When you crawl into bed after a long day, you might not think much about the position in which you fall asleep. However, many studies have been carried out over the years about the effects of different sleeping positions on your body, and the way you sleep can be linked to all sorts of things from the likelihood that you’ll have nightmares, to back pain.
So, how does your favorite sleep position measure up?
Around 10% of people sleep on their back, and if you sleep like this then you may well have a long-suffering spouse who complains about your snoring. When you lie on your back, the base of your tongue collapses into the back of your throat, and this vibration creates noisy snoring. If you have sleep apnea, then back sleeping can worsen the condition.
The good news is that sleeping on your back can evenly distribute your weight, so if you have back or neck pain then this can ease the pressure. Some studies have shown that it can also help prevent wrinkles and sagging breasts. However, you should consider using a fairly thin pillow designed for back sleeping, and also use a second pillow under your knees for a more natural position.
Front sleeping can be a good way to reduce snoring, and about 16% of people sleep in this position. However, it also has a number of negative health effects. Sleeping on your stomach means there’s no support for the spine, so there’s pressure on both joints and muscles, and this position has also been shown to cause wrinkles.
If you’re a front sleeper and suffer from back pain because of the position, then it’s best to try and wean yourself out of the habit. Some experts recommend taping a small, hard object such as an uncooked pea onto your stomach. This will stop you inadvertently rolling onto your stomach at night.
The majority of the population are side sleepers, and the good news is, it’s generally considered the best position for your health. You’re less likely to snore, have back or neck pain, and even cut your long-term risk of certain neurological conditions.
Experts also agree that sleeping on your left can help with heartburn and acid reflux, but the bad news is that it is associated with having more frequent nightmares. Those who sleep on the right tend to move around more at night, and this position can slow down your circulation, so you feel less comfortable.
Those who sleep on their side can still be prone to back or joint pains. The ideal position for side sleepers is to use a pillow that is thick enough to keep your neck and spine aligned, then a small one under your waist, plus a pillow between your knees. However, there are pillows designed for side sleepers, as well as mattresses that can keep your joints comfortable.
If you’re waking up feeling stiff or sore, snoring, or just finding it difficult to sleep, then changing your position may improve your sleep quality.