Sleeping is vital for the body to relax and prepare for the challenges of the next day. However, the position you sleep in can affect your health. If you wake up with back pain, arm numbness, or discomfort, your sleeping position might not be ideal for you. Here, we will delve into the details, pros, and cons of different sleep positions, along with tips on how to adjust for better sleep.

How Your Sleeping Position Affect Your Overall Heath

Sleeping Positions: Pros and Cons

We all have a preferred sleeping position, or a go-to position, that we may not have considered much in terms of how it affects the body and why. After all, when it comes to sleep, our main goal is simply to rest. However, it's worth exploring how different sleep positions can impact the quality of our sleep and overall well-being. Let's take a look at the various sleep positions and how they influence the sleep process.

Read our post on healthy sleeping habits for women for more tips on getting the best sleep

Back Sleeping (Supine Position)

Sleeping on your back with your face and the rest of your body tilted upwards is known as the supine position. Back sleeping is beneficial for naturally aligning the spine, which can reduce strain on the back and neck.

This positioning allows the spine to rest without excessive pressure, promoting better overall spinal health. Additionally, sleeping on your back minimizes facial contact with pillows, allowing skincare products to effectively penetrate the skin and potentially reduce wrinkles and breakouts.

Another advantage of back sleeping is that elevating the head slightly can alleviate symptoms of acid reflux. By keeping the head and upper body elevated, gravity helps prevent stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus, reducing discomfort associated with acid reflux.

However, there are some drawbacks to sleeping on your back. One common issue is increased snoring or worsening symptoms of sleep apnea. This occurs because the supine position can cause the tongue and soft tissues in the throat to collapse, obstructing the airway and leading to snoring or breathing interruptions during sleep. Additionally, some individuals may find back sleeping uncomfortable, especially if they have certain medical conditions or preferred sleep positions that make this position less conducive to restful slee

sleeping on your back

Side Sleeping (Lateral Position)

Many individuals find comfort in side sleeping, a position where one rests on either the left or right side of the body with legs and arms slightly bent. This position offers several benefits, including the even distribution of body weight, which helps reduce pressure on specific areas like the back and hips. Additionally, side sleeping can help keep the airway open, potentially decreasing snoring and symptoms of sleep apnea.

However, despite its comforts, side sleeping does come with some challenges.One common issue is shoulder pain, as the increased pressure on the shoulder can lead to discomfort over time. Additionally, there's the concern of stomach acid refluxing into the esophagus, which can cause heartburn and other digestive issues.

Fortunately, this risk can be minimized by opting for left side sleeping –when you lie on your left side, the position of your stomach allows it to sit lower than the esophagus. This position may help keep the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the muscle that acts as a barrier between the stomach and the esophagus – above the level of gastric contents. When the LES remains above the stomach contents, it's less likely that stomach acid will reflux into the esophagus.

Another consideration is the potential for facial wrinkles and skin aging over time. If you consistently sleep on one side of your face, the skin may develop lines and wrinkles due to prolonged pressure. To mitigate this, some individuals choose to alternate sides or use specialized pillows to reduce facial contact with the sleep surface.

Learn about side sleeping for lower back pain here

Stomach Sleeping (Prone Position)

Stomach sleeping, also known as the prone position, is generally discouraged due to its potential negative effects on the body. This position involves lying face-down with the stomach pressed against the sleep surface. While stomach sleeping may help reduce snoring and alleviate mild sleep apnea symptoms by keeping the airway open, it comes with significant disadvantages.

One concern is the pressure placed on internal organs, which can disrupt digestion and lead to discomfort. Additionally, sleeping on the stomach can restrict breathing, as the chest is compressed against the sleep surface. This can make it difficult to breathe deeply and may contribute to feelings of breathlessness or anxiety during sleep. Furthermore, the positioning of the neck in the prone position can strain the neck muscles and contribute to neck pain or stiffness upon waking.

sleeping on your stomach

Foetal Position

The foetal position, a variation of side sleeping, involves curling up on one side with the knees drawn towards the chest, mimicking the posture of a foetus in the womb. This position is named for its resemblance to the foetal stance. Many sleepers find comfort and a sense of security in this position, as it allows for flexibility in arm and leg positioning.

However, there are potential drawbacks to consider. While the foetal position can be cozy, it may also affect the spine, leading to discomfort upon waking. Additionally, tightly curling up in this position can compress the chest, potentially compromising breathing.

feotal position sleeping

Combination Sleeping

There is a group of individuals who don't adhere to a specific sleeping position. Instead, they frequently change positions throughout the night, alternating between back, side, and stomach sleeping. This versatility can be beneficial for improving sleep quality, as it has the potential to reduce discomfort and alleviate symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea. 

Constantly switching up positions allows for better distribution of pressure on the body and can help prevent stiffness in muscles. However, this frequent movement may also disrupt sleep cycles, leading to less restful sleep overall.

Final Thoughts

Here's the thing: It can't be definitively said which sleeping position is best for you; that's something only you can determine. However, one thing is for certain: stomach sleeping is generally not recommended. Take a look at the benefits and negative effects of different sleeping positions and try experimenting with them to see how they affect your sleep quality.

Investing in quality bedding, such as silk pillowcases and eye masks, is crucial for improving your sleep experience. These items play a vital role in enhancing comfort and promoting better rest. Additionally, if you're experiencing sleep difficulties or persistent acid reflux symptoms, it's always a good idea to consult a healthcare professional.

February 27, 2024 — Michelle Fletcher Smith