It’s normal to wake up feeling tired even when you’ve had enough hours of sleep. One of the factors that contribute to this is the position you sleep in.
Your sleep position significantly affects your health and sleep quality. According to Dr Ben Smarr, an assistant professor at the University of California San Diego, certain positions can help people sleep better. The position you sleep in at night is crucial because certain positions can aggravate the neck, the back, and block their airways. These could lead to conditions like sleep apnoea and other sleep disorders.
In order to avoid potential sleep problems aggravated by your sleeping position, it’s important to understand the sleeping position that will be best for you. We’ve compiled the three main sleeping positions so you can explore the option that is best for you.
Sleeping on Your Back
Sleeping on your back is the best position for posture and shoulder impingement―this position distributes your weight across your body, minimising pressure points and aligning your internal organs. Dr Andrew Bang, a licensed chiropractor, pointed out that sleeping on your back with the right neck support from a memory foam or latex pillow can maintain your neck’s banana-like curve. Maintaining your cervical curve can help you avoid spine misalignment and other dangerous conditions such as flat neck syndrome and cervical kyphosis.
It’s important to note that sleeping on your back is not good in some cases as well. For example, lying on your back is not the best position to sleep in when you have a cold as mucus can build up in your throat. Sleeping on your back can also cause the flesh of your throat to relax and block the airway, making it hard for you to breathe and be prone to sleep apnoea.
Our Sleep Expert’s Tip:
- Put a small pillow under your knees to support your spine and the natural curve in your lower back.
- Use your head pillow to support your neck, shoulders, and back as well.
- Use either feather pillows or memory foam to support the contour of your head and neck in this position.
- Prop your head with more pillows if you have a cold.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
Lying face down while you sleep is not the best position for your posture as it stresses your neck, constricts your blood, and compresses your spine.
However, sleeping on your stomach or the prone position does have its advantages as well. It stops your heart and stomach from pressing down on your lungs, allowing your air sacks to fully inflate. Various studies have shown that lying in a prone position helps COVID-19 patients with alarmingly low oxygen levels breathe better, while they seek proper treatment. The position expands the dorsal lung regions and removes secretions, which can help with oxygenation. Various studies have shown that the position helps people with sleep apnoea sleep better. If you’ve been used to sleeping on your stomach, we advise you to stretch for two to three minutes after waking up so you can realign your body and strengthen your muscles. Since sleeping on your stomach isn’t good for posture, stretching can help you avoid risks for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
Our Sleep Expert’s Tip:
- Put a flat pillow under your stomach and pelvis area to keep your spine aligned.
- When supporting your head, either use a flat pillow as well or don’t use a pillow at all. This will ensure that your neck and head will be less angled while you sleep.
Sleeping on Your Side
A 2017 study that surveyed 664 adults found that 54.1% of the respondents preferred to sleep on their side. A variety of studies have also proven that sleeping on the side is the best position for breathing and reducing risks of snoring, sleep apnoea, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, heartburn, and more. Lying on the left side, in particular, can help people suffering from heartburn sleep properly as the curve of the stomach can prevent its contents from reaching your oesophagus.
Sleeping on the left side is also the ideal position for pregnant women as it improves circulation to the heart, and flows blood to the fetus, uterus, and kidneys. Sleeping on the left also keeps the uterus off of the liver and kidneys, allowing the organs to function properly and prevents swelling issues in the hands, ankles, and feet.
One drawback to side sleeping is that it can lead to wrinkles, breakouts, or chronic changes. A study published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal revealed that compression, tension, and shear forces applied to the face when it’s pressed against any surface can cause facial distortion when people sleep on their sides. Consistent side sleeping can also thin the skin and decrease its elasticity as we age. Rachel Salas, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, recommended that side sleepers lie on their back every now and then to avoid any effects on their skin.
Our Sleep Expert’s Tip:
- Place a firm pillow between your knees to prevent your hip and knee joints from collapsing, as well as reduce stress on your hips and lower back.
- Put a small pillow between your waist and mattress if there is a gap between them to further support your body.
The bottom line is, each sleeping position has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to know what your body needs at any given time so you can tailor your sleep position to your body. Remember to switch positions every now and then as well to avoid feeling strains and pains upon waking up. If you’re not sure what position works best for you, try out different sleep positions to see where you’re most comfortable.