When we sleep, we don’t give much thought to how each sleeping position affects our health. It’s more about preferences. Some people may feel more comfortable sleeping in certain positions and obtain them as their own. However, each sleeping position has health implications and may not work for everyone. Sleeping positions play a key role when someone suffers from chronic back pain or hip pain. That said, have you ever wondered what are the best and worst sleeping positions? Let us break it down.
Aside from certain chronic physical conditions, certain sleeping positions may promote some unhealthy situations, as well as phenomena like sleep apnea, as well as chronic insomnia. Research at John Hopkins University points at the importance of choosing the best sleeping position for your heart, body and spine, which is exactly what we’ll do in this article.
Sleeping on your back (Supine)
What is considered the most natural, and common sleeping position is the supine sleep. Supine sleep means that the sleeper is laying on their back. Their hands are usually next to them, close to their sides or on their body, while their legs extend flat. Now, depending on your preferences, you may either bend the knee and adjust it so you feel more comfortable. People who don’t get enough support from their pillow will also position their arms so they go under the back of their heads.
Benefits of sleeping on your back
- It is the best possible position for people who are light and don’t have problems breathing.
- The body receives extra support and distributes pressure equally.
- This position is beneficial for people with chronic back, shoulder and neck pain, as well as those who have hip and sciatica pain issues.
- It’s helpful with alleviating pain and swelling from feet caused by peripheral edema.
Drawbacks of sleeping on your back
As healthy as sleeping on your back maybe, it can be just as unhealthy for people who have heart problems, as well as those who are overweight. Both these combined can lead to ongoing breathing issues. People who sleep on their backs may end up groaning, moaning or snoring loud. People who are overweight may get difficulties breathing due to their airways being obscured. One of the consequences of such a sleep style can be sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can promote and worsen some already-existing conditions and feelings like chronic insomnia, snoring, fatigue, tendency to go to the bathroom in the night, short-term memory loss, hearing loss, and mood disorders.
Sleeping on the left side (Lateral)
Lateral sleeping positions have two situations, sleeping on the left and the right. When the head, torso, and legs are positioned on the left side, there are different ways to position your arms and legs to still find this position comfortably. Some people prefer having their legs stacked, or bent. Some people prefer sleeping in a fetus position and bending their legs. Nevertheless, for stretching reasons, some may prefer pushing their legs and feet as straight as possible. It’s soothing when the supine sleep position becomes too overwhelming for the spine and hips.
Benefits of sleeping on your left side
- As mentioned above, this position tends to eliminate the excess pressure that sleeping on the back does.
- It is considered the best position to reduce the effects of snoring and sleep apnea.
- It promotes healthier breathing, although it may be optional.
- It’s great for pregnant women who got exhausted from sleeping on the back if they put a pillow underneath their knees.
- Great for cuddles and spooning with a partner.
Drawbacks of sleeping on your left side
There are medical implications of sleeping on the left side. Internal organs located in the thorax can move to cause immense pressure over the heart, as the lungs lean over. The increased pressure on the heart can cause breathing problems and weight onto the heart, increasing blood flow and impacting the way heart works. That can lead to additional disturbance and causing heart failure.
In some situations, the kidneys may become activated and cause the urge to urinate overnight. Also, if you sleep over your left arm, the pressure can cause additional health problems, like pain in the hips, lower back and neck, and shoulder.
Sleeping on the right side
The second lateral position includes sleeping on the right side. As opposed to sleeping on the left side, this position shifts head and torso rightwards. Similarly, however, people prefer placing their arms under their head or body, while stacking, curling or staggering their legs. The other adjustments of sleeping on the right side are individual preferences.
Benefits of sleeping on the right side
- Just like with the left side, sleepers are rid of the impacts of sleeping on the back.
- The right side eases the pain on the left side of the body.
- This position also offers a lot of cuddling and spooning options, making up for cozier sleep.
Drawbacks of sleeping on the right side
While the pros of sleeping on the right side pretty much remain the same, the cons significantly change. Now, the internal organs shift rightwards, causing the heart to press the right lung. This behavior can reduce the volume of the right lung causing unwanted effects, especially for people who have pulmonary and other respiratory problems. This position causes blood oxygen levels to drop and put more pressure on the cardiovascular system. Some drawbacks remained the same, pressurizing nerves on arms and legs can lead to additional health problems, while some sleepers may make the hip, lower back and shoulder pain worse.
Sleeping on your stomach (Prone)
Laying on your stomach is not a position you’re likely to see often. That’s because for some people it’s genuinely difficult to make. The sleeper places their head on the sides to have an easier time breathing. However, there’s a flexible positioning for arms and legs. Some sleepers position legs in a neutral position, while others bend them. On the other hand, arms and hands can sit underneath the torso, lay under the head for extra positioning or stretch outwards. Let’s take a look at some benefits and drawbacks of prone sleeping.
More: 4 Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers
Benefits of sleeping on your stomach
- It’s important to note that this position reduces the consequences created from sleeping on your back, like numbness.
- People who are worried about organ shifting caused by sleeping on the sides can rest assured organs will stay in the thorax.
- It’s a great position for firm beds where the sleeping surface is irritatable so the softer part of your body touches it.
- Sleepers can keep their arms close to them to feel safe and sound.
- This position helps conserve heat.
- It’s good for chronic muscle pain.
Drawbacks of sleeping on your stomach
Unfortunately, sleeping on your stomach can result in every problem that the back sleep alleviates, such as neck and shoulder pain. Overall this position can disturb the upper back. If your arms or hands are located underneath your torso, that can lead up to injuries. If you’re overweight, sleeping on the stomach can result in lung volumes because movements of the lungs and heart are lowered.
Which position is the best and which the worst?
This judgment boils down to personal preferences, as well as health implications. To be frank, there is no best and worst position, there are just positions that feel the least risky and the most beneficial to your posture and overall health. Still, let’s break it down and give more insight.
- Good for: Lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, migraine, tension headaches, chronic problems, pressure.
- Bad for: Snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, depending on a mattress can cause lower back pain as well as soothe it.
- Good for: Soothing sleep apnea, soothing chronic pain, and consequences of sleeping on the back, acid reflux, fetal health benefits,
- Bad for: Deep breathing, causes wrinkles, causes breast sag, in some situations can promote arthritis.
- Good for: Preventing acid reflux, keeps spine aligned, psychological benefits, keeps a rib cage in a fixed position
- Bad for: Causes wrinkles, sleep apnea, can cause heartburn
With all this in mind, you should ask yourself which position should help you the most with your health problems. Experiment, but also talk to your physician and physical experts on which position will be the most beneficial to a healthy sleep cycle, considering your health record, age and weight.
As we approach the end of this article, it’s worth mentioning that there is another, an informal sleeping position that involves sleeping upright. That means the head is raised in regards to body, usually in recliners, adjustable beds or using a special wedge pillow that elevates your head. Usually, the head is raised by 30 degrees, which promotes healthier airways and decreases chances of groaning, gasping or snoring, eliminating sleep apnea-related problems. If you’re suffering from a certain injury, it helps alleviate pain.
Still, it takes time to get used to sleeping in that position and may look uncomfortable at the beginning. Additionally, it’s impossible to change positions or move through the night.
What sleep position works the best for you and which not so much? Please leave a comment!
We spend a great part of our life sleeping so education like this is very informative and helpful. Very useful in selecting the correct mattress.
Thanks for dropping by Sandman