The quantity and quality of the sleep we get each night has a direct, measurable impact on our health. But did you know that the position you spend your resting hours in also has a direct effect on your body’s wellness? Today, we’re looking at side, back, and stomach sleepers to determine which is best for you.
Let’s start with the most common sleep position: side sleeping. It’s estimated by sleep scientists that the significant majority of us spend at least some time on our side overnight, with many of us opting to sleep on our side all night long. So, what effect does side sleeping have… and is it good for you?
We’ll cut right to the chase — for many people, side sleeping is the preferred way to go. Particularly for those who are overweight or obese, side sleeping can literally be a lifesaver. That’s because side sleeping in particular pays big benefits to your digestive and respiratory systems. Sleeping on your side — especially your left side — has been shown to reduce heartburn and aid digestion, due to the non-symmetrical layout of our internal organs. Additionally, it’s the position that leaves your airways the most clear, an especially important caveat for those with sleep apnea or breathing problems.
However, side sleeping does have one drawback: it can hurt your shoulders or back if you’re not doing it right. You’ll need to experiment with pillows to get the right neck and spine alignment, and most people will need to clutch a body pillow and/or place a pillow between their knees to avoid discomfort after long periods of time on their side.
Now, for the next most common position: sleeping on your back. Is sleeping on your back good for you? Well, for many people, sleeping on their back is going to be even more beneficial than side sleeping. Particularly for individuals who suffer from chronic pain, headaches, and back problems, sleeping on your back is probably ideal.
The reason for this is simple, in that back sleeping is the most “neutral” position you can be in. When you rest on your back, you don’t risk messing with your body’s alignment nearly as much as the other positions, and it gives your skeletal system a chance to “reset” and re-align. What’s more, people who find that they often get stuffy noses in bed may experience some relief from switching to back sleeping, as it can reduce sinus pressure.
Be careful though, because depending on your body and your mattress, your lower back may not be getting enough support when you sleep on your back, causing discomfort. In that case, there’s a quick fix: just slip a pillow under that part of your back before bed to help the spine stay straight.
Finally, we arrive at the stomach sleepers. Unfortunately, for them we have some rather bad news: sleeping on your stomach is pretty terrible for you. It’s a quick way to deny support to all the parts of your body that need it, while placing enormous pressure on joints and risking circulation issues.
When sleeping on your stomach, your neck is awkwardly twisted to one side. Left like that all night, for many nights in a row, is a surefire way to give yourself chronic neck pain. Stomach sleeping is also terrible for your back, especially if you — like most stomach sleepers — bring one knee up toward your side in an unconscious effort to relieve back pressure from this awful position.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, it’s worth the temporary discomfort to train yourself into either a side or back sleeper for the long-term benefits those positions come with. And who knows… you might just love your new sleep style!