Your Sleeping Position May Be Harming Your Health: Here's How To Fix It


Do you settle into bed without giving a second thought to your sleeping position? Most likely, your sleeping position has become such a habit that you don’t even consider the health effects of sleeping in one way or another. Yet, doctors and sleep experts say that our sleeping position does matter!

Sleeping on your stomach, back or sides can make a lot of difference in terms of back or neck pain, snoring, sleep apnea, and other medical conditions. If you’re struggling with pain or other health conditions, you can modify your go-to sleeping position to give your body some relief and healing, even while you’re unconscious.

So let’s find out how your sleeping position is helping (or hurting) your health and sleep, and how different sleeping positions can affect your overall well-being:

Sleeping On Your Stomach

Sleeping on your tummy may help decrease the sound of snoring, digestion, and sleep apnea problems but generally, stomach sleeping is not recommended. Sleeping on your stomach may trigger both neck and back pain and can also add a lot of unnecessary burden on your muscles and joints, which is why you might be waking up being tired and sore.

Sleeping on your stomach makes it difficult to keep the spine in a neutral position and may cause the spine to overarch. You may notice numbness at times. Moreover, turning the head to just one side while sleeping on the stomach can limit blood circulation.

If you find it difficult to change this sleeping position altogether, try modifying it. Keep your neck straight so that your spine is in a more neutral position while allowing you the room to breathe freely. You can also try elevating the pelvis with a thin pillow to help reduce the pressure on your lower back.

Sleeping On Your Back

Sleeping on your back offers some health benefits. It not only protects your spine but can also help relieve hip and knee pain. Sleeping on your back enables your spine to be in a more natural, neutral position and prevents the shoulder, back and neck pain experienced with other postures. By elevating your head on a pillow, this position can also help reduce the problems related to acid reflux.

Along with the above benefits, sleeping on your back can worsen snoring and sleep apnea. If you have been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, avoid sleeping on your back and modify your sleeping habits.

Sleeping In the Fetal Position

More than 40% of people sleep in this curled-up side position with their knees drawn into your chest and chin tilted downwards. It is the most common position for women and they are twice as likely as men to sleep like this. Researches suggest that fetal position is related to sensitivity and anxiety as well as a desire for comfort.

This position can help reduce snoring and is considered to be beneficial for pregnant women.

But it also has its downsides. It can restrict deep breathing and can strain your neck and back. If you have issues with stiffness or joint pain, sleeping in a tight fetal position might leave you sore and uncomfortable in the morning.

Still, if it’s your favorite sleeping position, you can make it more comfortable. Just make sure your posture is loose and relaxed when you curl up. Keep your legs extended and try sleeping with a pillow between your knees.

Sleeping On Your Side

This is the best sleeping position and the majority of people find this position to be the most comfortable. Physicians and sleep specialists recommend this position because it has numerous benefits. With the right mattress, your spine remains elongated and neutral, and side sleeping can also help reduce your neck, back, and shoulder pain.

Those who struggle with loud snoring and sleep apnea are advised to sleep on their side because the airway is less likely to become restricted when the body is relaxed. Studies show that side sleeping provides better quality sleep.

For pregnant women, sleeping on the left side of the body is best, especially in second and third trimesters, because it enhances the blood flow to the placenta and improves kidney function, which helps decrease swelling in the mother’s feet and legs.

With sleeping on your side, you can use a firm medium-level pillow to support your head and neck. You can also place a pillow between your legs for more support for the hips, lower back, and pelvis.

Try Practicing Good Sleeping Habits and Sleep Hygiene

By incorporating a regular routine and sleep practices you can boost your sleep quality in a big way. Here’re some tips:

  • Avoid excess caffeine, and especially avoid caffeine after lunch, as caffeine can fragment sleep and can cause difficulty initiating sleep
  • Get regular exercise for a smooth blood flow, and to release anxiety and stored up energy that can make it difficult to doze off
  • Avoid electronics at least one hour before going to bed
  • Make a regular sleep routine; your mind and body will begin to expect sleep at that same time each night, and it will be much easier to actually fall asleep
  • Have a quiet, comfortable bedroom or wear earplugs if noise is distracting or disrupting to your sleep
  • Make sure your bedroom is dark while you sleep, as any light will trigger your body to wake up periodically throughout the night; an sleeping mask for your eyes is a great solution!
  • Maintain a pre-bedtime routine. For example a warm bath or shower, meditation, lighting a candle, or reading a book for 15 minutes
  • Avoid taking substances like cigarettes, alcohol, and over-the-counter medications right before bed (unless prescribed) as these substances often harm the quality of sleep, and as they wear off, can trigger your body to wake up in the middle of the night
  • Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleeping at night. Working or eating from bed can make it hard for your mind and body to know that it's time to turn off when you curl up at night. By only sleeping in your bed at night, your brain will associate it with sleep and be more cooperative.

For the best quality sleep, the number of hours you sleep is not the only important factor. It’s also necessary to pay attention to your sleeping position, sleep routine, peace of mind, and stress levels. Remember that generally speaking, side sleeping is the biggest advantage and stomach sleeping is the biggest disadvantage in getting you a good night sleep.

Your sleep position matters more than you think. If you have trouble sleeping, your health may suffer. You don’t have to change your sleeping position completely, but you may want to try changing things up a bit and seeing if you notice benefits to your quality of sleep, joint pain, or other health issues. The important thing to pay attention to is whether you feel energetic and ready to go when you wake up in the morning!

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American travel photographer and writer, based on the beautiful island of Bali. Two years ago, I left my job as a Washington DC lawyer, sold everything I owned, and booked a one-way ticket to Indonesia to turn my creative dreams into reality. I have traveled to 60 countries, have worked with major airlines, luxury hotels, tourism boards, and fashion/adventure goods companies. When I’m not working or traveling, I spend my free time writing, doing yoga, learning to surf, or swimming at my favorite beaches in Uluwatu in south Bali.


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