Sleeping is one of our most core natural instincts, but for some people, it’s not quite as simple as just getting into bed and shutting off the lights. If you’re experiencing constant discomfort while you’re trying to get some shut-eye or are waking up with sore and achy muscles, you might need to evaluate how you’re positioning your body during sleep.
Your sleeping position can play a big role in how well you sleep and how you feel in the morning, and an improper position can actually lead to health complications down the line.
So if you’re waking up with aches and pains, struggling with sleep apnea or snoring, or are just plain uncomfortable throughout the night, it might be time to consider a new sleeping position. Here are some of the best (and worst) positions for sleeping.
Best for: overall comfort and minimizing pain
If you suffer from aches and pains in your back and neck, you might want to consider making the switch to sleeping on your back. When you’re lying flat on your back, your body weight is more evenly distributed, minimizing the pressure on certain stress points like your shoulders that are often achy in the morning. What’s more, sleeping on your back is the easiest way to keep your spine in a neutral position, so people who suffer from lower back pain tend to find that this is a better position for minimizing the aches.
Some people prefer to sleep on their back with their arms and legs straight in what is commonly called the “soldier” style. Another alternative is the “starfish,” where your arms and legs are splayed out a little more. Both come with equal benefits for your back and spine, so you can figure out what’s most comfortable for you.
However, it’s important to note that sleeping on your back isn’t the best choice for everyone. It’s recommended that pregnant women avoid sleeping on their backs since it can cause discomfort for some. (Source) It’s also not an ideal sleeping position if you’re trying to avoid snoring or have sleep apnea.
If you do sleep on your back, make sure that you have a good and supportive pillow to reduce neck strain. You might also consider using a couple more pillows beneath your lower back or knees to maximize support to your spine.
Best for:Reducing snoring, sleep apnea, and heartburn. Also best for pregnant women.
The next best sleeping position would be to turn onto your side. There are two main options here:
Both of these positions are conducive to helping your spine stay aligned and minimizing back pain, although you may want to stretch out your legs a little more if you find yourself in the fetal position to keep your spine neutral. You might also want to place a pillow between your legs to reduce pressure on your hips and to keep your back straight.
Sleeping on your side tends to also be better for people who suffer from sleep apnea or want to reduce their snoring.
Interestingly enough, sleeping on your left side might be better than your right to minimize the pressure on your internal organs!
Sleeping on your stomach tends to be the worst for your back and overall body.
When you’re lying prone on your stomach, your body doesn’t get the same support that it would on your back or side. Your neck is likely turned one way or another, increasing your likeliness for neck pain, and your hips sink into the mattress and put your spine out of alignment, leading to various aches and pains in your back upon waking.
If you’re reluctant to give up your stomach sleeping, it’s important to use an extra-supportive mattress to counteract some of the pressure in your spine. You’ll also want a softer pillow that’s more forgiving on your neck - and for the best results, you should avoid turning your neck from side to side at all while lying on your stomach.
A good mattress can make a world of difference for how well your body is supported no matter what sleeping position you tend towards. If you find that you’re still experiencing pain when you wake up even after changing up your sleeping position, it might be time to make a switch to a more pressure-relieving mattress.
A firm mattress is usually better if you need that extra spinal support - even though a soft bed might sound like a more appealing option, the resulting “sinking” could be causing issues with your spinal alignment.
Regularly evaluate how well your pillows are supporting your head and neck if you begin to notice that your sleep is becoming more uncomfortable. Even your most beloved pillows can go limp after heavy use, which could counteract the spine-aligning benefits of sleeping on your side or on your back.
Choose thicker pillows to support your neck properly if you sleep on your side or back. On the other hand, you might want to tend towards a thinner pillow if you sleep on your stomach to avoid the neck, shoulder, and back pain that a thicker one might induce.
If you find yourself uncomfortable from having to constantly flip your pillow to the cool side, use a cooling pillow like the UltraCool Temperature-Regulating Pillow to maximize on comfort throughout the night.
The quality and cleanliness of your bedding can also play a big role in how comfortable you are during bedtime. Invest in high-quality sheetsand duvetsthat won’t budge during the night and be sure to wash them often to maximize your comfort level.
Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with your sleeping position to see what your body likes best. If you don’t struggle with back pain or have any other health complications that are getting in the way of your sleep, let your body figure out what’s most comfortable!
With a few key exceptions, sleeping on your back is generally the best sleeping position for reducing pain and maximizing support. Experiment with your own sleeping position to find out what works best for you and lets you have that restorative, restful night’s sleep.