Finding your sleep position
Many of us may think that the position we sleep in is hardly relevant, although if you suffer with sleep issues, you will be happy just to fall asleep and stay asleep all night regardless of the position you are in.
But while it may not be as important as to how much sleep you actually get, the position you sleep in does matter and can have a negative impact on your posture, your joints, your digestion, and even your face by making wrinkles worse!
So make sure you are sleeping correctly by following the guidelines below, especially if you suffer with a bad back or neck pain – as these things are often exacerbated by the wrong sleeping position.
When researching this topic, and as soon as I read about the negative effects of sleeping in bad positions,I decided that I had to start sleeping on my back straight away, although it is harder than I thought to change the habit of a lifetime.
Most of us become used to sleeping in a certain position in childhood, therefore most experts suggest that you make small adjustments at first if you want to change the way you sleep – if, for example, you normally sleep on your stomach, change to your side first rather than try to sleep on your back straight away. Otherwise, the likelihood is you will just end up not being able to fall asleep at all.
Sleeping positions – the pros and cons
1. Sleeping on your back
Pros: Doctors generally agree that sleeping on your back is the best position for your neck, back, hips and even stomach as this position keeps the spine in a neutral position and also allows the stomach to lie in its correct position under the ribcage, which can ease stomach pain and heartburn.
It is important, though, that your pillow is under your head, not your shoulders, and is not forcing the neck into unnatural shapes by keeping the head too high or too low. Placing a pillow under the knees will improve the alignment of the spine further, so this is a good idea if you suffer from back pain.
Cons: While sleeping like this, the tongue falls to the back of the throat which can constrict breathing – for this reason, those with sleep apnoea should avoid sleeping on their back, and those with other respiratory problems may find it easier to lie on their side.
Due to this position of the tongue, sleeping on your back also greatly encourages snoring, so if you snore and have a partner, you may have to consider sleeping in a different position!
2. Sleeping on your side
Pros: This is the most popular position, at least 40% of people sleep on their side. It is a healthy position to sleep in, keeping the back and neck in neutral positions – as long as you avoid curling excessively, with the knees bent too near to the chest, as this can hyper-extend the spine, and again it is important to make sure that your pillow allows the neck to be at its correct angle, with the head neither too high or too low.
To make this position even better, it is a good idea to put a pillow between the knees as well to keep the hips properly aligned.
Cons: If you don’t want wrinkles, then this is to be avoided! The squashing of your face into a pillow can make the face puffy or lined on waking and may cause wrinkles. If you are worried about this, then try a silk pillowcase instead. Constantly sleeping on one side in particular can lead to postural anomalies on that side, and especially shoulder problems, so it is best to alternate sides from time to time.
3. Sleeping on your stomach
Bad news for people who sleep like this – this is the worst position you can sleep in! Most people suggest it is to be avoided at all costs, as it puts pressure on the lower back and forces the neck into an unnatural position. This could lead to many problems, including not only back pain and neck pain, but also headaches and referred pain in the arms for example.
Sleeping like this also does not give your internal organs much space, and so puts pressure on them at night when they are trying to recuperate from the day – for this reason, it is likely to make conditions like IBS and acid reflux much worse. So try to slowly get used to other positions if you like to sleep like this.
In general, you will sleep better if you sleep in a position which allows the body to rest as it was designed to, in alignment and without constricting any limbs or twisting yourself around into positions that are unnatural.
Tweaking how you sleep could have a huge knock on effect on your quality of sleep and on any aches and pains you have, so it is wise to take a bit of time to consider what position you sleep in, and how to make it as comfortable and beneficial for yourself as possible.
What position do you sleep in?