The Best Sleeping Position

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Most adults favor one or two sleep positions that they find most comfortable and effective. Sleeping in the wrong position night after night can lead to pain, disrupted sleep, and other health problems. Optimizing your sleep position may help avoid these problems and improve the quality of your sleep.

The best sleep position for you depends on your age and whether you are trying to avoid outcomes that can result from sleeping in a specific position. Ideally, your sleep position should promote healthy spinal alignment and reduce pressure points.

Side Sleeping

The most common sleep position among adults is on the side. This is an appropriate position for most people, and it can be especially comfortable for people with heart disease.

Provided you choose an appropriate mattress and pillow, sleeping on your side may help keep your spine straight throughout the night and reduce pain in the lumbar and cervical spine areas. However, side sleeping may cause shoulder pain for some people. Switching sleeping positions side to side throughout the night can prevent putting too much pressure on one side of the body.

Back Sleeping

The next most common sleeping position is the back position. Back sleeping can have some benefits, especially if you experience pressure points when sleeping on your side. This position effectively distributes body weight and allows the body to settle into a fairly neutral position, though experts are divided on whether back sleeping is appropriate for people with lower back pain. Placing a rolled-up towel under the knees may ease pressure in the lumbar spine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants always sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Stomach Sleeping

The least common sleeping position is on the stomach. Stomach sleeping can be uncomfortable for some people because it requires the body to spend more energy on breathing compared with other sleeping positions. Sleepers may also find it uncomfortable to twist the neck sideways for long periods of time, especially as they grow older and lose flexibility in the spine. Most experts recommend against stomach sleeping.

Switching sleep positions during the night is common early in life and gradually tapers off as people age.

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Snoring?

Sleeping on your side can help reduce snoring during the night. By contrast, back sleeping may increase snoring and aggravate sleep apnea symptoms.

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Heartburn?

Sleeping in the side position may alleviate symptoms of heartburn, an uncomfortable condition that can disrupt sleep. Research has shown that sleeping on your left side is most effective for preventing heartburn. If you sleep on your back, try elevating the head of your bed to reduce symptoms.

What Is the Best Sleep Position for Back Pain?

Back pain is a common problem among adults that can be caused in some cases by the position of the body while sleeping. Sleeping on your back may help with lower back pain. Those with shoulder pain might also find the back position more comfortable than sleeping on their sides.

Side sleeping can also help with back pain. Using an appropriate pillow and placing an additional pillow between the knees while side sleeping can help keep the shoulders and hips in line.

If you are experiencing long-term back or body pain even after trying to change your sleep position, you should consult a doctor for appropriate diagnosis and evaluation of treatment options.

What Is the Best Sleep Position while Pregnant?

Achieving quality sleep while pregnant can be a challenge. Some people find their most comfortable sleep position changes over the course of their pregnancy. In general, the best position during pregnancy is the side or fetal position.

Research has shown that during the second trimester and onward, sleeping on the left side improves heart function relative to the right side or back position. By contrast, back sleeping during late pregnancy can have negative consequences for the fetus and may increase the risk of stillbirth.

Using pillows to support your stomach, knees, and back may improve sleep comfort during pregnancy.

How to Optimize Your Sleeping Position

The right mattress and pillow can help distribute body weight, align the spine, and reduce pressure points. Your mattress should be soft enough to provide cushioning for your sleep position, but firm enough to support your spine in a neutral alignment. Similarly, your pillow should be thick enough to fill in the space between the head and mattress, but not so thick that it forces your neck to bend at an unnatural angle.

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