Sleeping is easy, right? I mean, even babies can sleep.
However, the position you choose to sleep in isn’t quite as simple. Your sleep position could be causing you back and neck pain, exacerbating snoring or sleep apnea, causing heartburn and stomach problems, and even leaving you more tired than you were when you went to bed.
While it’s true that everyone knows what position is comfortable for them, it can be worthwhile to change if your sleep position is causing you problems. Here are some common sleep positions, ranked from best to worst.
The Winner: Sleeping on Your Back
Pros: Sleeping on your back usually gets you the best support from your mattress. This means that your spine stays in alignment all night so you shouldn’t have to deal with any nagging back pain when you wake up. Back sleepers are also less likely to suffer from acid reflux at night, as long as they use a good pillow to keep their stomach below their esophagus. Finally, people who sleep this way are less likely to develop facial wrinkles.
Cons: Back sleeping is tied to sleep apnea. In fact, some doctors even recommend changing sleep positions as a first-line treatment for the disorder. Sleeping on the back can also make snoring worse because it allows the tongue to fall backward into the throat and partially block the airway. Finally, a supported spine may not be the most important factor that contributes to a good night’s rest. One study shows that people who sleep on their backs tend to have poorer quality sleep than those who chose other positions.
Runner-Up: Sleeping on Your Side
Pros: The majority of people find some sort of side-sleeping position to be the most comfortable and the one they end up in night after night. With the proper mattress, side sleepers can get a high quality of spinal support, similar to that of back sleepers. Sleeping on your side also lowers the chances that a person will struggle with acid reflux or heartburn at night. As long as you don’t curl up into too tight of a ball, side sleeping also keeps the airways open, making it less likely that a person will snore.
Sleeping on the left side, specifically, is recommended during pregnancy. It improves circulation for both mom and baby, and it relieves some of the stress on the back. However, this advice may be nothing more than an old wives tale.
Cons: Sleeping on your side can lead to more wrinkles since your face is usually pushed against a pillow all night. It can also put extra pressure on your internal organs, like the stomach and lungs, though rolling over in the night can alleviate some of this. Side sleepers often struggle to find a place to put their arm, and most have experienced an arm falling asleep in the middle of the night. Some try to hook it around their head, but this can cause pain and discomfort. Finally, side sleepers keep all of their weight on one shoulder, all night long. This can lead to long-term shoulder pain.
Last but Not Least: Sleeping on Your Stomach
Pros: Stomach sleepers are the least likely to snore. In a few cases of sleep apnea, this seems to be a better position for resting than side sleeping.
Cons: Stomach sleepers will struggle to keep their spines in any sort of alignment at night, and will often struggle with aches and pains during the day because of it. They also put awkward and prolonged pressure on their muscles, nerves, and joints, and so can struggle with numbness, tingling, and more. Finally, most stomach sleepers have to sleep with their neck cranked to one side, which can cause airway issues and neck pain.
In the End
You may sleep however is comfortable for you, as long as you don’t suffer negative side effects. If you begin to feel pain, struggle with snoring, or develop sleep apnea, though, it may be time to change your position. It can take some time and effort, but it will be worthwhile when you reduce your symptoms and are getting high-quality sleep again.