How did you sleep last night? If the answer is not a decisive “great!” you’re not alone. Over 160 million Americans have trouble sleeping consistently. And it turns out the position we sleep in is just as important as the number of hours we spend doing it.
The good news is: finding the best sleeping position is easy, and the benefits of good sleep hygiene are wide-reaching:
- Improved concentration and productivity
- Lower risk of stroke and heart disease
- Lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Improved immunity
- Improved coordination and physical performance
Are you convinced yet?
In this article, we will break down the perfect postures to beat a restless night. We’ll rank them from best to worst and show you how to make the most of your position of choice.
Dealing with a specific issue? No problem. We’ve also got you covered (like fine bed linens) for a few common health complaints.
3 Of the Best Sleeping Positions for Great Sleep
We ranked the 3 most common sleeping positions based on the benefits to your body and the recommendations of chiropractors and sleep specialists.
What is the best position for a great night’s sleep?
Best: Back Sleeping
The fancy name for this is the supine position. It keeps your spinal alignment neutral from head to tailbone, minimizing neck and back pain. It reduces tension headaches and sinus blockages, too. If it’s beauty sleep you’re after, the supine position wins again. Sleeping on your back stops you from crushing your face into the pillow, meaning fewer wrinkles and less facial irritation.
It’s not all roses, though. If you suffer from sleep apnea, have a spouse who hits you when you snore, or are pregnant—this might not be the sleeping position for you.
Pro supine-snoozer tip: avoid thick, firm pillows. The unnatural head lift will alter the curve of your spine, undoing some of the benefits you should be enjoying.
Good: Side Sleeping
Sleep scientists (yes, it’s a real title) call this the lateral sleeping position, and it comes with a number of benefits. It eases digestion, reducing acid reflux and heartburn. It can improve blood circulation and ease pressure on the lower back.
The major drawback with being a side sleeper is one that most of us already know—numbness. Sleeping on your side means that, at some point in the night, your weight is resting on your arm and restricting blood flow. Side sleeping can also lead to pain in the shoulder, hip, and back, if you sleep on the same side consistently.
Pro side-slumberer tip: If you sleep in the fetal position—one of the most common poses for a side sleeper—don’t tuck your legs and chin too tight against your torso. It restricts your breathing. The lack of oxygen to your diaphragm limits your body’s ability to perform its overnight healing processes.
Bad: Stomach Sleeping
A prone sleep position is good for sleep apnea and snoring—and very little else. The unnatural strain on your neck can cause nerve irritation and numbness. Sleeping on your tummy also forces the curve of the spine to flatten, eventually manifesting as back pain.
Pro navel-napper tip: If you’re not even going to attempt to break the stomach sleeping habit, try tucking a pillow under your pelvis to replicate a more natural spinal curve. For those who are serious about countering bad sleep habits, commit to stretching thoroughly when you wake up.
If you’re suffering from sleep apnea, back pain, or you’re pregnant, there are specific tips and tricks that can help you get the good night’s sleep you’ve been missing. We’ve chosen the best sleeping position for each of these concerns, based on sleep expert recommendations.
Best sleep position for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is a frustrating, dangerous health issue. While you’re asleep your airway collapses, restricting your breathing. The goal here is to keep the air passage open, which is best achieved by sleeping on your side. If you can’t stop yourself from rolling onto your back, invest in some good quality pillows to bracket you into position.
Best sleep position for back pain
The best sleep position for back pain depends on what type of back pain you’re dealing with. If you suffer from neck pain, go for a loose fetal position and invest in a firm pillow that holds your head in alignment with the top of your spine. Alleviate lower back pain by sleeping on your back and placing a pillow under your knees. This posture keeps your spine in a neutral position, without placing pressure along the lower section.
Best sleep position when pregnant
Being pregnant will make back and tummy sleeping impossible at some point, so you’re only left with one option. Using a body pillow and sleeping on your left side can relieve the pains and twinges you feel as your baby grows, and can improve circulation for both of you.
So seriously, what is the best sleep position?
That all depends on what your body needs to achieve. Sleep is precious, and as we’ve discovered: there really is a right way to do it. Training yourself to sleep in a different position may be a hassle in the beginning, but in time your body will thank you for it.