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Best and Worst Sleep Positions for Your Health

by BetterSleep
Dec 31 • 4 min read

We usually don’t put much thought into our sleep position. If we get enough sleep, then that’s all that matters, right? Well, it turns out that your sleep position might not only affect your sleep; it impacts your posture, spine, digestion, and even how quickly you age.

If the idea of back pain and premature wrinkles keep you awake at night, then read on to find out which sleep positions you should avoid and which two are ideal

The winners and losers for best sleeping position

Here’s a breakdown of the most common sleep positions from worst to best.

Sleeping on your stomach

When you’re exhausted, it’s tempting to belly flop right onto your bed. However, stomach sleeping is the hardest on your back as it brings the spine out of neutral alignment, and more pressure is placed on the nerves leading to back pain or even tingling and numbness. The one upside is that sleeping on the stomach is beneficial for snorers as it keeps the airway open.

If you must snooze on your tummy, then place a pillow under your pelvis to align your spine and don’t use a pillow under your head.

The fetal position

Ironically, sleeping in the fetal position might not help you sleep like a baby. The fetal position, side sleeping with the legs and knees pulled up high and back curved, is rather tough on the back and joints. The fetal position also restricts breathing by compressing the diaphragm.

If you prefer the fetal position, try extending your legs downward to allow for full breath capacity and placing a pillow between your thighs to keep the spine aligned.

Five potted plants and cactuses with flowers

Side sleeping

Side sleeping is so good it ties for the first place. If you experience back pain, acid reflux, sleep apnea, or are pregnant (left side is best for expecting moms), then you’ll love sleeping on your side as it aids in all these circumstances. Plus, science shows that side sleeping is best for brain health.

Placing a pillow between the knees and thighs will keep the spine optimally aligned in this position. However, there’s one major downside to this position – wrinkles! That’s due to the extra face time spent on one side of the pillow and the force of gravity.

If wrinkles deter you from side sleeping, then you may love the other winner for the best sleeping position…

Sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back is also an ideal sleep position. The spine is fully supported and aligned with the head and neck in a neutral position, minimizing back and neck pain and acid reflux. The other great news is that by facing up, back sleeping reduces premature wrinkles.

If your low back feels uncomfortable in this position, place a pillow underneath your knees to flatten the back. Under the head, it’s best to use a thin pillow, or none, so the neck remains aligned with the spine.

Laying on your back and side sleeping are also ideal for listening to your favorite meditations or sleep sounds.

How to choose the best sleeping position

Ultimately, the best sleeping position is the one you most easily sleep in as you can always make adjustments with pillows for optimal spinal alignment. As long as you’re not experiencing physical discomfort or ailments from your preferred sleep position, then keep on snoozing whichever way you love best. If you need a helping hand getting comfortable in bed, try one of the SleepMoves on BetterSleep.

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