If there’s anything I’ve learned about myself from years of sleeping experience, I am a highly inconsistent sleeper. When my head hits the pillow, I am more than likely lying on my side, yet somehow when I wake up in the morning, I’m either on my stomach or on my back.
Sleeping to me is just an activity that rejuvenates and restores energy to the body, but is there any specific “right” way to sleep? As we get older, many people are pickier on what position they sleep in, as certain positions place more stress on some areas than others.
Not only does waking up to a stiff and sore neck or lower back pain during the night get us feeling worse in the morning, but poor sleeping posture makes these feelings seem worse. The ultimate goal is to keep the natural curve of the spine in alignment and make sure the back and these pressure points are properly supported.
Depending on certain conditions, there are postures that will make a difference and can provide undeniable relief.
What are Specific Types of Sleeping Positions?
- On Your Back
Sleeping on your back in its simplest form is just you on a horizontal surface, right? Choosing to sleep or relax on your back gives you the best chance at resting your spine in its most natural position. None of your other body parts like your arms, shoulders, or legs are going to jammed under your own body weight. It seems like the ideal choice in sleeping positions, right?
The only real deal with sleeping on your back is a problem some people find to be highly annoying… snoring. Sleeping on your back has been proven to lead to problems with snoring due to gravity pulling your tongue to the back of your throat while you sleep. Of course, snoring isn’t exclusive to those who sleep on their backs, but if your partner does happen to disrupt several nights of shuteye, then you can always have them try a new position.
2. On Your Side
This is one of the most common positions: where your torso and legs are straight, your spine feels loose and elongated, and you can choose to look at something other than the old boring ceiling. Over half of people surveyed and were asked to state how they slept said they often went down the side bod position. Maybe it’s the fact that side sleeping makes it easier to cuddle, but a whopping total of 63% of those surveyed, preferred sleeping on their side.
The side position is a personal favourite for many, just for the heck of it. Because the spine is in alignment with the rest of your body, there is little to no back pain. Research has suggested that sleeping on your left side is actually preferable to the right side. According to scientists, when analyzing the body, the way our internal organs are organized, sleeping on our left side can lead to benefits with digestion, blood flow, and even a decrease in the level of heartburn. View our top 5 best mattresses for side sleepers!
Some people even enjoy it because it keeps them or their partner from catching those z’s a little too loudly. Of course, there’s always one downside and that would be the chance of half of your face getting wrinkled from being pressed into the pillow.
Those people who get that dreaded side arm numbness after lying on it for an extended period of time, actually experience that numbing feeling because of the mattress not properly supporting their bone structure and framework. All of the potential symptoms of side sleeping can be reduced by a good supportive mattress. Certain types of mattresses are better than others at being able to thoroughly support your body.
3. In the Fetal Position
Sometimes you just want to turn back time and return to the life of luxury back when you were a baby. The fetal pose is a naturally comfortable position where you lie on your side and both your torso and knees are hunched and bent forwards and towards each other.
This pose is a common one for pregnant women as well as just lying on your side because the mattress is right there to hold up and support the weight of your stomach. There’s no need to feel like you have a twenty-pound weight pressing down on your body while you’re asleep on your back at night. The fetal position, also like lying on your side is great for those who snore because of that open-air circulation.
4. On Your Stomach
There’s nothing like the feeling of relief of being able to throw yourself down on the mattress and put your head face down into the pillow after a long day of work or a go go go schedule.
Why is Sleeping on your Stomach Bad?
Although it can feel good in the moment, falling asleep on your stomach has been known to make users experience some type of pain, especially in the neck and back area.
Unless you’ve discovered the art of being able to breathe through a pillow, many people will turn their heads to the side when they sleep on their stomachs. This seems fine, right? Unfortunately not. Your neck is twisted and the turning will put your head and spine out of alignment.
If this isn’t a recurring thing, then you will be fine but in the long run, problems with your neck may be one of those unhappy repercussions. With a neck injury like a herniated disk, the rupture of the discs between your vertebrae can irritate your nerves.
Never fear though, for there are ways to go around without pain from sleeping on your stomach. I get it, no one likes being told that the way they have slept for their entire lives just isn’t good for them.
Here are a few tips for succeeding on the stomach:
● Use a thin pillow or even with no pillow at all. The flatter your pillow is, the less the angle is between your head, neck, and spine.
● If you really do feel comforted by the presence of your pillow, fair enough; just get another one! By placing a pillow under your pelvis, your back is kept in a more neutral position and the difference between your head and spine will be less.
● Stretch in the morning after a good night’s sleep. Even just a few minutes of stretching gets your body back into proper alignment and strengthens those muscles you may have strained during the night.
Sleeping Positions for Health Problems
- Back Pain
The best position for overall back pain is sleeping on your side, accompanied by a thinner pillow tucked in between your knees. The pillow keeps your hips, pelvis, and spine aligned.
If side sleeping doesn’t help alleviate any of the soreness, try resting on your back with that same thin pillow under the curved part of your back. The pillow or towel maintains the naturally straight and aligned position of your body while evenly distributing your weight across your hips. With less muscle strain will come more relief.
- Lower Back Pain
The best position for lower back pain is a side-sleeping position that comforts those typical areas: knees, hips, and shoulders. The classic fetal position can also help the lower back pain from herniated or degenerative discs with that gentle stretch. The fetal position opens up those pinched and aching spots, relieving the pressure.
- Shoulder Pain
The best sleeping position for shoulder pain is either on your back or stomach. Side sleeping would definitely be the worst option in trying to heal your pain. Sleeping on your back or stomach keeps the shoulders open and loose. The weight is more evenly distributed when on your back, and depending on where you place your arms when sleeping on your stomach, you can give them a gentle stretch that keeps them from getting stiffened up during the night.
- Broken or Sprained Leg or Arm
The best sleeping position for a broken limb is on your back, elevated with pillows or sitting upright on an armchair with a pillow underneath. When sleeping and sitting upright, let your upper arm hang loosely to the side instead of resting it on pillows. A pillow support system can do the exact opposite and may force your shoulder upwards, creating pain.
- Sleep Apnea
The best sleeping position for sleep apnea as mentioned earlier is on your side. Side sleeping increases the chance that your airways will be clear and passable while your throat muscles are relaxed during sleep. While sleeping on your side, use a pillow that maintains its shape, supports your neck, and allows air to have a continuous flow. You will be less likely to roll over on your back or in any other position when maintaining a comfortable side-sleeping position.
The best sleeping position to use during pregnancy is on your side. Any lateral sleep position will improve blood circulation and ease any unnecessary pressure on the liver from your baby bump. You can further the progression of blood flow by bending your legs and placing a small pillow in between your knees.
Gravity is your enemy during this period of pregnancy. Every mother will be wanting a pillow upon the pillow to keep that growing tummy supported underneath you. Originally a back sleeper? Try sleeping now with what feels like a huge dumbbell on your stomach. As your body grows and changes shape, you’ll need to adjust your sleeping game.
Transitioning to a New Sleep Position
Let’s face it. No one likes change much less the way we position our bodies in a period that’s supposed to be restorative. The transition time it takes for you to get used to a new sleeping position can be hard with your body unused to how it feels. If you’re looking to change the way you feel from a whole new perspective, these tips will hopefully ease you into a new era of blissful rest.
● Block out all the natural light in your room and remove electronic devices for about two hours leading up to nighttime
● Sleeping on the opposite side of the bed from what you normally would help your body be less likely to revert back to your old position.
● Don’t spend tons of money on extras like a high-quality pillow or bed covers and sheets. If anything, use what’s already familiar to you to help you get used to a new position.
Like learning any new concept, skill, or even sleeping habit, this stuff takes practice. Who knew, the struggle is real even when in your own bed.