended), side sleeping can be highly beneficial and even treat these disorders.
Which side should you sleep on? Is there a difference? Yes, there’s a difference, especially for pregnant women who should sleep on the left side. Why this is the best side to sleep on - you might ask? Based on the American Pregnancy Association, when a woman sleeps on her left, the uterus is away from pressing against the liver and ease the blood circulation to the fetus.
But not only pregnant women can benefit from this sleeping position. Studies showed that the left side is preferred by the sleepers over the right side. It’s all due to the arrangement of your internal organs. Sleeping on your left side can improve your digestion as well as blood flow. Therefore, it's pretty clear which side should you sleep on.
However, sleeping on your side also comes with some drawbacks. It’s not the best sleeping position because of:
- Shoulder, back and hip pain. If your body is not aligned properly while you sleep, it’s a sign that you need to get a new comfortable mattress.
- Wrinkles and breast sag. When you’re sleeping on your side, your face is lying on the pillow and your breasts lean forward.
Individuals who choose to sleep on their side, prefer to sleep in these positions:
- The Fetal position. About 40% of sleepers choose this position. So, it’s safe to say that it’s the most popular option. Women sleep this way more often than men.
- The Log position. This is the strangest position for me personally, I don’t understand how anyone can sleep like this. But it turns out that about 15% of sleepers prefer it. It can work great if you snore. However, not recommended if you suffer from arthritis.
- The Yearner position. Sleeping with your arms outstretched upfront. It works if you have breathing problems. About 13% of people sleep in the yearner position.
Therefore, sleeping on your side has both pros and cons but many people believe that it’s the best sleeping position as it’s the most comfortable.
On Your Stomach
Only about 7% of individuals sleep on their stomachs. It’s one of the worst sleeping positions. Let me give you a few reasons why. When you sleep on your stomach, your neck and spine are not in a neutral position, it can put pressure on your nerves and lead to unpleasant pain. Thus, when you wake up, you might feel like someone broke your neck.
Even if it can be challenging, you should consider another sleeping position. However, if you find it too difficult to break old habits, you should at least buy a comfortable mattress pillow that would allow you to maintain your body in a neutral position.
The Freefall position is the most popular among stomach sleepers, they tend to lay on their side, put arms under or wrap them around the pillow.
Best Mattress Based on Sleeping Position
There’s no problem that the right mattress couldn’t solve. You should always pick a mattress based on your personal preferences and needs that include your weight, sleeping position, sleep-related disorders, and other important aspects.
But since we’re focusing on the best mattress for your sleeping position, let’s stay within the boundaries.
For Back Sleepers
As I already mentioned, when you sleep on your back, your body stays in a neutral, straight position. However, if the mattress you’re sleeping on doesn’t give you enough support, it doesn’t perform a good function. For that reason, every back sleeper, and of course, every other sleeper out there, should choose a mattress carefully.
Therefore, the most important qualities for the back sleepers to look for in the mattress are:
- The right level of support. The support is vital for back sleepers because you need proper spine alignment. Meaning that the right mattress has to elevate specific pressure points to maintain your body in a healthy position.
- The level of firmness. Back sleepers usually choose a mattress that’s a little bit of a firmer side. The plush option can’t provide the needed level of support, too firm mattress is simply uncomfortable and can put pressure on your neck.
- A comfortable pillow. You shouldn’t be focusing only on the best sleeping position and comfortable mattress, the pillow also plays a significant role. You should choose the option of medium firmness and height that would also provide contouring.
So, you were looking for the best sleeping position but now you will also know what kind of mattress to look for to achieve the best results.
For Side Sleepers
Side sleepers have different needs than the ones who prefer to sleep on their backs. Here are the main elements that every side sleeper should pay attention to:
- Support. Side sleepers need more support in their shoulders and hips. Too plush mattress won’t handle the pressure and won’t be able to hold your spine in a straight line. It means that you need a mattress that’s both cushioning and responsive so that your hips and shoulders wouldn’t sink too deep.
- Firmness. This measure for side sleepers completely depends on weight. The most preferred options are from medium to firm. The lightweight sleepers should choose a mattress that’s about 4 in the firmness scale, medium weight sleepers should pick a mattress that’s 5 or 6, and a firm mattress that’s 7 in the firmness scale is perfect for heavy individuals.
- Pillow. Many sleepers forget about the importance of the right pillow, however, if you think about the best sleeping position and mattress, then the pillow shouldn’t be forgotten as well.
Memory foam mattresses are the best options for side sleepers. If you need other alternatives, then latex and hybrid mattresses can also work well.
Therefore, while sleeping on your side may not be the best sleep position, if you choose the right mattress, you will improve and benefit from your sleep so much more.
For Stomach sleepers
As I already mentioned, sleeping on your stomach is one of the worst sleeping positions because your body is not in natural alignment. However, if you’re so used to sleeping like this that you cannot change your habits, then a good mattress can make the actual difference. Here are some of the most vital measures to consider:
- Comfort layer. Stomach sleepers need to pay close attention to the comfort layer, it should be thick enough to provide you with the needed support.
- Pillow type. While a comfortable pillow is important to every type of sleeper, stomach sleepers can benefit from the right pillow the most.
The Downsides of a Bad Sleep
During the night, you experience four stages of sleep and go through 4 or 5 such sleep cycles. The last stage, that is called REM sleep is super important for your brain activities, lead to better memory and concentration. When you’re experiencing a low-quality rest due to bad sleeping position, uncomfortable mattress, and other significant aspects, you do not get enough deep sleep to restore your body functions.
Therefore, considering the best sleeping position and which side should you sleep on is more than important. Other risks of bad sleep include:
- Increased risk of cancer
- Bad skin health
- Higher chances of heart disease
- Memory loss
As promised in the very beginning, I’ve introduced you with the best sleep position, the best side to sleep on, aspects related to sleeping disorders and recommendations on the best mattresses.
Based on various researches, the best sleeping position is on our back, it can prevent wrinkles and sagging as well as acid reflux. Sleepers who prefer side over the best sleeping position also get various perks. It’s great for individuals who suffer from chronic back pain, Sleep Apnea, acid reflux, and snoring. And, the final position - on your stomach, is definitely not the best sleeping position out there, as you can put too much pressure on your nerves.
No matter what sleep position you prefer, if you choose the right mattress, you can reduce all the cons and improve the qualities that will make your sleep even better.
Scientific References Contributed by Caleb Backe, Certified Personal Trainer, Health & Wellness Expert
1. De Koninck J, Gagnon P, Lallier S: 'Sleep positions in the young adult and their relationship with the subjective quality of sleep.'
2. Lucia Spicuzza, Daniela Caruso, and Giuseppe Di Maria: 'Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome and its management'
3. Simranjeet Kaur, Varun Baslas, Himanshi Aggarwal, et al.: 'Snoring: An Annoyance or a Serious Health Problem (Obstructive Sleep Apnea)?'