WHAT IS THE BEST POSITON TO SLEEP

There are dozens of different sleeping positions, and while a lot of it depends on your personal preference, we will be discussing the best position to sleep. 

A good sleeping position provides healthy spinal alignment, as well as enough relief to those higher pressure points, to get you rid of pains and aches arising over night. You should wake up feeling rested and refreshed, ready to tackle the day ahead, free of pain and in the best possible spirit for a happy day!

What Is The Best Position To Sleep?

As with many questions, the best position to sleep depends on many factors. Your personal preference will play a big role in finding the best position for YOU to sleep. Your medical history and current medical state will also need to be taken into consideration. 

People suffering from lower back pain have specific requirements when it comes to sleep position, as well as mattress firmness. Pregnant women often need to adjust to a different sleep position. Young children have different requirements than heavier-weight people, etc. 

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each sleeping position, as well as a few common scenarios. 

As always – we are not doctors and this, in no way, acts as medical advice. Always check with your doctor first, and make sure to consult should pain persist. 

Sleeping Positions

Most people will either sleep on their side, back, stomach, or a combination of 2 or more of those positions, called hybrid sleeping. 

Each sleeping position has its pros and cons, and you will typically sleep in the position more natural to you, based on your personal preference. 

Professor of Neurology at the Center for Sleep and Wellness Rachel Salas M.D. of John Hopkins says that: “We could argue that some are better than others, but there are caveats.”

Side Sleeping

About 60% of Americans sleep on their side, making it, by far, the most common sleeping position. Side sleeping offers many benefits and works with all types of people. 

Benefits Of Side Sleeping

Sleeping on your side typically reduces snoring and helps if suffering from sleep apnea.

It is believed to help with gastrointestinal issues, digestion, heartburn, bloating, and digestion, if you sleep on your left side (watch as sleeping on your right side could make things worse). Our stomachs naturally lay a bit to the left of our core, and sleeping on your left side helps move transit down your digestive tract.

It alleviates pressure in your neck if you suffer from neck pain, as long as you choose the correct pillow for your body size.
Science Daily even suggests that side sleeping is also believed to clear your brain of metabolic waste accumulated during the day. 

Sleeping on your right side has shown some heart benefits in healthy people, in a 2018 study published in the National Library of Medicine. It is believed to decrease heart pressure thanks to the position uphelding the heart, while left-side laying turns and rotates the position of the heart due to gravity, having a small impact in ECG.

Cons Of Side Sleeping

When sleeping on your side, you may notice that you wake up with a few wrinkles on your face, from the pressure applied for your facial area. 

If you suffer from conditions made worse from applying pressure to your face and eye area, such as glaucoma or sinus congestion, you may also find that sleeping on your side makes your condition worse.

While sleeping on your side is a healthy position, you need to make sure your mattress adequately supports your sleeping position, allowing for pressure relief in your hip and shoulder areas, while providing a strong fondation for spinal alignment underneath. You may otherwise wake up with pain and aches in your hips, lower back, and shoulders

Who Is Side Sleeping Best For

Overall, side sleeping is a very healthy position that can be comfortable for most people. The most important factor is finding the best mattress for side sleepers, as well as a pillow that conforms to the shape of your neck and shoulders – typically a firmer and thicker pillow -, in order to best align your spine. 

We recommend side sleeping as the best sleeping position if you suffer from digestive issues, heartburns, acid reflux, are pregnant, back pain relief. In pregnancy women and those with lower back pain, finding the best body pillow to raise your upper leg, helps alleviate some of the pressure put on your lower back and sets your body in a healthier sleep position. 

Tips For Sleeping On Your Side

Ensure you use a supportive pillow to keep your spine in the neck area, aligned, and your head supported. The best pillow for a side sleeper will be one you can manually adjust until you find the perfect thickness and firmness. Our favorite pillows for side sleepers are the Silk & Snow Pillow made in Canada, the Nolah Squishy Pillow made of bamboo in the USA, the SleepGram 3-in-1 Pillow, and the Sleep Artisan Luxury Side Sleeper Pillow designed specifically for side sleepers and made of Talalay latex!

You will want to find a mattress that brings at least 4 inches of pressure-relieving foams to allow your hips and shoulders to dig deeper into the mattress, receiving pressure relief and avoiding them getting crushed and misaligned. Below the pressure-relieving layers, aim for a mattress with strong support to align your spine and provide support to the high-pressure areas in your hips and shoulders. 

Lastly, based on your own body and medical needs, choose whether right or left side is more beneficial for you. Left side is best for digestion, while right side favors the heart. 

Stomach Sleeping

While 60% of Americans sleep on their side, about 14% sleep on their stomach, per a study conducted by YouGov America. It also appears that younger generations favor sleeping on their stomachs more than older generations. Being a hybrid sleeper myself (2 or more sleeping positions throughout the night), my favorite falling-sleep position is on my stomach. It brings me comfort and is my natural way to fall asleep on a healthy day. 

Benefits Of Stomach Sleeping

Rachel Salas M.D., a specialist in sleeping medicine, confirms that sleeping on your stomach can bring benefits to those with obstructed airways and sleep apnea (so does side-sleeping). Sleeping on your stomach can help keep your airways open, hence reducing mild sleep apnea, and even snoring

Sleeping your your stomach relieves some of the pressure put on the lungs during sleep, allowing them to work with less stress. If you suffer from collapsed lung, this can be a good position to try sleeping in. 

People sleeping on their stomach also report less turning and tossing, for a calmer and deeper night of sleep. 

Lastly, sleeping on your stomach is believed to help the digestive tract stretch, helping with digestion and potentially relieving gastrointestinal issues

Cons Of Stomach Sleeping

The biggest con of stomach sleeping is the disruption to healthy spine alignment. If you are a stomach sleeper, it is of utmost important to sleep on a supportive mattress. The best mattress for stomach sleepers is one that is firm enough to keep your spine aligned, while offering slight cushioning for the deeper chest area. Using a mattress with more pressure relief and less support will curve your spine backwards as the heavier hip area dips into the mattress. This can cause bouts of pains and aches down your entire spine – from neck to romp -, though mainly in your lower back. If you are a stomach sleeper and experience pain, check the firmness of your mattress first, and ensure it has not started to sag. 

Heavier folks may find that their backs arche even more, due to heavier weight in their middle section. Without the proper mattress firmness, this can lead to severe back and neck pain

Lastly, due to the pressure applied to your face, you may find yourself waking up with more wrinkles than back sleepers!

Who Is Stomach Sleeping Best For

Sleeping on your stomach is NOT recommended for pregnant women! The baby would suffer from getting stuck between mattress and mom’s spine, and you would anyways find the position painful, or at least uncomfortable. 

It can however be a good position for people who snore or suffer from mild sleep apnea, suffer from collapsed lung, or have digestive and intestinal issues. 

Tips For Sleeping On Your Stomach

Stomach sleepers have strong requirements when it comes to furnishing their bed. The best mattress for stomach sleepers provides a strong and firm foundation. Limit the plushness to make it comfortable and allow your chest to lay comfortably, but ensure the mattress is firm enough to keep your hips and shoulders up enough to align your spine in a healthy position. The best mattresses for stomach sleepers will typically be made of latex, a more responsive foam, and have a layer of strong coils (hybrid mattresses).

Some stomach sleepers, like myself, will find that sleeping in hotels or foreign beds is quite uncomfortable. Not only are most mattresses plush to satisfy the great side-sleeping population, but most pillows are also thick and firm which definitely does not work for stomach sleepers. Aim for a very thin pillow, or no pillow. There is a pillow out there, specifically made for stomach sleepers. You can also use adjustable pillows to manually adjust to your personal preference. Our favorites are the Silk & Snow Pillow made in Canada, the Nolah Squishy Pillow made of bamboo in the USA, the SleepGram 3-in-1 Pillow.

If you are short on budget and need quick relief from a sagging mattress, try placing a thin pillow under your hips to raise them in a horizontal plan. 

Lastly, try to keep your legs straight, instead of bringing one up to the side, which puts extra strain on your spine. 

Back Sleeping

Back sleeping is the last of the three sleeping positions, accounting for about 13% of all American sleepers. It provides many benefits, and is the recommended position for those suffering from back pain. 

Benefits Of Back Sleeping

Sleeping on your back offers many benefits, especially on the spinal front. If you sleep on a medium firm to firm mattress, sleeping on your back makes it easy to align your spine from neck to romp. It is the best position to alleviate back pain, and the recommended position for those suffering from lower back pain. 

If you suffer from acid reflux, sleeping on your back is the easiest position to prop yourself up and get relief. Simply use a wedge pillow, or add an adjustable base to your mattress, to get relief from acid reflux throughout the night.

As you keep your face facing up, instead of buried inside the pillow, back sleeping is free of pressure on your face, minimizing wrinkles, acne, and facial rashes!

Cons Of Back Sleeping

Snoring will be the largest drawback of back sleeping. You may find yourself snoring more while sleeping on your back. If that is the case, sleeping on your side or stomach should help decrease the snoring. 

Dr. Rachel Salas, M.D., mentions that “obstructive sleep apnea causes the airways to collapse during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing.” Sleep apnea can be a serious issue with tumble effects. It can also induce snoring… 

You may sometimes find that the weight of your legs puts a little strain on your lower back, which can be easily alleviated by adding a rolled towel or soft pillow under your knees. 

Lastly, back sleeping is not recommended for pregnant women in their third trimester, as the weight of the baby puts added weight on the vein that returns blood back to the heart, which would in turn, reduce blood flow back to uterus.

Who Is Back Sleeping Best For

Back sleeping is going to work well with many people, as it is a very healthy position to align your spine overnight. We also recommend it, together with a propping pillow or wedge, for those suffering from acid reflux. If you suffer from facial rashes, acne, and want to minimize wrinkles overnight, back sleeping is definitely for you as well. 

Tips For Sleeping On Your Back

Back sleepers are very versatile when it comes to mattress styles. We recommend a medium firm to firm mattress, though not as firm as for stomach sleepers. Find the right amount of pressure relief for comfort, and support to sustain your weight and spine. 

If you find that your legs put a bit of a strain on your lower back, roll a towel or add a thin pillow under your knees to provide support and relieve your back. 

If you suffer from acid reflux or congestions, simply prop yourself up with pillows to add angle to your torso for better draining and to relieve pressure in your stomach / chest / head. 

Lastly, back sleepers need a cozy pillow that is neither too firm nor too high. You want to maintain healthy alignment of your spine into your neck, and avoid a tilt of your chin towards your chest. 

What Is The Best Position To Sleep

While each sleeping position has its pros and cons, it is probably safe to say that sleeping on your side is one of the best positions to sleep, with the exception of sleeping on your back, should you suffer from back pain. 

Each person will have an affinity for a specific sleeping position, which will depend on your personal preference, coupled with your current health needs. You may find yourself switching positions at night – you are a combo sleeper. I fall asleep on my stomach every night, but wake up on my back every morning. My body unconsciously knows what is best, and I wake up feeling refreshed in the morning. 

If you are dealing with aches and pains, but find your sleeping position comfortable, look into your current mattress. Each paragraph above gives you a good idea of the ideal mattress for your needs – check on the amount of pressure relief you receive, and how that balances out with your support needs. If you feel that you have the best possible mattress for your sleeping preference, conduct a pillow check. 

The goal with both mattress and pillow, is to place your spine in an aligned and naturally neutral position. Aim at aligning your spine from neck to romp to avoid waking up with pains and aches, and carrying them into your day. 

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

The best position to sleep depends on each person’s personal preference and current health status. Each sleeping position has pros and cons, and should be used in conjonction with the appropriate mattress and pillow. 

Sleeping on your stomach can help keep your airways open and have health benefits to those suffering from mild sleep apnea, those with obstructed airways, and those who snore.

The best position to sleep when your nose is blocked is on your back, with some pillows, or a wedge pillow, under your torso to raise you up and alleviate the pressure on your sinuses. 

The best position to sleep with lower back pain is on your back, on a firmer mattress and with a low profile pillow. All of those combined with allow for the most optimal spinal alignment overnight.

The best position to sleep while pregnant is on your left side, with a body pillow between your legs, and either curving behind your back or around your belly for support.

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Laura Georgieff

Laura Georgieff

Laura is a mother of three who did not sleep through the night for the first 5.5 years of her kids' lives. She is passionate about sleep quality and loves sharing her experience and knowledge of all thing bedding! It is her mission to help you make the best decisions when it comes to sleep and help you get the best deal on the market!

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