What sleeping position do you usually find yourself in before falling asleep? For many people, we have a go-to position that feels most comfortable for us in order to drift off. There are many ways we may position our heads, arms, legs, and many more parts of our body. There are, however, three main bodily positions – on your back, on your stomach, or on your side. These have the biggest overall impact on our comfort and our sleep.
Sleeping in the wrong basic position can negatively affect your mood, sleep quality, or even your health. Certain conditions, such as acid reflux or back pain, can be worsened by your sleep position. Being in the wrong position may be keeping you awake at night and leading to less, even poorer quality, sleep. This is not always an easy change to make. Your favoured position may feel comfortable in the short term, but may be causing longer term damage. Our guide to sleeping positions and how they affect your body will help you understand if you need to make any changes to your sleep routine.
If you have back pain, your sleeping position can make or break the pain you’re facing. Your ideal position depends on where your back pain is located. In general, however, sleeping on your stomach is considered harmful and should be avoided.
For your upper back, either sleeping on your back or side is recommended. It depends on what you personally find more comfortable. Either way, a flatter pillow is recommended to relieve upper back pain. This helps keep your spine straight during the night should you turn your neck while sleeping. Extra layers, like a mattress topper, can also prove helpful.
For the lower back, you have the choice of sleeping on your back, side, or stomach – whatever your preference is. To do this, an extra pillow is recommended for any of these positions, to provide additional support. You can get away with sleeping on your back if you have a supportive pillow under your stomach.
Sleeping on your side will not provide any lower back relief unless you add extra support. You can align your back sleeping on your side by placing a pillow between your legs. You can also opt for the “fetal position”, where you elevate your knees towards your chest. This also does the job of locking your knees into the right place.
If you prefer to sleep on your back, you can sleep reclined, keeping your legs relatively straight. For extra support, you can put a pillow under your knees to keep your spine as straight as possible.
Neck and Shoulder Pain
Many people with back pain also suffer from pain in the neck and shoulder. This can cause tension and headaches during your waking hours. Much like for back pain, sleeping on your stomach is thought to worsen pain in your neck. It is best to opt for your side or own your back – as long as you keep your neck and back straight.
If you struggle to keep straight while sleeping, there are products you can purchase to help keep you aligned. Unikbed’s Hybrid Ergonomic Pillow, pictured above, is one such solution. The pillow is divided into parts that can be adjusted by height to match your preferred level of elevation.
These divisions are designed in mind for your head and neck in order to keep them aligned. The pillow supports the neck and shoulder area by relieving the pressure of vertebra and muscles that connect the head and neck. The pillow’s properties also helps improve blood circulation, which helps prevent headaches and muscular pain.
Having the contours of this pillow can prevent you from rolling over in your sleep onto your stomach, as many of us do. Sleeping on your stomach causes you to arch your spine and irritate the sensitive areas of the neck and back, while specialised pillows help keep your spine straight.
Sleeping right can be tricky when you have acid reflux. Often, the feeling of stomach acid rising up and down can keep you awake and feeling uncomfortable. You may wake up the next morning with a bad taste in your mouth or with indigestion. In the long term, this can cause damage to your teeth or to your throat.
Minor changes to your sleeping position with acid reflux can make a big impact. If you’re a side sleeper, sleeping on your left has a better gravitational pull. This makes acid go back down your throat into your stomach, making it more settled. If you prefer sleeping on your back, try an extra pillow. Once again, gravity will work on your side, helping settle the acid and help you settle for a more peaceful sleep.
Sleeping while pregnant can be tough for various reasons, and sleeping in a poor position will only aggravate that. Various aches and pains and other changes in the body can keep you awake and feeling fatigued the next day. If you’re traditionally a stomach sleeper, this can be extra difficult to adjust to.
Ideally, you should be sleeping on your side. Experts recommend sleeping on your left as the most beneficial side. Not only sleeping on your side the most comfortable and safest for your baby, the left side has secret advantages. Sleeping on the left improves your bodily circulation and boosts the blood flow-placenta connection. Left-side sleeping prevents your intestines from being too crushed and helps prevent heartburn, which is highly common in pregnancy.
When you experience the often extreme pain of menstrual cramps, the go-to position of many is the fetal position. Curling up and pushing your knees towards your abdomen can help block off the worst of the pain in the uterus area.
It certainly feels the best, but you’ll be pleased to know that science has backed up the position as having real, long-term benefits. The fetal position can help relax your stomach muscles, which leads to less pain. If you have a particularly heavy period, the fetal position can prevent leaks during the night.